In this blog we talked about how the gut can influence both hormonal health and the health of the reproductive system. Today we are going to explore how we can support and maintain gut health.
● FOOD: the most obvious place to address first when addressing gut health, is your food! The food and drink we consume directly impacts the health of the digestive system, either positively or negatively. Think of the food and drink you consume as information and instructions to your body. Food is not just simply fuel, but rich information to our cells and DNA. Opt for seasonal, fresh, organic produce whenever possible helps to nourish your microbiome. Avoiding/reducing conventionally grown
foods containing pesticides and herbicides can be helpful for gut health. These types of chemicals can alter the microbiome and impact the integrity of the gut lining.
● STRESS: the digestive system works most optimally when we are in the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) the majority of the time. The PNS is also referred to as the ‘rest, digest and calm state’, due to its enormous influence on the digestive system! The opposite to the PNS is the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
The SNS is what gets activated when we are under stress or our body perceives a threat. The majority of people in our modern world are SNS dominant in part due to the evolutionary mismatch of how our primal bodies expect our environment to be, compared to what it actually is.
When we are SNS dominant, blood flow is diverted from the digestive system and the microbiome is altered, compromising its functioning. Coaxing the body into the PNS needs to be an intentional, deliberate choice, otherwise we can stay in the SNS chronically, which can be a main driver for issues with our gut health as well as our hormones and reproductive systems. Some simple ways to activate the PNS include deep abdominal breathing, being outside in untouched nature, grounding, massage, meditation and optimising sleep (there are many more ways! These are just a handful). Tip: take deep abdominal breaths before you eat a meal, to ensure you are accessing the PNS whilst eating and digesting!
● ENVIRONMENT: our environmental exposures can influence the integrity of our gut health. Air quality, chemical exposures through food, drink, personal care products, antibiotic usage, pharmaceuticals, smoking and alcohol can influence the microbiome and optimal functionality of the gut.
● MOVEMENT: exercise can change your microbiome and optimise its overall health. Exercise can increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut and improve microbial diversity. Exercise also has a direct influence on hormone metabolism! It’s also important not to overdo exercise and deplete your body. Finding the right balance of nutritive movement is key for not only supporting gut health but also your
hormones and reproductive health. Not sure how to know what your right balance is? The easiest way to find out is to observe how your menstrual cycle responds to different exercises you do. Observe changes with the timing of your ovulation, how many days you bleed, the volume of blood you lose as well as associated signs and
symptoms such as period pain and PMS. Keep note and see what you discover!