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2024: Year Of The Healthy Gut

Did you know that gut health has a huge bearing on your day-to-day life?

It’s true. From mood to emotions to energy to weight and physical health, your gut health might be more important than you may realise.

We’re prompted by passion

At Mooney Street Medical, we’re naturally proud advocates of all things health and wellbeing, and as such we have a strong interest in improving the community’s gut health.

This is due to the role it plays in our lives.

FYI: Our bowel cancer screening service ensures new and existing patients are screened accordingly per age and other factors.

If found early enough, bowel cancer is often completely treatable and won’t have any long-term impact on your life.

In this article, we explain:

  • What gut health means

  • Gut health’s connection with the rest of your body (and mind)

  • How to improve your gut health

  • Bowel cancer screenings

What gut health means

Gut health refers to the overall health of your digestive system, where trillions of microorganisms, primarily bacteria, reside.

Your “gut” means the organs of your digestive system, including the stomach and intestines, which are responsible for processing and absorbing nutrients from the food we consume.

The microbes in your gut break down food, extract nutrients and help in the absorption process.

When the balance of these microorganisms is optimal, you can expect effective digestion.

Beyond digestion, a healthy gut is essential for supporting your immune system.

Your gut is a significant player in immune function, helping to defend against harmful pathogens and infections.

Research suggests a strong connection between gut health and mental wellbeing too, highlighting the intricate link between the gut and the brain. More on that later.

In essence, good gut health means:

  • More energy
  • Better moods
  • Better emotion control
  • Better sleep
  • Weight management
  • A stronger immune system
  • Disease prevention

Basically, a whole lot of good stuff.

Gut health and the rest of your body (and mind)

It’s well known that gut health has a big effect on other parts of your body.

The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, known as the gut microbiota, which aid in digestion and nutrient and vitamin absorption.

This ecosystem of bacteria, viruses (yep, they live there too) and other microbes also helps regulate your immune system.

An example of an important organ linked to gut health is your liver.

The liver is involved in processing nutrients absorbed by the gut. An unhealthy gut can result in increased toxins and harmful substances reaching the liver, potentially leading to liver inflammation and complications.

Good gut health helps the liver’s functions and overall metabolic balance.

Your skin is another one.

The condition of your gut can impact the health of your skin. Issues like acne, eczema and psoriasis can often be associated with an imbalanced gut.

The gut-skin connection is influenced by absorbing, or not absorbing, nutrients that affect the skin’s appearance and overall health.

Your diet also plays a huge role in gut health and therefore affects your liver and skin, to name just two of many.

The connection between your gut health and your mood is a big one.

The gut-brain connection (known as the gut-brain axis), a communication pathway between the gut and the brain, underscores the connection between gut health and mental wellbeing.

Research suggests that gut microbiota can influence mood, cognition and even conditions like anxiety and depression.

Your gut is involved in the production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which helps regulate mood. Serotonin is not only crucial for emotional balance but also contributes to the regulation of appetite and sleep.

An UNhealthy gut and your mental health:

An unhealthy gut often impacts mood and mental health. Imbalances in the gut microbiota can lead to decreased production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which plays a crucial role in regulating mood.

Inflammation triggered by an unhealthy gut can further exacerbate mental health issues, as chronic inflammation is linked to conditions affecting emotional wellbeing.

As per a 2023 study by Harvard Medical School, we use phrases like “a gut-wrenching experience” and “butterflies in your stomach” for a reason. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut.

If you’ve felt a little emotionally off, it could be your gut health.

A healthy gut and your mental health:

A healthy gut positively influences your mood, emotions and mental health.

The gut microbiota, when balanced, supports the synthesis of neurotransmitters like serotonin, contributing to a stable and positive emotional state.

A diverse and thriving gut microbiome helps regulate inflammation, reducing the risk of mental health issues.

Via the gut-brain connection, good gut health supports mental wellbeing. This is often due to better sleep, proper nutrient and vitamin absorption and correct hormone regulation.

How to improve your gut health

As discussed above, we know that a healthy gut has a huge range of perks, from a stronger immune system to better skin and of course, improved mood and mental wellbeing.

Here’s how to improve your gut health.

Boost your fibre intake

Increase high-fibre foods in your diet, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and peanuts, beans and other legumes.

Fibre supports the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and helps maintain a healthy digestive system.

Know your pro and prebiotics — and eat them!

Probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria to your gut and include foods like:

  • Yoghurt

  • Sauerkraut

  • Kimchi, and

  • Other fermented foods

Prebiotic-rich foods nourish and support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and include:

  • Garlic

  • Onions

  • Leeks

  • Bananas

  • Asparagus

  • Barely

  • Oats

  • Apples

Manage stress

We know that gut health plays a role in mental wellbeing, but it also works the other way as chronic stress can negatively affect the gut.

If you’re finding stressors mounting in your life, make some notes – in writing, perhaps on your phone, is much easier – and take steps to reduce them.

You might add in some ‘me time’ or activities you like to your routine.

Cut down on processes food

That includes sugary soft drinks too. These foods negatively impact gut health by promoting the growth of harmful bacteria. Processed foods are often high in artificial additives and preservatives that can disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

They can cause inflammation, digestive issues and an imbalanced gut.

Reduce alcohol consumption and never smoke

Smoking, including vaping, and excessive alcohol consumption negatively impact gut health in several ways.

Smoking has been linked to alterations in the composition of the gut microbiota, reducing the beneficial bacteria and promoting harmful ones.

It can impair the protective barrier of the gastrointestinal tract, increasing the risk of inflammation and gastrointestinal disorders.

Alcohol, especially in excess, can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria. It can also compromise the gut lining, allowing harmful substances to leak into the bloodstream triggering an inflammatory response.

Both smoking and excessive alcohol intake can contribute to an unhealthy gut environment, fostering conditions that may lead to inflammation, digestive problems and illnesses associated with an unhealthy gut.

Bowel cancer screenings

Bowel health is often associated with gut health, primarily as the two are heavily affected by your diet and lifestyle choices.

Bowel cancer screenings are crucial for early detection of colorectal cancer, aka bowel cancer, allowing for quick intervention and significantly improved treatment outcomes.

In fact, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program which aims to reduce deaths from bowel cancer through early detection in Australia, confirms that if found early, more than 90% of cases can be successfully treated.

At Mooney Street Medical, our dedicated bowel cancer screening services are available to all new and existing patients who may require a screening or support.

If your gut health could improve, or you don’t know how it stacks up in the first place, get in touch with us. We’re here to help.