Few topics have garnered both the interest of researchers and the public at large quite like the human gut.
Hundreds (if not, thousands) of research papers have been published in recent years, and a topic that at one time would have seemed as alluring as watching wallpaper dry is now common speak for individuals of all ages and lifestyles.
Like most topics that enter the mainstream, there is a great deal of misconception, misinformation, and oversimplification, and gut health is no exception.
Today, we give you the “need-to-know” info on all things gut health.
Let’s get started!
What is the Gut Microbiome?
The gut microbiome is a collection of trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that serve a critical role in our overall health.
In fact, research has identified links between gut health and:
- Immune function
- Cognitive performance
- Mental health
- Skin conditions
- Endocrine disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
It may also strike you to learn that there are more bacteria in your body than human cells. Researchers estimate that there are ~40 trillion bacterial cells in your body and only ~30 trillion human cells.[1,2]
In other words, your body is more bacteria than human!
As we just mentioned the health of your gut is directly tied to just about every facet of your existence. Let’s now take a look at how gut health can affect stress and mood.
The Gut Microbiome & Stress
Stress is something we all encounter on a daily basis. And, while stress is considered something that is “bad”, the truth is that you need a certain amount of stress in order to not only survive, but thrive.
Resistance training, for instance, is a form of acute stressor to your physiology. And when applied in the right doses, it can lead your body to become stronger.
When stress goes “bad” is when it’s your normal way of life. When we’re chronically plagued by stress, it can lead to unwanted alterations in hormone production, sleep, energy storage (fat storage, particularly around the midsection, glutes, and thighs), motivation, productivity, recovery, and mood.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, chronic stress can also reduce immune function, making your more susceptible to infection and illness.
Stress is also linked to many gut health disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
To top it off, chronic negatively affects the quantity and diversity of your good gut bacteria, which can lead to an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the gut, a condition known as gut dysbiosis.
This bacterial imbalance may also lead to inflammation which is implicated in some research to be associated with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Gut dysbiosis has also been linked to weight gain, fyi.
Finally, chronic stress can weaken the lining of the gut, allowing pathogens to more easily enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc on your physiology.
The good news is that stress can be managed, and you can promote gut health in a number of ways.
Ways to Promote Gut Health
Optimize Your Diet
The gut microbiome is in constant flux, and what you eat on a daily basis has a direct impact on the quantity and diversity of the bacteria in your gut.
As such, it’s important that you base your diet around healthy foods, those that are minimally processed and rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Fiber acts as the food for the good bacteria in your gut. WIthout sufficient nutrition, the good bacteria will die off, leaving the door open for dysbiosis.
Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
In addition to fiber, which provides the “fuel” for your gut bacteria to thrive, you also want to eat foods that contain probiotics -- good bacteria that can populate the gut.
Some of these include:
- Certain cheeses (gouda, mozzarella, cheddar and cottage cheese, for example)
It’s also a good idea to limit alcohol and processed food intake as these can disrupt and irritate the GI system.
Above we said that stress can be beneficial, if applied in the right dose. And, it’s been shown that engaging in regular bouts of physical activity (i.e. exercise) promotes gut health.
Furthermore, regular exercise is also known to help improve mood and lower stress levels, which directly impacts gut health.
Exercise can come in many different forms -- resistance training, HIIT, crossfit, etc. Heck, even walking for as little as 20-30 minutes a day can help alleviate stress and make a real difference on the health of your gut microbiome!
Get Enough Sleep
Not getting enough quality sleep can have serious impacts on your gut health (not to mention your overall health and wellness). Stress levels are higher, desire to exercise is lower, and we’re prone to crave high-calorie, high-sugar/salt foods, which can contribute to more sleep issues and poorer gut health.
Prioritizing sleep is a must. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.
Some tips to get better sleep include:
- Setting a specific bedtime
- Avoid blue light 2 hours before bed
- Avoid sources of stress before bed (texts, social media, news, work emails, etc)
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed
- Pray, meditate, or journal
- Make your room dark and cool
- Stretch or do some light yoga
You can also try using a nighttime relaxation and recovery aid, such as 1UP Beauty Dream or Recharge PM, which contain natural, non-habit forming ingredients to help promote feelings of calm relaxation, allowing you to achieve deep, restorative sleep.
Use Gut Health Supplements
Supplementing a healthy diet with additional prebiotic fiber and probiotics is yet another way to promote gut health.
Prebiotic fiber provides “food” for the beneficial bacteria in the gut, and probiotics are live good bacteria.
Not all probiotic supplements are high quality or will actually provide benefit. We’ve done the research and developed a premium-grade gut health supplement in 1UP Gut Health Plus.
1UP Gut Health Plus contains a complementary blend of prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes to support gut health from every angle.
The human gut is a fascinating entity that impacts just about every aspect of daily life, including immunity, exercise performance, heart health, brain health, mood, sleep, and efficient digestion.
Optimizing gut health hinges on many of the same tactics you utilize during your transformation challenge -- regular exercise, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and proper supplementation.
Take a look at your daily habits and see if they’re aligned correctly to promote optimal gut health, and if not, try incorporating some of the tips outlined above.
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- Mailing LJ, Allen JM, Buford TW, Fields CJ, Woods JA. Exercise and the Gut Microbiome: A Review of the Evidence, Potential Mechanisms, and Implications for Human Health. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2019 Apr;47(2):75-85. doi: 10.1249/JES.0000000000000183. PMID: 30883471.