Gut Health for Healthy Aging
Recent research has found that the body's fountain of youth begins in the gut.
For women over 60, having a healthy gut is paramount to healthy aging.
How is your gut health?
What is the gut?
Our gut comprises our whole digestive system from the mouth to the anus.
It is responsible for absorbing nutrients, housing billions of good and bad bacteria, and eliminating waste.
After a half-century of exposure to things like eating processed foods, stress, and environmental toxins, your microbiomes become depleted. A good balance of microbiomes improves your overall health.
Having a healthy gut promotes digestive wellness, healthy glucose levels, and balanced yeast growth. You will also experience improved moods, sleep, and a well-functioning immune system.
As you age, your dietary needs change.
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Signs That You May Have an Unhealthy Gut
Do you suffer from bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal upset - especially after a carbohydrate-laden meal?
These problems, as well as IBD (irritable bowel disease), colitis, and reflux could all be related to a microbiome imbalance.
An imbalance creates poor digestion and absorption of certain foods.
Craving certain foods, especially sugar, can be caused by a bacteria imbalance.
In the case of sugar cravings, this is caused by an overgrowth of yeast.
This is very common after a course of antibiotics which kill all bacteria in the gut, including the good bacteria. This imbalance can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria.
It's very important to take a probiotic when you are taking antibiotics.
Please make sure to wait at least 2 hours after taking the antibiotic before taking your probiotic. Taking them both simultaneously will kill the good bacteria in the probiotic.
Feeling Anxious or Depressed
Scientists have long known that approximately 80-90 percent of serotonin and 70 percent of dopamine originate in the intestines. These neurotransmitters affect mood, social behavior, sleep, appetite, memory, and libido.
The microbiome's gut imbalances can negatively affect these neurotransmitters and even trigger depressive symptoms.
Unable to Sleep
The same lack of serotonin discussed above can cause difficulty with sleeping. Lack of sleep can lead to chronic fatigue syndrome.
Your gut bacteria can affect how certain foods are digested, how nutrients are absorbed, and how energy is stored in your body. Consequently, these factors could have an impact on your overall weight.
Studies show that overweight individuals have lower gut bacteria diversity.
This lack of bacteria diversity can result from consuming an unhealthy diet, living a sedentary lifestyle, or being genetically predisposed.
The billions of bacteria in the gut alter how our body stores fat and how we balance glucose levels in the blood. It also changes how we respond to hormones, like ghrelin and leptin, that make us feel hungry or full.
The wrong mix of microbes in our gut can set the stage for many health issues, weight gain being one of them.
Keeping our gut environment happy is now becoming the elusive secret to weight control.
Poor gut health can be behind skin problems like dry skin, eczema, rosacea, acne, and other rashes.
Food Allergies or Sensitivities
Being allergic or sensitive to certain foods like dairy and gluten can be caused by a leaky gut.
Leaky gut, aka intestinal permeability, is a condition where the lining of the digestive tract becomes inflamed and porous.
A leaky gut allows bacteria, undigested food, and other toxins into the bloodstream, where the immune system attacks it.
This attack by the immune system creates inflammation throughout the body which can manifest in different ways for different people, one of which is food allergies.
Poor Immune System
Are you sick a lot?
Our immune system is found in the gut. If you have an unhealthy gut, you may be unable to fight off "bugs" like a cold or flu.
If you are one of those people who seem to catch everything that is going around the office or school, you likely need to heal your gut.
What should you do to heal your gut?
Healing your gut involves making some lifestyle changes, but feeling your best is well worth the effort.
Here are some steps you can take to heal your gut:
Try an Elimination Diet
While we all know that diets don't work for long-term weight loss, going on a 20 or 30-day elimination diet can be a way to find out what foods may be causing inflammation in your body.
This process starts by eliminating all common allergens like dairy, sugar, gluten, and all processed foods.
After eating simple anti-inflammatory foods for several days, you will start adding foods back in to see if you react.
If you find you react to certain foods that you may love, don't despair! Once your gut heals, try those foods again and see how you react.
You may be able to eat those foods again, or at least know that you can only eat them once in a while.
There are a lot of books to help you with an elimination diet. The one I did is called "The Plan" by Lyn-Genet Recitas.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that replenish your body's microbiomes.
An excellent source of probiotics includes fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, coconut water, tempeh, Kombucha, plain Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, or probiotic supplements.
There are hundreds of probiotic supplements available on the market. It is best to take your time and research before deciding which probiotic to take. The best place to start is with your doctor.
If you decide to take a probiotic supplement, starting with a lower number of CFU (Colony Forming Unit is the number of live and active organisms in a probiotic) is best.
Experiencing side effects such as gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea when starting a probiotic supplement is common.
Still, if it continues for more than a couple of weeks, you may need to lower the number of CFU or change to a different strain of probiotics.
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that feeds the "friendly" bacteria in your gut.
These friendly bacteria produce nutrients for your colon cells, leading to a healthier digestive system.
Some of these nutrients include short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, acetate, and propionate. These fatty acids can be absorbed into your bloodstream to improve metabolic health.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain prebiotics that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria such as Bifidobacteria.
Some prebiotic-rich foods are bananas, asparagus, apples, oats, barley, leeks, onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, dandelion greens, chicory root, flaxseeds, seaweed, 100% dark chocolate or cacao powder.
Take a Digestive Enzyme
The old saying, "you are what you eat," is not true.
The truth is, "you are what you absorb."
As we age, we lose stomach acid and cannot break down the nutrients in our foods.
Taking a digestive enzyme with your meals takes the stress off the G-I tract and helps break down difficult-to-digest sugars and proteins like casein, lactose, and gluten.
How to Get Started
You can take supplements for gut health, but eating a healthy diet is the best way to get back on track.
Avoid sugar and processed foods.
A balanced diet of fresh vegetables and fruits, animal products produced without any hormones or antibiotics, grass-fed and humanely raised.
While this sounds simple, it can be difficult to give up foods you love or learn a new way of eating.
I have found that the best way to make changes is to add something healthy to your diet each day.
Rather than thinking about all the things you can't eat, adding something healthy and delicious to your diet will fill you up.
As the bacteria in your gut change, you will stop craving the foods that feed the "bad" bacteria and start feeling better.
You have built your colony of bacteria over a lifetime, and it won't change overnight.
It can also be uncomfortable at first. If you make major changes quickly, you can suffer withdrawal symptoms.
For some women, it works best just to rip the bandaid off. Cut all the sugar and processed foods from your diet immediately.
You may suffer headaches, low energy, and flu-like symptoms of withdrawal for a few days or up to a week. But once you have cleared these foods from your diet, you will feel better, and cravings for those foods will dissipate quicker.
Or, you may prefer a more gradual approach of slowly reducing the problem foods in your diet and replacing them with something healthier.
Whichever path you decide to take, I can guarantee that you will notice a startling change in your energy and overall health.
Do you have any helpful hints to improve gut health to share with the Crone Community? Please comment below.
I wish you all the best on your path to better health.
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