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How to improve gut health in women

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

What’s the secret to a happy healthy gut? At 4U Pilates, we believe taking a holistic approach to gut health is best. Our gut health can support our physical and mental health too, and when it comes to improving your movement and agility, we like to look at all areas.



WHY IS GUT HEALTH IMPORTANT?

The digestive system is the centre of our mental and physical health – it absorbs the nutrients we need for our immune system, brain function and energy production. An unhealthy gut can hinder how well we move, how we think, and how productive we are across our day - and even into our sleeping hours too.


Technically-speaking, the gut connects to key areas such as the brain, vagus nerve and Enteric nervous system. You can learn more about this in this Food For Thought TEDx video.


And the gut is a complicated place. It relies upon healthy bacteria - called our microbiome - as well as the multiple organs that makes up our digestive system. Research suggests that the bacteria living in our digestive tract plays a significant role in our overall health, with links to:


  • Anxiety

  • Autism

  • Colon cancer

  • Crohn’s disease

  • Depression

  • Diabetes

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Obesity

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Schizophrenia

  • Ulcerative colitis


You can read more about these links in this infographic published by the Huffington Post.


HOW DO HORMONES AFFECT GUT HEALTH?

The gut microbiome and our bodies’ hormones are also intrinsically linked. For example, the gut microbiome regulates oestrogen. The oestrogen regulating function of specific bacteria in the microbiome is called the “oestrobolome.”


The oestrobolome – regulates the amount of oestrogen circulating in the bloodstream through the creation of β-glucuronidase, an enzyme which breaks down oestrogen into to its “free”, or biologically active form.


Women experiencing perimenopause or the menopause may find changes within their gut health, which can be linked to changes in oestrogen production, as well as hormones such as progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, or adrenalin.


HOW TO TELL IF YOU HAVE A HEALTHY GUT

Consider the following questions when it comes to gauging your gut health:


  • What are your eating habits like?

  • How do you feel after a meal?

  • How healthy is your tongue?

  • What are your bowel movements like?

  • Are you taking any medications or substances?


For women in their 30s through to their 50s, it is worth being aware of your perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms affecting these areas of gut health.


Ways to support your gut through this time period include:


Eating nutrient-rich, prebiotic foods and fibres. For example, flax seeds are converted into oestrogen-like compounds when acted on by bacteria in the gut, and can support hormonal imbalances. Other foods that support this include root vegetables, flax seed, psyllium, beans, seeds, nuts, fruits and veggies.


Avoiding trigger factors such as alcohol, certain foods, lack of sleep, or certain medication, which can affect the way your hormones work.


Taking probiotics – in particular, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, which can help lower beta-glucuronidase.


There’s also increasing evidence that a plant-based diet is a major contributor to a healthy gut. So, eat plenty of vegetables and aim for local foods that are in season for highest nutritional value. Also consider getting good variety of colour every day.


Alongside vegetables, consider healthy plant-based protein sources such as tofu, nuts, seeds and legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, and many types of beans.


And finally, consider upping your intake of fermented drinks and food such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, or sauerkraut, which will do wonders for your microbiome health, and in turn, your gut health!

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