By Aasma Riaz, MD, Internal Medicine Physician at Orlando Health
The 100 trillion bacteria in your gut can affect how well you feel every day — from whether you’re tired and still have trouble sleeping to more predictable issues such as appetite and constipation.
The gut is another term for your digestive tract and includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, colon and rectum. It acts as a barrier against external toxins and chemicals, and produces hormones that affect hunger, sensory perception, cognition, emotion and behavior.
With trillions of bacteria in your gut, it’s no surprise that some are beneficial and others aren’t. The unhealthy ones can lead to stomach problems and illnesses that include a weakened immune system, autoimmune disorders such as Celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis, constipation, migraines, diabetes, insomnia, depression and fatigue.
Among the factors that contribute to an unhealthy gut are stress and certain foods, especially those high in sugar and saturated fat. Tobacco, alcohol and excessive caffeine also can be detrimental. Overuse of antibiotics is another culprit because these medicines kill not only the illness-causing bacteria, but your healthy bacteria too.
Keeping Your Gut Healthy
A nutritious diet is a good foundation for a healthy gut.
- Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, nuts and legumes.
- Scale back on sugar and high-fat red meats.
- Drink lots of water.
- Eat dinner before 7:00 pm to give your body enough time to digest the food in your stomach before going to bed
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that support gut health. Although they are available in pill form, probiotics also can be found in foods such as:
While medicine is still learning about the role the gut plays in our health, we do know that watching what we eat, controlling stress and avoiding too many antibiotics can go a long way toward a healthy gut.
Concerned about your gut health? Our primary care physicians work closely with a range of experts to help you feel your best. Find a healthcare partner at OrlandoHealth.com/PrimaryCare.