Boxers know how important it is to have a strong core. True core strength goes much deeper than those toned abs – it starts in the gut.
So much of our health is determined by our digestive system. It is where our bodies process food into fuel, powering every function in our bodies. New DNA research has revealed a direct link between the popularity of the so-called Western diet, consisting of processed foods, and the rise of autoimmune diseases worldwide.
While vast amounts of research over the past few decades have offered us warning signs, this most recent revelation should be a wake-up call for everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored this urgency by revealing that patients with underlying autoimmune disorders had more complications and worse outcomes combatting the virus.
We know the root cause of many major health conditions can be managed by simple lifestyle changes, such as a healthier diet, so why wouldn’t we want to target the problem at its source? Let's dig in to help you identify the signs of poor gut health and the tips to get your gut back on track.
Why Is Gut Health So Important
The human body contains over 40 trillion bacteria, the majority of which live in our digestive system. These are known as the gut microbiome, a delicate balance of good gut bacteria that perform essential functions for our overall health. Imbalances in your gut microbiome cause inflammation, leading to issues throughout the body.
Body systems directly linked to gut health include:
The immune system is your body’s defense system against all harmful invaders. Poor gut health can turn your immune system against your own body, causing autoimmune diseases.
The endocrine system is your body’s chemical messaging system, which is responsible for a variety of roles, including chemical and hormone regulation, metabolism, development, and growth.
Brain and Nervous System
The brain and nervous system are your body’s central control and command center that includes over 500 million neurons in your gut alone. Together, they form a connection known as the gut-brain axis.
Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
Gastrointestinal upset may be the most obvious sign of an unhealthy gut, but it is far from the only symptom to watch out for. Since major body systems are intrinsically linked to your gut microbiome, digestive imbalances can wreak havoc on a lot of main bodily functions.
Symptoms of digestive problems include:
Indigestion, bloating, irregular bowel movements, and other common stomach conditions can all be tied to poor gut health.
Abnormal sleep patterns
Poor quality sleep can hinder important digestive work that regulates our food intake. Ignoring gut health problems can cause abnormal sleep patterns, including insomnia, oversleeping, and generalized fatigue.
The science behind feeling “hangry” is directly associated with your body's serotonin level which is mostly produced in the gut. Imbalances in the gut can result in imbalances in your serotonin levels.
Unexplained weight gain or loss
When your gut isn’t functioning well, your metabolism may be impacted causing weight fluctuations. For instance, not eating will trigger your body into 'starvation mode’ causing your body to conserve food and store it as fat.
A lack of good gut bacteria can cause your body to crave sugar and junk food, which only worsens the issue.
If you’ve suddenly had trouble digesting foods that never used to cause problems, it could mean an unhealthy gut.
An unhealthy gut can cause skin dryness, irritation, or conditions like eczema. Inflammation in the gut, which can be caused by certain food intolerances or an unhealthy and unbalanced diet, can lead to a "leaky gut." In these instances, certain proteins "leak" out into the body and irritate the skin.
Autoimmune diseases include several conditions, including lupus, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
How can I improve my gut health?
The most important thing you can do to improve your gut health is to eat a healthier diet. Eating a clean diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory foods should be your first priority. Other factors such as hydration, proper sleep, and regular exercise play a major role in bringing your whole body back into balance, but the initial healing begins on your plate.
What else can I do for my gut health?
The influence your gut health has on our wellbeing reminds us of how interconnected all our body’s systems truly are. To maintain your digestive health – and improve your overall health – simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.
Improve sleep hygiene
This includes creating a regular sleep schedule as well as getting a solid 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Drink water regularly throughout the day, increasing intake on days with intense physical training.
Stress reduction ties in closely with regular exercise, as high-intensity exercise is proven to improve mental health.
Your digestive health impacts your entire body and when overlooked can even result in long-term autoimmune disease. In a society that focuses so much on dealing with symptoms, the best thing you can do for yourself is to proactively target the cause.
Taking health inspiration from boxers is usually a solid choice, and gut health is no different. Boxers know how to keep their fuel processing system in a peak working state, staying in fighting shape by living a healthy lifestyle from what they eat to how much they sleep. Making these simple choices every day can make all the difference in your health, but it’s not always easy to get started.
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