Gut health: An expert guide on everything you need to know!

ZincProbioticsCurcuminDigestion

Gut health: An expert guide on everything you need to know!

Healthy bowel movements are one of the top indicators of good gut health, and your toilet habits can tell you a lot about what you need to improve to feel your best digestively.

Many Australians might not readily associate bowel movements with good gut health, but a study showed that there was a 9% increase in cases of severe gut illness recorded among Australians beginning in the 1990s (1). These digestive conditions have affected more and more young and middle aged adults (2, 3).

There’s many things that can be done when considering how to improve gut health. Aside from knowing more about what good gut health is, you can improve your diet, monitor bowel movements, and take appropriate supplements to ease and support digestion.

Read on as we share our answer questions and share expert tips on achieving, then maintaining, good gut health.

Bowel basics

What is the bowel?

The bowels are made up by the small and large intestines4 and are responsible for absorbing nutrients from what we eat and drink, as well as excreting food waste. The upper end of these intestines connect to the stomach, and its lower end to the rectum and anus (5). The bowels and the organs they’re attached to in part make up the gastrointestinal tract.

How does a good gut operate?

The gut starts its work the moment food enters the mouth. As you chew food, saliva is secreted to help break down carbohydrates. Swallowed food then moves through the esophagus and delivers it to the stomach where mechanisms in the gastrointestinal tract ensure that food continues on this path, rather than travels back up to the throat.

The stomach, small intestines, pancreas, and liver all contribute to the next phases of food breakdown. Different organ enzymes and gastric juices mix together to turn solid food into totally new substances whose nutrients can be extracted for the benefit of the whole body. As the stomach works to help the bowel absorb nutrients, food waste is simultaneously segregated from usable food materials.

Anything from food that the body doesn’t need ends up in the large intestine. What is now food waste is stored in the rectum, and this stage in the digestion process is what gives you the urge to use the toilet. Once a person feels the need to relieve themselves, food waste moves through the rectum and colon, and with that, the digestive process is complete. If your body performs its digestive functions properly and this process is uninterrupted, you’ll have little trouble figuring out how to improve gut health (7).

What are indicators of good gut health?

Having good gut health means you’re not experiencing any pain or discomfort in your abdominal area while you’re eating, in-between meals, or during your trips to the toilet. However, pain-free digestion and bowel movement is not the only method of checking good gut health.

Aside from monitoring for pain, you can consider a stool test. A stool test is a visible indicator of good gut health and it analyses your bowels based on stool qualities of texture, size, color, and firmness (8). A combination of these qualities allows doctors to categorise your stool into appropriate types, so that you can be advised on how to improve your gut health.

Types 1 and 2 indicate signs of harder passing of stool or faeces. Types 3 and 4 are the ideal structure of faeces for good bowel movement. Types 5 to 7 can indicate the possibility of a more serious condition plaguing your digestive system as stool is abnormally loose and watery, and is likely moving too quickly within the digestive tract. In cases where your stool is categorised as Type 1, 2, 5, 6 or 7, it’s worth visiting your doctor for a closer examination.

Other indicators of good gut health are the frequency of your toilet visits, the number of faeces produced each time, odour, and how easily you pass stool (9).

Here are some signs and symptoms that you may need to make necessary changes to improve gut health:

  • You experience frequent bowel movements or your toilet visits have become more frequent without an identifiable cause.
  • You’re unable to pass enough stool (i.e.: a bowel movement does not leave your gut feeling sufficiently emptied).
  • Your faeces’ odour has changed.
  • Excessive force is needed for you to pass bowels

Why is good gut health important?

Good gut health is important as the digestive system is where our body gets the fuel and nutrients it needs. These nutrients are distributed to the brain, heart, muscles, and even skin, hair, bones and all other organs. So, without a gut that’s working hard to collect and distribute these nutrients, our bodies wouldn’t be working the way they should. Without good gut health, other bodily processes and functions would be impaired, leaving us feeling ill, frail, tired, or making us downright sick!

Learning how to improve gut health is equivalent to taking care of your whole body. The digestive process involves the interconnection between good gut health and overall health. Fortunately, there are many things you can do when considering how to improve gut health. You can begin by eating the right food, getting ample exercise, and including supplements for good gut health in your daily health regimen.

Improving good gut health

What can I do to improve gut health?

In terms of diet, foods rich in fibre like fruits and vegetables are good for digestion as they help move food along the digestive tract smoothly. Meanwhile, fermented foods which contain probiotics maintain the balance of digestive bacteria (10). Keeping hydrated is also essential as a state of being well-hydrated helps bowels move easily for quick and comfortable trips to the toilet and flushes out toxins in the body.

Managing stress, exercising daily, and sleeping for at least six hours nightly are also ingredients to good gut health (11). Doing so maintains your digestive system’s efficient functioning, prevents you from developing digestive illnesses, and reduces instances of gastrointestinal discomfort. It’s also good practice to visit the toilet when you have the urge to pass a stool, as ignoring this sensation may leave waste in the colon for too long, causing it to harden and making it more difficult for you to pass a motion (11).

Another step on how to improve gut health is to use antibiotics as strictly prescribed. We sometimes forget to consider how to maintain good intestinal bacteria, and the flora in our stomachs can be compromised with incorrect use of antibiotic (12).

What foods improve gut health?

Different whole foods serve different purposes for how to improve gut health. Leafy vegetables and whole grains provide fibre, while yogurt, nuts, and other vegetables stimulate and manage the growth of good bacteria to support good gut health (13). Meanwhile, increasing your intake of lean proteins assists the gut in breaking down foods properly. Finally, drinking more water to hydrate is key. It’s best to refrain from drinking liquids that increase the acidity of the stomach such as caffeinated drinks, alcohol, citrus juices, and some dairy drinks.

Ensuring that you eat a varied selection of whole foods is your first line of defense against digestive illnesses and is essential for good gut health (14).

Supplementation for good gut health

When paired with a well-rounded diet, mineral and vitamin supplements can help improve gut health. Here are some options you can consider to include in your gut health regimen:

Zinc

What is zinc and its benefits to good gut health?

Zinc is a mineral that supports healthy digestive function. As the body cannot produce zinc naturally, it must be consumed through external sources (15). Zinc can be consumed from food and it also conveniently comes in the form of daily supplements. No matter how you consume it, zinc is essential in healthy digestive function.

Where can zinc be found?

Zinc is abundant and can be found in a variety of foods. It is present in both plant and animal-based foods which is good news for vegetarians, vegans or anyone who’s chosen to abstain from animal-based foods. Some examples of foods rich in zinc are the following:

  • Oysters, fish, crabs, and lobsters
  • Beef, pork, and chicken
  • Baked beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, peas, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and almonds
  • Bread, cereals, and oatmeal
  • Milk, cheese, and yogurt

When paying attention to your zinc intake, one of the things that you need to watch out for is phytates. It’s a substance that’s also found in food and it limits the absorption of zinc in the body. Phytates are mostly found in bread, cereals, and legumes (19).

How to improve gut health

How much zinc should adults consume

The Ministry of Health Australia recommends that men consume 14 mg of zinc a day, while women should consume 8 mg/day20. For those who get their zinc from plant sources, it should be noted that you will need an additional 50% of the recommended daily intake as zinc absorption is higher in animal-based foods compared to its plant-based counterparts (20).

About probiotics

What are probiotics and their role in how to improve gut health?

Probiotics contain live microorganisms that support healthy bowel function. These microorganisms benefit people when given in adequate amounts (21). Probiotics are specially formulated to contain strains and species of live microorganisms (22). Common types of probiotics bacteria are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii, and you’ll often find them in probiotic food and supplements. These bacterial strains help in achieving good gut health by interacting with the bacteria naturally found inside the digestive tract (23).

There are many benefits to probiotics - these include:

  • Supporting and restoring good intestinal flora, especially during and after antibiotic use
  • Relieving digestive discomfort
  • Maintaining healthy gastrointestinal system health and function

Where can probiotics be found?

There are different foods that contain probiotics. Most fermented foods have live microorganisms, while others use microorganisms as part of their processing. Foods like kimchi, cheese, miso, some bread varieties, and yoghurt are good probiotic sources. Probiotic supplements can also be helpful in your mission to learn about how to improve gut health.

How much probiotics should adults consume?

A study has mentioned that the dosage of probiotics should be at least five billion colony-forming units or CFU per day (28). This can increase depending on the person’s health and the condition it is trying to address.

About curcumin

What is curcumin and its benefits to gut health?

Curcumin supports healthy digestive function. It is one of the active ingredients of turmeric, which is part of the ginger family. Turmeric’s recognisable yellow tint is caused by the abundant presence of curcumin (29). In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), curcumin has been used to lessen abdominal discomfort and as a digestive stimulant to improve gut function (32). It’s also noted that in these traditional medicinal systems, curcumin aids in the alleviation of different gastrointestinal illnesses (33, 34). Today, this substance has been found to be beneficial for gut health by maintaining healthy digestion and supporting healthy digestive system function.

Where can curcumin be found?

Curcumin can be sourced from turmeric which has plenty of uses. It can be added to food as a spice, consumed as teas, added in other beverages, and used to add color to other foods. It is also found in capsules and powder form and is added as a supplement to daily health regimens with the goal of answering the question of how to improve gut health.

How much curcumin should adults consume?

The Joint United Nations and World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Food Additives and European Food Safety Authority have reported that the allowable daily intake for curcumin is 0-3 mg per kg of body weight35. Similar to other medications and supplements, consult your doctor or medical practitioners to ensure that your dosage is correct and does not have any effects on drugs you’re currently taking.

Let your gut experience the healthy digestive system function and better intestinal flora with Vitable vitamins. Knowing how to improve gut health includes keeping yourself hydrated, being active, and having a proper diet. Eating fibre-rich foods and adding supplements supporting good gut health can help you maintain a healthy digestive system function too. Getting the best vitamin packs from Vitables enables you to choose the vitamins that your body needs. Whether it is for your gut health, or other aspects of health, we’ve got it covered. Select the vitamins that you want in your customised vitamin packs and we’ll include vitamin delivery for you to get your items hassle-free. We also offer monthly vitamin subscriptions to continuously receive the vitamin packs you have customised to lessen the worry of missed dosage. The best personalised vitamins in Australia are made possible with Vitable.

Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:

Zinc plus copper | Probiotics SB | Daily Probiotics | Curcumin

*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

References:

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