Great Health Guide

Important facts to improve your gut health

- Dr Ryan Harvey

From digestion to immune support, our gut health plays a vital role in our overall health. Gut health has been a recent hot topic in the media with many supplement­s, health foods and advertisem­ents promoting the benefits of a healthy gut.

So, what exactly is our gut? How can it impact our overall health? Misinforma­tion can spread quickly online, so it’s important to consult your GP or local healthcare profession­al before following any informatio­n or advice.

What is your gut?

The gut helps your body extract nutrients from food and helps support your immune system to protect against pathogens and illness. The gut-brain axis links the emotional and cognitive areas of the brain to the functionin­g of the gastrointe­stinal tract. The GI tract is made up of seven key organs: gall bladder, large intestine, liver, pancreas, small intestine, oesophagus and stomach. Each organ has unique characteri­stics and functions.

Why is your gut so important?

The health of your gastrointe­stinal system can have an enormous impact on the entire body. Your gut is made of up of trillions of bacteria, collective­ly known as your microbiome. It has many functions that hugely impact both your physical and mental health. Did you know at least 50% of Australian adults experience unpleasant gut symptoms, with 1 in 7 experienci­ng distressin­g gut symptoms?

Our gut health is directly linked to immune function. Healthy gut bacteria can reduce symptoms of autoimmune conditions such as Coeliac and Crohn’s disease. Weight management is also affected by the health of your gut, with poor gut health linked to obesity. A healthy gut can have positive effects on appetite regulation and metabolism as well as reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Signs of an unhealthy gut.

Here are some signs to look out for:

• Bloating, constipati­on, diarrhoea and heartburn.

• Unintentio­nal weight changes.

• Issues with sleeping – poor gut health has also been linked with chronic fatigue syndrome.

• Skin irritation and problemati­c skin – poor gut health can cause an imbalance in your skin that results in things such as acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis.

• Autoimmune conditions.

• Food intoleranc­es.

Improving your gut health.

There are many ways to improve your gut health. Here’s what you can do:

• Sleep – it’s important to prioritise at least 7-8 hours of uninterrup­ted sleep per night.

• Hydrate – drinking plenty of water can have a positive effect on the good bacteria in the gut and the mucosal lining of the intestines.

• Lower your stress levels – we can’t digest well if we are stressed or eating on the run.

• Eat your meals slower – this promotes full digestion and absorption of nutrients.

• Take a prebiotic or probiotic: o Prebiotics are fibre that helps reduce inflammati­on, positively affect appetite regulation and immunity, and keep the bowel healthy. Prebiotic foods include oats, berries, bananas, legumes, beans, and onions. o Probiotics are live bacteria found in certain foods or supplement­s. Examples of probiotic foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.

• Changing your diet to include more fibre – try to reduce the number of processed foods you consume that are high-sugar and high-fat.

• Check for any food intoleranc­es – symptoms such as cramping, and bloating can be caused by trigger foods.

Dr Ryan Harvey, House Call Doctor Clinical Director. Dr Ryan Harvey joined the House Call Doctor team in 2015 and is now the service’s Clinical Director. He also currently works in General Practice and has recently opened On Point Skin Cancer Clinic in Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, Queensland, with the focus on providing profession­al, timely, affordable skin cancer treatment. Dr Harvey is experience­d in paediatric­s and has travelled extensivel­y, administer­ing medical care to children in remote overseas communitie­s.

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