What is a healthy gut?

Posted

Written by

Our gut performs an amazing task in obtaining nutrients from our food while at the same time preventing any unwanted microbes or toxins from gaining entry. How do you know if your gut is healthy? Let’s start with the obvious signs.

Gut feeling

Your gut constantly feeds back information to the brain informing it about what is going on inside, when more food is needed, and what types, and when things might be going wrong. So, the first clue to a healthy gut is: does your gut feel comfortable? If all is working well, you should not feel bloating, cramps, heartburn, reflux, tummy aches and the like. Constant hunger, cravings, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea, are also signs that all is not well within. After a meal you should feel pleasantly full and satisfied.

Bowel movements

Few people like to talk about their bowel movements, so how do you know if your experience is normal? Don’t be embarrassed to read on to find out how your bowel movements will signal you have a healthy gut.

The process of digesting food inevitably produces waste matter. A healthy gut will not only absorb nutrients efficiently but will also dispose of the waste efficiently too.

The large intestine moves faeces along with a big push two or three times a day, these occasions will often trigger the need to defaecate. Thus, needing to poo two or three times a day is to be expected, provided the stools are not loose (see more on this below). Naturally, if your appetite is low and you eat little or infrequently, then fewer bowel movements are to be expected: once or twice a day is perhaps the most common pattern.

Woman holding hands on a belly. Stomach health concept

Bowel movements should be firm but not too firm. If the large intestine is moving things along at the right pace, it should absorb enough water from the faeces so that they are easy to pass without being liquid. You shouldn’t need to strain to poop. And you should feel, after having visited the toilet, that you have expelled all that you need to.


Less obvious signs

If your gut is doing its job effectively, you’ll be absorbing all the nutrients your food has to give, and this will show in a healthy body. You’ll likely have:

  • Stable weight (neither gaining nor losing)
  • Plenty of energy
  • Healthy skin
  • Good sleep
  • Stable mood
  • Resistance to infection e.g. infrequent colds/bugs.

This list is endless as the gut is responsible for the entry of nutrients that drive all of our bodies activities! A healthy gut equals a healthy, vibrant life!

Healthy gut bugs

Another indicator of a healthy gut is a thriving population of friendly micro-organisms that help to digest the fibre in your food, keep out unfriendly bacteria, parasites and yeasts, manufacture essential nutrients like vitamins and food for the gut lining, communicate with the brain by “talking” to the nervous system that entwines around the gut. You can’t see your gut bugs, but a healthy gut will have a diverse and plentiful community busy doing their jobs to help keep, not just your gut, but all of you healthy!

Insert link to our sponsor atlas for microbiome testing

Further reading

  1. Enders, G. Gut. (Scribe Publications, 2015).
  2. Bischoff, S. C. ‘Gut health’: a new objective in medicine? BMC Med. 9, 24 (2011).
  3. Ishiguro, E., Haskey, N. & Campbell, K. Gut Microbiota. (Elsevier, 2018). doi:10.1016/C2016-0-00072-4
  4. Smith, P. A. The tantalizing links between gut microbes and the brain. Nature 526, 312–314 (2015).
  5. Biesalski, H. K. Nutrition meets the microbiome: micronutrients and the microbiota. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci doi:10.1111/nyas.13145