What comes to mind when you hear the word “health”? For most men, health involves running shoes, toned muscles, and perhaps a bowl of salad. But what about your gut health? Your gut health has a massive impact on your physical and mental wellbeing, yet few people pay much attention until it’s too late.
However, ignoring your gut health is not a smart idea. Between 60 and 70 million Americans have a digestive disease, and a whopping 12% of Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. Digestive diseases wreak havoc on your health goals. Many gut issues can be overcome with the correct approach.
Most men’s health goals involve some form of weight loss or muscle gain. However, if you suffer from a gut issue, losing unwanted pounds may be more difficult than it needs to be. That’s because your gut microbiome — the microorganisms like fungi and bacteria which live in your gut. They play a massive role in modulating weight and digestion.
In particular, an unhealthy gut can impact the production of hunger hormones like ghrelin which regulate your hunger response. You may also find that poor gut health, or dysbiosis, may be a contributing factor to unwanted weight gain.
Dysbiosis is a medical term that refers to an unhealthy balance of gut microbes. This occurs when you have decreased microbial diversity in your gut, which may be caused by gut flora. You can tell if your microbial diversity is dropping if you have particularly low levels of Akkermansia and Bifidobacteria in your gut. Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can detect yourself. So you’ll need to seek out a medical professional for help. Medical professionals will test your stool and may recommend an elimination diet to help re-balance your microbiome.
Arthritis is the largest disability in the US and affects 24% of the population. It may be caused by things like overuse, genetics, or obesity. However, most folks suffer from a particular kind of arthritis called osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear which may be hastened by an unbalanced microbiome.
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical School recently discovered that poor gut health is linked to the onset of early osteoarthritis. The researchers studied two sets of obese and lean mice and found that the obese mice had more harmful bacteria in their gut than the lean mice. This created greater inflammation throughout the entire body and led to an earlier onset of osteoarthritis.
Now, humans and mice have different microbiomes. Researchers are hesitant to extrapolate lab findings to human medical policies. However, Eric Schott, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at URMC, stated that these findings “set the stage to develop therapies that target the microbiome and actually treat the disease.” This is great news if osteoarthritis is keeping you sidelined, and points towards a future where osteoarthritis symptoms may be alleviated by addressing the microbes in your gut.
Leaky gut syndrome typically occurs when the walls of your intestines are compromised and become loose. This allows harmful bacteria and toxins to seep through your intestinal wall. Over time, leaky gut syndrome can lead to autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s syndrome, Celiac, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Leaky gut syndrome isn’t well studied in the medical community. However, some medical professionals suggest that poor gut health and leaky gut syndrome are related. This is because the balance of microbes in your gut impacts the strength of your intestinal barrier. This may lead to looser intestinal junctions.
Research into leaky gut and autoimmune diseases are still in its infancy, early findings suggest that greater intestinal permeability are linked to dietary factors. Unfortunately, the microbiome is incredibly complex, meaning no singular diet will necessarily improve your intestinal barrier and reduce your chance of autoimmune disease. That said, an elimination diet may help you identify the cause of your poor gut health and help repair your intestinal wall.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of premature death for men in the U.S. Nearly 1 in 4 people will die from heart disease, and many more will have their lives turned upside down by strokes and heart attacks.
Leading a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise and decent nutrition is a good way to lower your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. Perhaps surprisingly, your gut health also plays an important role in preventing heart conditions.
The link between gut and heart health is still being studied, but medical professionals believe that inflammation caused by an unhealthy gut may increase plaque build-up and lead to conditions like atherosclerosis. This inflammation would be caused by raised trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO — an organic compound generated during microbial metabolism).
The good news is that researchers found that reduced TMAO also leads to a lower prevalence of heart disease. This suggests that gut health can be controlled and that the right diet can help you balance your microbiome and achieve your health goals.
Ok, so now you know that your gut health plays a vital role in your overall health — but what can you do about it?
If you’ve been diagnosed with a gut-related condition or noticed issues like bloating or poor digestion, then you should start by running an elimination diet.
Start an elimination diet by writing a food diary in which you record what you ate and how you feel. Note down anything like migraines, bloating, or irritation. Next, cut out any foods that you suspect your body is reacting to negatively like dairy, gluten, or wheat. Avoid these foods for a few weeks and slowly reintroduce foods one by one. Note down any returning symptoms and try to cut out your top suspects entirely.
Running an elimination diet is an important step toward identifying the dietary cause of your poor gut health. However, it does take time to spot the culprit. You can experiment with gut-positive diets like fermented foods that support your microbiome and improve your overall health. Fermented foods contain high levels of vitamin K2, which can improve gut health as well as cardiovascular health.
Your gut microbiome is intrinsically tied to your overall health. By running an elimination diet and eating more fermented foods, you can improve the balance of fungi and bacteria in your intestines. Over time, this can help you lose unwanted weight and avoid conditions like heart disease and autoimmune illnesses.
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