The gut is one of the most important "nerve centers" in our body for health. It's vitally important to be able to digest our food well, but that's not all its good for: the "gut microbiome", or the environment made up of trillions of other bacteria, is at least partially responsible for sleep, stress, weight loss and more.
You can take supplements such as the best vitamins for women over 50 and best fish oil supplements, but that's only half the battle. Gut health depends on a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle, and there's no magic pill to make it all better. If you've got an unhealthy gut, you might be experiencing an imbalance of gut bacteria, or dysbiosis.
Gut expert for Kalla (opens in new tab) and nutritional therapist, Eve Kalinek, says: "With dysbiosis, we can often see some obvious digestional symptoms. When we do get that imbalance, we get more of the less friendly bugs and less of the good ones.
"Digestion is an obvious [benefit to a healthy gut] as the microbes help us to break down our food, absorb nutrients from our food and manage appetite hormones." A healthy, happy gut not only helps us get the most from our food, but it also regulates our appetite.
Kalinek says "There are many more far-reaching processes and systems that our gut microbiome has a significant influence. You might not be aware that 60% of our immune system is managed in our gut. The other system that is getting a lot of traction at the moment is the gut-brain axis, which is a bidirectional relationship. Most serotonin is actually produced in our gut."
Below, you can see the full talk filmed by Kalinek exclusively for the F&W instagram account:
Watch Eve Kalinek's full gut health talk below:
How to maintain a healthy gut
Probiotics come in both supplement form and naturally occur in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kombucha, kimchi, gherkins and sourdough. These live cultures can add to our good bacteria and help balance our microbiome.
If you're using supplements, however, Kalinek warns to make sure "you're taking something by a company which clearly displays clinical data" for that particular strain of probiotic bacteria.
Otherwise, the stress hormone cortisol can be very harmful to the gut, affecting the composition of the microbiome in addition to the gut-brain axis. Spending time in nature can reduce cortisol levels according to studies (opens in new tab), as can lifting weights, meditation and a good night's sleep. We recommend our best mattress toppers guide.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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