Digestion Detective: Uncovering the Secrets of Gut Health and Weight Management

No matter who you are, you have probably seen your fair share of gut health related content. Recently, “gut health” has turned into a buzzword as many people become more conscious of their gut health and ways they can improve it. Just go to the grocery store and you’ll find prebiotic sodas, “gut-friendly” foods, “anti-bloat” teas, and digestive gummies. These foods and beverages are advertised to help improve your gut health but in what way? And what even is gut health?

The American Medical Association refers to gut health as the well-being of the digestive system that is responsible for breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste from the body. Our gut is also composed of the gut microbiome, which houses trillions of microorganisms ranging from bacteria to fungi to viruses. The microorganisms in our gut operate in a symbiotic relationship with us as humans. When the helpful microbes keep the harmful microbes regulated, we feel better. 

Having a healthy gut is not only vital in achieving optimal health but can also reduce uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues. Proper gut health manages inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, metabolism, immunity, and mental health. 

So what role does the gut play when it comes to weight management?

Focusing on gut health alone won’t magically make you lose weight, but there is no doubt that it plays an important role in weight management. For instance, think of your gut as if it is a car and food is the gas fuel. If you fill up your car with poor quality gas over and over again, your car engine will become damaged over time and won’t function optimally. Likewise, consistently eating ultra processed foods that lack important key nutrients will cause an unhappy gut. Diets that are high in saturated fats, added sugars, and preservatives tend to favor the harmful bacteria. These diets often lack important micronutrients and fiber that help regulate the GI tract.

For instance, uber-processed foods may even get digested before they enter the lower gut which leaves the gut microbiome with a lack of energy that is needed in order to thrive. Whole foods often have an easier time reaching the gut microbiome, as fiber from the food provides fuel for the microbiome. 

An unhealthy gut manifests in a variety of ways but can include digestion discomfort like gas, bloating, and constipation. Furthermore, you may experience extreme sugar cravings because eating a surplus of sugar can heighten levels of “bad” bacteria in the gut. If your gut is out of balance, your body may be struggling to absorb nutrients and regulate other metabolic functions. Frederick Health notes that weight gain or loss may be caused by bacteria overgrowth or a lack of it. 

How can you manage your gut health? Here are 6 tips:

  • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated aids in digestion in addition to improving your overall general health. Your body needs even more water to digest fiber.
  • Practice mindful eating. Eating slowly and chewing all of your food thoroughly makes digestion easier for your body and improves nutrient absorption.
  • Move your body. Exercise and movement improves your gut health and helps keep your bowel movements regular. Try going on a slow walk after a meal to aid in digestion!
  • Add more fiber to your diet. Fiber is often plentiful in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. The dietary fiber is beneficial for your gut microbiome and can also reduce inflammation.
  • Consume foods rich in probiotics. Probiotics contain live strains of good bacteria that make up the microbiome of your gut. This includes yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and fermented drinks like kombucha. The good bacteria supplemented from these products can support digestion and protect the body from infections. 
  • Create a meal plan that works for you. If you struggle with not knowing what to eat or putting a plan in place that you can stick with, our personalized nutrition coaching and 3-phase approach is perfect for you! 

Gut health continues to be a hot topic in the medical and wellness industries, and it is clear as to why. While there is no single way to “cure” gut health, there are steps you can take to make improvements that will make you and your gut happier. Through becoming more mindful of your lifestyle and how it impacts your gut health, you can finally start feeling better once and for all.

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** This article was written by Ava Stover, nutrition intern. Fact checked by Allison Tallman RD.

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