‘Gut health’ is a buzzword that has risen to prominence in the health, fitness and skin care worlds in recent years. While the gut and the impact it has on the body has been largely overlooked in the past, we’re now becoming highly aware of just how important it is in maintaining our overall health and wellbeing.
To find out what gut health actually is, how it’s linked to the skin and the simple steps we can take to improve it, we spoke to Integrative Medicine Expert Dr. Cris Beer, and here’s what she had to say…
What gut health actually is
“The health of your gut influences more than just your stomach,” says Beer. In fact, it’s “your body’s wellbeing machine – home to trillions of microorganisms responsible for 70 per cent of your immune system. So it’s no wonder that if you’re feeling a bit ‘off,’ your gut is likely out of wack,” she explains.
Essentially, “Our digestive systems plays host to tens of trillions of microorganisms with at least 1000 different species of known bacteria and over three million genes. More organisms live in your microbiome than cells in your entire body,” shares Beer.
The microbiome “involves a community of good bacteria and other organisms that make up the environment of our digestive system, or our gut. It’s important to have the right balance of the good and the not-so-good bacteria in our microbiome; this is where probiotics come in – they can help fix any overcrowding of the bad bugs in the microbiome but populate the good bacteria,” thus leading to a healthier gut.
What influences how healthy the gut is
According to Beer, the intestines play a significant role in maintaining good gut health. “Our intestines contain gut microbiota, or gut flora, a population of tens of trillions of microorganisms, including hundreds of different species of bacteria. These work together to support your immune system, ensuring your body absorbs nutrients effectively and disposes of waste regularly.”
Where issues in our gut arise is when “the amount of good and bad bacteria become unbalanced, which cause issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, and immunity, skin and other health problems may occur,” Beer adds.
How gut health is linked to the skin
“The skin is the largest organ in the body and often reflects the internal health of the body, particularly our gut health,” says Beer. For instance, “we now know that eczema can represent an issue with poor gut health, especially in children and can be helped with the use of a quality probiotic.”
Additionally, a 2008 report by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health found that in a study of 13,000 adolescents, those who suffered from acne were more likely to experience gastrointestinal issues such as bloating and constipation, both of which can be attributed to unbalanced levels of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
How gut health can be improved
It’s important to note that there is no quick fix to improve your gut health. However, Beer explains, “probiotics have been shown to be one of the most valuable and natural solutions to improving digestive health. They help to restore and replenish the good, natural bacteria in the digestive system and reduce the growth of harmful organisms.”
She adds, “supplementing with a daily probiotic may help to rebalance the bacteria in your gut and help manage gastrointestinal issues like bloating, wind or gas”. If you’re on the hunt for different ways to incorporate probiotics into your diet, a couple of our faves include Blackmores Probiotics + Daily Health capsules, Health Lab™ Probiotic Balls and rok Kombucha. But it’s best to always visit your GP first to find out which probiotic will work best for you.
Beer also recommends assessing your diet to ensure you’re fuelling your body “with probiotic sources too, like yoghurt, kimchi, miso and sauerkraut, as well as prebiotic foods including onions, leeks and garlic.”
Aside from probiotics, Beer says there are also a “variety of lifestyle factors that contribute to the health of your gut. Take note of these tips to keep the balance in check: stay hydrated with at least eight cups of water per day; exercise – just 30 minutes daily is all you need, a simple brisk walk can do the trick; include fibre-rich foods in your diet, ideally at every meal (vegetables like asparagus, leeks, onions as well as fruit are excellent choices); cut back on inflammatory foods and stimulants including processed foods, refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine; and ensure you get a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night.”
When you can expect to see results
Although everyone is different, Beer advises that you can expect to notice an improvement after about two weeks of using a probiotic. The changes you may see include a reduction in gut inflammation, which can result in improvements to skin conditions such as eczema and acne, allergies in children as well as “food intolerances, fatigue and depressions,” Beer adds.
How to maintain good gut health
Once you’ve improved your gut health, it’s essential you maintain all the good work you’ve put in. According to Beer, “gut health is maintained by eating a diet rich in prebiotic foods including wholegrains, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as probiotic-containing foods such as yoghurt, kefir and/or sauerkraut. It can also be maintained by taking a probiotic supplement long-term.”
Want more tips to improve your overall health and wellbeing? Then find out how walking 10,000 steps a daily will benefit a whole lot more than just your fitness level.
What’s your favourite way to boost your gut health? Do you have a go-to probiotic? Let us know in the comments below.
Image credit: @chrissyteigen
Kate started working for BEAUTYcrew in early 2016, first as a contributor, and was then named Beauty Writer in 2017. She loves picking the brains of the industry's top experts to get to the bottom of beauty's toughest questions. Bronze eyeshadow palettes are her weakness and she's forever on the hunt for the perfect nude nail polish to suit her fair skin. Her words can also be found in Men's Health magazine, and she now works in PR.