Once overlooked as a simple bodily system, the inner workings of the gut have now been discovered to be an integral part of not only physical, but emotional and mental wellbeing.
According to new research released by Danone, 90 per cent of Australian women (so we can guess the statistics are similar in NZ) admit to experiencing regular episodes of digestive discomfort. It's a hard percentage to stomach (literally) and the woes are heavily interfering in women's working and social lives.
Knowing how to identify problems within your gut can sometimes be tricky and understanding how to solve these issues is even more complicated. Thankfully, nutritionist Michele Chevalley Hedge is on hand to pinpoint the clear-cut symptoms of a sad stomach and how to tackle them, head first.
Certainly one of the most common symptoms, bloating can indicate an array of problems when it comes to your gut. Before delving deep into the potential causes of your bloating — like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or food intolerances — a re-evaluation of your daily food intake is a good place to start.
"A common western diet that is laden with hidden sugar, trans fats and processed foods can lead to an unhealthy, slow moving bloated gut," says Michele.
Instead of turning to those afternoon cravings of chocolate bars and sugar loaded drinks, opt for a probiotic rich substitute - like yoghurt.
It's an uncomfortable health issue to deal with and the root of the problem is often ignored, but constipation is normally a clear sign of some sort of digestion issue. A healthy gut populated with beneficial bacteria often meals faster 'transit times' and easier bowel movements.
For many women, they believe that the solution to combating constipation is by turning to over-the-counter pills and potions. Instead, trying out a more fibrous diet and increased hydration can help ease symptoms and restore much needed balance.
3. Moodiness and stress
The inner workings of your digestive system don't just help you digest food, but can also guide your emotions. So if you find yourself feeling more irritable than usual, super stressed or a bit out of sorts, it might be time to evaluate the state of your gut health and your diet.
In the last few decades, scientists have discovered the direct connection between the gut and the brain, with most of our body's serotonin (the happy hormone) made in the stomach. "Serotonin is responsible for regulating appetite, mood, sleep and relaxation," Michele says. So if you've got an unhealthy gut, this vital hormone may be out of balance.
Improving your sleeping patterns, as well as ensuring you have a nutrient-rich diet and are drinking sufficient amounts of water, are simple ways to help get your gut health under control.
4. Low energy levels
Probiotics, otherwise known as 'good bacteria' are responsible for breaking down and digesting the food you eat, drawing out the necessary nutrients that spike your energy levels. Digestion uses a lot of energy and when it is bogged down with poor gut bacteria, you can feel exhausted.
The absence of these probiotics can lead to you to feel sluggish, an unwelcome feeling when you're wanting to tackle a days work. Restoring the 'good bacteria' of the gut starts with substituting existing unhealthy food habits with good ones. "Probiotic yoghurt like Activia, kefir and kimchi are great to incorporate into your diet to improve gut health," Michelle recommends.
5. Bad breath
Everyone suffers from bad breath on occasion, whether as a result of eating strong foods or forgetting to brush your teeth in the morning. Chronic bad breath, however, can be a direct result of not paying enough attention to your gut health.
Bad breath in conjunction with mild acid reflux and bloating could be a sign that your gut flora is not optimal. If you think this is the case for you, visit your GP or seek the advice of a medical professional.