Maybe you’ve heard the news: gut health is super important to your overall health. Your gut is so important, in fact, that it’s often referred to as your ‘second brain.’ That’s not to say that you could use your gut to balance your checkbook, but scientists now understand that the enteric nervous system, which is hidden in the walls of your digestive system, communicates with the brain in your head. When we ‘go with our gut,’ or feel butterflies in our stomachs when we’re nervous, we’re tapping into our second brain. Medical science now links our gut health to mood, overall health and the way we think, in addition to its other job, which is breaking down food, absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste.
Gut health is an umbrella term that describes the balance and function of the bacteria living in much of the gastrointestinal or digestive tract. Your gut (or gastrointestinal tract) is a series of tube-shaped organs, joined to one another, from the mouth to the anus. In between those two are the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. The large intestine contains the appendix, cecum, colon and rectum. For everything to work together in an optimal way, the system needs healthy bacteria. These good bacteria work alongside your body’s immune cells to ward off bad bacteria, viruses and fungi.
One great way to take care of your little friends, AKA the good bacteria in your gut, is to add fermented foods (like sweet white balsamic) into your daily diet. From Healthline: The main active compound in balsamic vinegar is acetic acid, which contains strains of probiotic bacteria. These probiotics don’t just preserve food — they can also enable healthy digestion and improve gut health. There’re also positive immune system benefits to having these healthy bacteria called gut biome. The probiotic compounds in acetic acid could be part of the reason some people swear balsamic vinegar makes them feel full.
Other ways to improve gut health and keep that second brain sharp:
Eat plenty of fiber. Americans’ fiber intake is, on average, about 50 percent of what it should be. Women should aim for 25 grams of fiber a day; men need about 40.
Sleep enough. Lack of sleep in linked to obesity, which is linked to digestive system disorders.
Move it! Exercise is a great tool in maintaining a healthy body weight and reducing your probability of developing gut/digestive issues.
Stress less. Too much stress can impact your gut health. Yoga, meditation, therapy or even journaling have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.