What does “gut health” mean?  Many people are asking this question because articles on the topic have been making the rounds in nearly every major publication.  Food 4 Fuel conducted some research on the topic, and we believe this is something you should be paying attention to. Maintaining the health of your gut has greater implications than you would imagine.  Beyond the benefits of a highly functioning digestive system, the state of your gut may play a key role in your mental health.

What is Gut Health?

Let’s answer the question we started with:  What does “gut health” mean? “Gut health” refers to the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract.  And follow with another question: why does “gut health” matter? According to Tara Menon, a gastroenterologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center:  “We now know that the GI tract is full of trillions of bacteria that not only help us process food but that also help our bodies maintain homeostasis and overall well-being.”

One thing of particular interest is something called the “Brain-Gut Connection.”  Scientists are starting to discover that we may have a “second brain” and that brain is in our gut.  It’s called the enteric nervous system (ENS). According to Jay Pasricha M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, “Its main role is controlling digestion, from swallowing to the release of enzymes that break down food to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption to elimination.  The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results.”

Research has found that gut health has links to depression and anxiety.  It has also been associated with other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and some cancers.  It is also well documented that certain gut bacteria exist to promote inflammation, while other gut bacteria exist to fight inflammation.  When the contents of the gut maintain a healthy balance, these different types of bacteria work to keep each other in check. And your risk of developing and/or worsening these chronic conditions can be reduced.

In our last post we outlined the specific neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate anxiety (GABA), depression (serotonin), and focus and motivation (dopamine).  And ways to boost these neurotransmitters to lower anxiety and depression and boost your focus and motivation. Research has found that these neurotransmitters are produced by your gut cells.  This is truly where the “Brain-Gut Connection” comes into play. Maintaining proper gut health can mean everything for your mood and motivation.

How to Improve Gut Health

Johns Hopkins Medicine has dedicated a lot of research to this topic.  They put together a list of ways to give you the best chance to maintain proper gut health:

  1. Eat the right foods
  2. Get more sleep
  3. Move more
  4. Manage stress
  5. Get help for issues like anxiety and depression

Let’s talk about eating the right foods, because that’s something we’re extremely interested in.   According to John Hopkins Medical Center gastroenterologist Gerard Mullin, M.D., “Americas’ fiber intake is 40 to 50 percent of what it should be.”  A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides the fiber that builds good bacteria and gut health. Other foods have been found to promote a healthy gut, including yogurt, foods containing whole grains, almonds, legumes and beans.

Food 4 Fuel has a wide selection of foods to meet your gut health needs.  We make it easy and convenient for you to treat your body with care. Take a look at our meal options here.  Use the discount code guthealth10 to get 10% off of your next order!