The Importance of Gut Health for Seniors

It’s obvious that maintaining our gut health is important because it helps us absorb nutrients into our bodies, which we need in order to live. But, what isn’t as obvious is the importance of gut health when it comes to other aspects of our well-being. In fact, science suggests that our gut health is inherently linked to our brain health. At any age, it’s not uncommon to experience digestive issues like stomach aches or indigestion. But, as we get older these and other issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and gas can become common occurrences.

Just as our bodies change with age, so does our gut. Our gut microbiome, which is made up of trillions of bacteria that play an important part in nutrient absorption and digestion, becomes less diverse the older we get. This can lead to weak digestion and reduced nutrient absorption, ultimately causing abdominal discomfort, gas, and bloating. When we experience these gut problems, it’s also a signal that something else in our bodies might need to be addressed.

Importance of Gut Health: Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

There are many reasons that your gut might be unhealthy. Food, medicine, and stress can all affect the way our guts work. According to Healthline magazine, there are a lot of ways to tell if your gut might be imbalanced. Here are the top warning signs people with an unhealthy gut experience:

Upset stomach
The most obvious sign of an unhealthy gut or imbalanced microbiome is experiencing stomach disturbances. These can look like bloating and gas or constipation and diarrhea. On the other hand, a balanced gut won’t have problems with digesting and will feel normal.

High sugar diet
If your diet is mostly comprised of highly processed foods that are high in fat and sugar, you run the risk of decreasing the good bacteria in your gut. The problem with sugar is that the more you eat, the more you crave, which can cause you to damage your gut even more. In addition, sugar, especially refined sugar, which we find in processed foods, can cause inflammation resulting in discomfort and even lead to some diseases.

Unintentional weight changes
If you’re experiencing unwanted or unintentional weight loss or gain, it might be because your gut bacteria are imbalanced. An unhealthy gut is unable to absorb the nutrients and fat we need for energy. This can cause weight gain through overeating when our bodies don’t absorb nutrients, or weight loss because of bacterial overgrowth.

Sleep disturbances
Serotonin, which is produced in the gut, is a hormone that affects our sleep. When we have an unhealthy gut, it can result in an imbalance of serotonin, which can lead to insomnia and fatigue.

Skin irritation
Our gut has such a large effect on our body’s health that not understanding the importance of gut health can lead to skin conditions. Diseases like eczema and other skin conditions can be caused by gut inflammation due to an imbalanced diet or food allergies.

Autoimmune conditions
An unhealthy gut has the capacity to increase inflammation all over the body. When this happens long enough, it is thought to alter the way our immune system is supposed to work. This can cause autoimmune disease, which means our bodies attack the immune system instead of harmful bacteria.

Food intolerances
Most people have slight food intolerances, even if they are unaware of them. This means that our bodies have difficulty digesting different foods. If we don’t have the right kinds of bacteria in our gut to process these foods, it can often lead to bloating, gas, diarrhea, pain, and nausea.

Importance of Gut Health: Tips for Improving Yours

When we think about important parts of our bodies, we might immediately think of the brain, heart, and lungs. But the truth is that our guts are just as valuable. In fact, some researchers refer to the gut as “the second brain” because of its deep impact on the rest of the body. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re doing what you can to keep your gut healthy and working properly.

Diversify your diet
Our guts are comprised of hundreds of different types of bacteria. In order to keep these helpful bacteria in our guts, it’s important to eat a variety of foods full of different nutrients. We can do this by trying different vegetables, eating food that is grown locally and focus on foods that are in season.

Concentrate on fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens
Our guts need a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, most of which can be found in fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens. Not only can we get the nutrients we need, but these foods also decrease the risk of disease-causing bacteria in our gut.

Eat whole grains
Our guts need help growing good bacteria in order to prevent our risk of disease and illness. Whole grain foods like brown rice, quinoa, and oats help promote the growth of good bacteria while also increasing feelings of fullness and reducing inflammation.

Add more probiotics to your diet
Probiotic foods help aid digestion and reduce inflammation while also generating various vitamins. Some foods high in probiotics include yogurt, cheese, kefir, and fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut.

The Importance of Gut Health: The Impact on Dementia and Depression

Our guts play a large role in our health and wellbeing, but recent research suggests its impact on our health might be much larger than we thought initially. In fact, a recent study conducted through the Center for Comprehensive Care and Research on Memory Disorders suggests that those who have been diagnosed with dementia have a vastly different population of bacteria in their gut when compared to those who have never been diagnosed.

In addition, some studies suggest that the foods we eat can have a tremendous impact on our mental health. Some researchers suggest that an increased intake of high sugar and fatty foods can cause depressive symptoms, while eating a well-balanced diet staves off depressive symptoms.

Exploring a Healthier Lifestyle at Maplewood Senior Living

Maplewood Senior Living takes gut health, and overall health, seriously. That’s why one of our priorities is to offer foods high in nutrients and minerals in order to keep our residents happy and healthy. Every day offers residents a new chance to pursue a healthier lifestyle. If you’d like to hear more about our culinary offerings or to tour our facilities, please contact us here.

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