World Digestive Health Day falls on May 29th every year, and it is a reminder to take our digestive health more seriously!
This year’s theme is, ‘Your Digestive Health: A Healthy Gut From the Start.’
Our GI tract’s dietary requirements vary as we grow from infancy to childhood to adulthood. WGO’s goal is to ensure everyone has an understanding of the inner workings of our gastrointestinal system and how our lifestyles - including what we eat - determine our gut health. You can learn more about them here!
Our gut health is crucial to optimal well-being, yet it is often overlooked. It affects not only our physical health but also our mental and emotional state, as well as our immune response and many other aspects of our health.
In this blog, we’re exploring the significance of digestive health, the remarkable gut-brain connection, the absorption of nutrients, the prevention of chronic diseases, and the gut’s role in our immune system. And we’ll provide practical, real-world tips for supporting a healthy gut! (Spoiler alert: Eat more fiber!) ;-)
Let’s dive in!
The Gut-Brain Connection:
The relationship between our gut and brain is a complex and intriguing phenomenon called the gut-brain connection. Our gut, also known as the "second brain," contains a network of neurons, neurotransmitters, and receptors called the Enteric Nervous System.
This system has the ability to communicate with the brain in both directions - or bidirectionally - through our vagus nerve, which can affect our moods, emotions, and cognitive functions.
The Role of Nutrient Absorption:
A healthy gut ensures efficient absorption, enabling our body to make the most of the nutrients we eat. Nutrient absorption primarily takes place in the small intestine, where specialized cells are busy working to transfer vitamins, minerals, and other essential compounds into our bloodstream.
Preventing Chronic Diseases:
Maintaining a healthy gut is crucial in preventing chronic diseases.
Research proves that imbalances in gut bacteria contribute to conditions such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- And even certain types of cancer.
By prioritizing digestive health, we can mitigate the risk of developing chronic disease and promote a long and vibrant life!
Gut Health and Immune Response:
When we think about gut health, it’s important to recognize the strong link between our digestive system and our immune response.
Our gut plays a crucial role in supporting a robust and balanced immune system, which is vital for fighting off infections, dealing with pesky allergies and autoimmune disorders.
Here's a closer look at how gut health influences our immune response:
Gut Microbiota and Immunity: The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms collectively known as the gut microbiota. These beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms help regulate our immune system. They contribute to the development and function of immune cells and play a vital role in defending against harmful pathogens. (Learn more here!)
- Systemic Immune Activation: Imbalances in the gut microbiota, often referred to as dysbiosis, can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation. This state of systemic immune activation can have cascading effects, contributing to the development of chronic diseases and impairing immune response. (We don’t want that!!)
What can we do?
Support Your Gut Health:
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is essential for maintaining digestive health. Water aids in smoothly moving food through the digestive system, preventing constipation and promoting regular bowel movements.
Manage Stress Levels: Chronic stress can disrupt the delicate balance of our gut microbiota. Try stress-reducing activities like meditation, spending time in nature, or even dancing to support a healthy gut.
JBB Tip: Take a brisk walk for gut health!!
Ditch Fake Sweeteners: This is a big one, and we might ruffle a few feathers, but we are serious!! Fake sugars are harmful to our bodies. Our once-trusted sugar substitutes/artificial sweeteners (including stevia, monk fruit, and erythritol) are disrupting our healthy living goals! Here’s why:
Disruption of Gut Microbiota: Artificial sweeteners have been shown to disrupt the delicate balance of gut microbiota.
These sweeteners remain largely undigested by the body and end up in the colon, where they affect the diversity of our gut’s good bacteria. Making it impossible to thrive.
Studies show that artificial sweeteners actually PROMOTE the growth of HARMFUL bacteria while reducing the populations of our beneficial bacteria. (Nooooo!!!)
This disruption in gut microbiota, known as dysbiosis, has far-reaching negative implications for digestive health, immunity, and even metabolic function.
Increased Risk of Metabolic Disorders: The impact artificial sweeteners have on our gut health extends beyond the gut microbiota.
Research suggests that these sweeteners contribute to an increased risk of metabolic disorders, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance.
Artificial sweeteners influence glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, leading to imbalances in blood sugar regulation.
Additionally, they may disrupt the gut-brain axis, impairing the brain's ability to regulate appetite and satiety, potentially leading to overeating and weight gain. (We know, such a disappointment!)
These effects on metabolic health highlight the importance of considering the potential risks of artificial sweeteners when it comes to gut health and overall well-being.
Say NO to fake sugars!!
Incorporate Prebiotic Fiber: Getting enough fiber nourishes the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Prebiotic fiber serves as a hearty source of food for our beneficial microbes, helping them to thrive and multiply.
Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and our very own just better.® fiber are excellent sources of prebiotic fiber.
just better.® fiber makes it simple to reach high fiber goals for a happy, healthy gut! Our fiber is 100% dissolvable, flavorless, and all-natural!
Kids love it because it mixes in with their favorite food, and they don’t even know it’s there! (Or maybe that’s why parents love it?! Either way, everyone gets the fiber they need to thrive!!)
Gut Health for the Whole Family:
By prioritizing gut health, we not only support our physical well-being and immune response but also promote mental and emotional balance. Gut health is not just important for adults; it is crucial for every member of the family, including children.
We believe a healthy gut in childhood sets the stage for a lifetime of well-being.
World Digestive Health Day serves as a reminder to us all of the importance of nurturing our digestive system at every stage of life!
Remember to incorporate fiber into every meal, embrace healthy lifestyle habits, and encourage the entire family to embark on this journey toward optimal digestive health.