Guard Your Gut For Better Health

Photo by Kristen Coffield

There is nothing better than waking up after a good night's sleep -- refreshed and excited for a new day. I woke up on January 1st, refreshed, having had a good night’s sleep, excited for a new day and a new year! The part about a good night's sleep and waking up refreshed, however, is far more complicated for most of us.

 

Even before 2020, restorative rest and feeling great were universal wellness challenges. Dozens of little daily lifestyle habits chip away at our ability to be the best versions of ourselves; everything from consuming highly processed foods and artificial ingredients to sedentary lifestyles with too much screen time. Just one sneaky, little habit, like overeating sugar or using artificial ingredients, can start a chain reaction that affects our sleep and mood. High quality sleep is required for the body and brain detox and repair; directly affecting our immune system, energy levels, and metabolism. Restorative rest is what helps us live longer and better, and it begins in our gut.

 

That's right -- our gut is responsible for producing several important hormones that directly effect sleep, including serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is produced mainly in the GI tract and has many functions, including regulating appetite, mood, and sleep. Serotonin is also a precursor of melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone we all remember from biology that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm. The body relies on this signaling to achieve the deep sleep state required to detox and restore itself. Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation in the body; and chronic inflammation is a major contributor to every disease we want to avoid. 

 

The brain and the intestine and its microbiota all communicate; when we impact one, we influence the others. Our brain is responsible for controlling food absorption and the ability to move fluids throughout the body. The intestines and microbiota send signals that effect our brain and behavior. This is an oversimplification of the gut-brain axis communication system, but basically the brain and the gut can control each other. What we eat is vitally important to our health because it signals reactions in our bodies and brains. 

 

Every bite or sip we take is a chemically coded message that tells the body to do something. When we feed our bodies the right things -- and all that messaging works well — we look good and feel great. Feed the body processed, sugary, chemically enhanced things, we are messing with Mother Nature. The gut can only do so much to protect us from bad food. It all comes down to eating in a way that allows the gut to send the right chemical messages to the brain.

 

If we want to sleep like babies and wakeup refreshed and energized, it begins on the end of our fork. The antidote to gut disruption is a plant-rich eating plan filled with prebiotics (plant fibers) that nourish our good gut bacteria (probiotics) and improve our gut health. It is essential to use what we eat and drink strategically to get the gut-brain axis signaling right. When the signaling is right wellness falls into place; our immune response is strong, our weight is healthy, and restorative rest comes easy.

 

Food in its most basic form is calories, and calories in their most basic form are energy. Think of food as fuel. What do we want our food, or fuel, to do for us? If we want more energy, a clear mind, improved mood, better sleep, and a body we love that loves us back, we must eat in a way that sends those signals. Mindless eating is the enemy of mindful health.

 

Harness the power on the end of your fork to make 2021 a year of culinary wellness, one bite at a time. 

 

Detox with Guidance here.

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