Why Gut Health Matters
The gut has been called the ‘second brain’, and for a few good reasons. Your gut, AKA your digestive tract, is a massive network of nerve cells composed of 100 million neurons producing over 30 different types of neurotransmitters! There is a bidirectional superhighway connecting the brain and the gut; what happens in one directly impacts the other. Below we share with you why gut health matters for peak performance.
“I believe that the digestive tract and its functions may be the single most important body component determining health and disease.” – Elson M. Haas, MD, Staying Healthy with Nutrition.
How to tell if your gut health is off
If you are experiencing one or more of the following, your gut health could benefit from some adjustments:
- Diarrhea or loose stool
- Heartburn/acid reflux
- Skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis
- Constantly stressed, tired and anxious
Gut microbiome and probiotics
Your gut microbiome, or gut flora, refers to the microorganisms that live in your digestive tract. If your gut microbiome is out of whack, it can create gas, bloating, and indigestion, which will impact your motivation to exercise, endurance and performance.
To support a healthy gut microbiome, consider taking a probiotic as part of your supplement regime. Probiotics are supplements containing various of the ‘good’ bacteria we want in our digestive system. The key probiotic nutrients are bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. The introduction of these gut-friendly bacteria to your intestinal system reduces cholesterol, infections, and intestinal gas while improving immunity, nutrient absorption and skin health, to name only a few of the many functions. Having a balanced gut flora better equips your body to fight off harmful bacteria, yeasts and parasites, ensuring you are in the right mood and condition for those challenging workouts.
Think about taking a probiotic supplement for a specific time frame (for example, a 2-week period) to help repopulate friendly bacteria rather than daily. Talk to a naturopath or nutritionist for recommendations on exactly what supplements to take and for how long.
While probiotics are not something you take every day, fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha are a welcome addition to your regular diet. Fermented foods are unpasteurized and full of good bacteria.
To broaden the diversity of your gut microbiome, incorporate variety into your weekly meal plan. For ideas of new foods to consume, check out our blog posts The Best Superfoods to Boost Your Energy and Greens You Should Be Incorporating Into Your Diet.
Feeling the burn?
If you frequently suffer from heartburn it’s because you have low stomach acid, specifically hydrochloric acid (HCl). It might seem counterintuitive that low stomach acid leads to heartburn; however, when there is an insufficient natural level of HCl, it means there isn’t enough acid to break down your food properly. The semi-undigested food sits in your stomach, fermenting, which is what causes heartburn. A pleasant picture, isn’t it? This is why gut health matters to peak performance. To be able to maximize the efficiency of your workouts, you’ve got to be feeling your best. Proper digestion and gut health are critical to forming a solid foundation of health.
The HCl levels in your gut can be affected by age, the type of foods you eat, if you smoke or consume alcohol, the amount of sleep you get and your stress levels. You may want to consider taking an HCl supplement to increase stomach acid production. Like probiotics, a digestive supplement only needs to be taken for a short period of time to boost HCl levels. You should be in discussion with a natural healthcare provider to determine what is best for you.
How you live your life plays a big role in digestive health. It’s time to make a couple of changes to enhance the peak performance of your workouts.
#1 – Prioritize sleep. Create an inviting space that is ready for you to count sheep. A dark, cool, quiet room is best. Create a regular evening routine where you stop eating at a specific time, wind down and get into rest mode to help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm.
#2 – Minimize stress as best you can. When you’re stressed, your body goes into ‘fight-or-flight mode’ where it’s focused on surviving, not thriving. When you’re stressed, digestion does not function optimally, and you’re unable to absorb the nutrients in your food which can lead to nutrient deficiencies. If you’re going to the effort of preparing a delicious healthy meal, you want to reap all the benefits! Stress can also cause flare-ups of other underlying conditions such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
Commit to activities that help reduce your stress, like exercising, being out in nature and breathing practices. While your workout routine is creating an agile, strong and optimally functioning body, it is also supporting a resilient mind, so you’re better able to navigate life’s challenges.
A foundational element of optimal fitness performance is a healthy gut. Take care of it, and it will take care of you.
If you’re looking for more information on why gut health. matters and which supplements would be right for you, visit us in store and have a chat with one of our experts. We can also be reached on Facebook and Instagram. Now it’s your turn to tell us, how do you incorporate greens into your diet? Be sure to tag us! We are #ReflexNation.