Improve gut health and reduce inflammation
Ever nutrition professional knows that gut health and inflammation are intimately related. A healthy gut contributes to improved sleep quality, a strong immune function, and an effective digestive system. However, inflammation can wreak havoc on gut health and cause many negative health issues. Learn more about how nutrition professionals can help their clients improve gut health and reduce inflammation with diet and lifestyle changes.
Over recent years, the relationship between the gut and our overall health has been an increasingly studied topic. Researchers have found that having a variety of good bacteria offers many health benefits, including immune system function and improved mental health.
Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle negatively impacts gut health, like stress levels, lack of sleep, and an unhealthy diet can all damage our gut microbiome. Dysbiosis leads to adverse health outcomes since the gut microbiome also influences inflammatory responses. So, what can you (as a dietitian or nutritionist) do to help your clients reduce inflammation and improve their gut health? Before looking at the relationship between gut health and inflammation, let’s start by defining what each is and how they impact your clients’ health.
Gut health and inflammation
The term ‘gut health’ refers to the function and balance of bacteria within the GI tract. A healthy gut communicates with the brain through nerves and hormones, which helps maintain general health and well-being. It also contains healthy bacteria and immune cells that ward off bacteria, viruses, and fungi, all of which are necessary for a well-functioning body.
As research shows, having a variety of good bacteria in your gut can improve psychological symptoms, combat obesity, and boost immune system function . Gut bacteria have also been shown to produce neurotransmitters (such as serotonin), with additional anti-inflammatory effects [8,9].
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect from infection, injury, or disease. While this is a natural process that helps your body heal and defend itself from harm, chronic inflammation can wreak havoc on your body and even lead to harmful diseases.
Symptoms of inflammation usually include fatigue, swelling, and GI issues and may arise from stress, abnormal immune reactions, obesity, or a poor diet [1,2,3].
How does inflammation affect gut health?
Now that we have covered what inflammation and gut health are let’s discuss how they affect each other.
Dysbiosis refers to when bad gut bacteria outweigh the good, thus creating a state of chronic inflammation and influencing a range of inflammatory conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, or IBD). This gut imbalance can be caused by high-stress levels, antibiotics, improper sleep patterns, and a poor diet. Moreover, inflammation can decrease your ability to absorb nutrients, thus disabling the gut microbiome and negatively affecting your digestive health .
Learn more about how the microbiome affects health in this article.
Top tips to reduce inflammation
As a dietitian, you can help your clients reduce inflammation and improve gut health through diet and lifestyle changes . Here are some ways you can support them on this journey.
Eat more anti-inflammatory foods
What you put on your fork has an immense impact on gut health and inflammation. Encouraging your clients to eat a more anti-inflammatory diet will go a long way when it comes to improving gut health, so you should work with them to consume a nutrient-dense, plant-filled diet. This can include fruits, vegetables, turmeric, green tea, fatty fish, olive oil), and reduce consumption of animal products, processed food, excess alcohol, and sugar [6,7].
Probiotics promote healthy gut bacteria while simultaneously fighting the bad bacteria, so it’s recommended to include them in your clients’ diets . Other supplements that can reduce inflammation include all B vitamins, omega-3s, vitamin D, and magnesium. Be sure to evaluate each client’s diet to make sure that you are recommending the right supplements for them.
Improve sleep quality
Studies show that a lack of sleep negatively impacts gut health and inflammation . It’s recommended to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night to see benefits in your overall health.
Drinking enough water has been shown to benefit the good bacteria in the gut and decrease overall inflammation .
Chronic stress negatively impacts your body and leads to severe inflammation. You can help your clients reduce stress through meditation, yoga, reading, and other self-care practices.
You can encourage your clients to eat their meals slower to promote better digestion and nutrient absorption. This will also decrease inflammation and boost gut health .
Engage in physical activity
Exercise has been shown to positively affect disease activity scores, inflammatory markers, and gut health . To reap the benefits, it’s recommended to participate in 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise and 10 to 25 minutes of weight or resistance training at least four to five times per week.
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Chronic inflammation causes a wide array of symptoms that can negatively affect your clients’ health. Gut health is one factor that affects inflammation. An imbalance in the gut microbiome can decrease your ability to absorb nutrients and negatively affect digestive health. Since improving gut health will reduce inflammation, you can help your clients achieve better health through diet and lifestyle changes.
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