Can gut health improve your overall wellbeing?
According to national statistics, the first Monday in February marks the day that employees in the UK are most likely to ‘pull a sickie’. The most regularly reported reasons to include colds and flu, tiredness/low energy and a variety of mental health issues.
This article looks at how supporting your gut health can help to impact your levels of overall well-being and to negate the need to call in sick.
How do we measure wellbeing?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as:
“a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Wellbeing encompasses many components that may differ for all of us as individuals – a mix of physical and psychological factors, including health, such as energy levels, mood, sleep quality and happiness. These factors are generally self-reported and are therefore subjective and need to take into account each person’s individual circumstances.
Energy levels can be affected by a multitude of factors, including poor sleep, mental health issues and mood, medication or chronic disease.
Happiness is influenced by factors such as physical and mental health, financial security, freedom to make life choices and social support. According to the World Happiness Report 2020, the countries ranking highest in happiness are Finland, Denmark and Switzerland – the UK came in 13th.
And there is a link between our mental health and gut health as low gut bacterial volume and diversity have been linked with depression, mood and wellbeing.
How is gut health linked to wellbeing?
The gut is responsible for digestion, which starts in the mouth through chewing and the release of an enzyme called amylase that breaks down sugars before swallowing. The food then enters the stomach where acid starts the process of breaking down protein before the food enters the intestines and digestive enzymes help break down protein, fats and sugars so nutrients from them can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Lifestyle factors, such as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, can disrupt the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes.
Certain sugars and fibres are not digested here and travel to the large intestine where the majority of our gut bacteria colonise (the gut microbiome) and break down the remaining foodstuffs through a process called fermentation.
As a by-product of fermentation, the gut microbiome helps to produce substances called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which provide energy for the cells in the colon and for the bacteria themselves to reproduce. These by-products are involved in the production of other compounds, including hormones and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which manages hunger, mood and sleep patterns and dopamine, which influences how we feel pleasure.
In order for peak fermentation to be carried out, we must ensure we have optimal levels and diversity of gut bacteria.
What can we do to maintain a healthy gut?
Maintaining a healthy digestive system from the mouth to the anus will help to ensure that our food is digested properly, the required nutrients are available for our body to function optimally and that we have a diverse microbiome with high levels of friendly bacteria.
In this way, we can help to support our overall well-being and to prevent the need for ‘sickies’. Some of the key elements to support your digestive system include:
- Consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids has been shown to support cognitive health. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in seeds such as chia and flax and oily fish, like mackerel and salmon.
- Simple sugars like those found in cakes, biscuits, sweets and chocolate are not conducive to good gut health as they ‘feed’ the bad bacteria in your gut.
- Friendly bacteria
- Maintaining a balanced microbiome can be a challenge and a daily supplement might help with supporting particular ‘friendly’ strains.
- Fermented foods are naturally rich in friendly bacteria and including foods like sauerkraut, live yoghurts, miso soups and kombucha drinks in your daily diet can also help to top up ‘good’ bacteria and to maintain diversity. Check out our water kefir recipe here.
- Prebiotics are fibres that are indigestible to humans but provide ‘food’ for the friendly bacteria in our guts. They are found in a wide variety of foods, such as vegetables, grains and legumes. See our blog about prebiotics here.
- Moderate daily exercise can encourage a larger diversity of gut bacteria, particularly when taken outdoors. Go for a walk outside during your lunch break, exercise outdoors at the weekends or make a habit of outdoor activity before winding down for the evening.
- Lifestyle choices such as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption can reduce the volume and diversity of gut bacteria and also contribute to poor digestion and wellbeing. Avoiding smoking and drinking small amounts over several days in the week will help towards the adverse effects of these practices. See our blogs about smoking here and our blog about alcohol consumption here for more information.
Want to know more?
ProVen Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth ProVen research.
ProVen Probiotics, Unit 2 Christchurch Road, Baglan Industrial Park, Port Talbot, SA12 7DJ. Tel: 01639 825107