February 22, 2024

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Improving gut health might be simpler than you think?

Improving gut health might be simpler than you think?



Improving gut health might be simpler than you think? Lancet Subjournal: This environment can bring about 4 beneficial changes!

Gastrointestinal diseases often manifest as symptoms such as indigestion, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal muscle tension, significantly impacting the lives of those affected. Factors influencing gastrointestinal diseases include an unreasonable diet structure, psychological factors, and unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as irregular sleep and inadequate rest.

Previous research suggested that improving gut health levels through dietary interventions alone may not be easy, such as maintaining asymptomatic intestines and promoting a balanced gut microbiota.

Recently, The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, a subjournal of The Lancet, published a paper detailing non-dietary strategies to improve and maintain gut health.

Improving gut health might be simpler than you think?

Source: The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology

This factor is highly related to gut health.

The paper points out that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, and other gastrointestinal diseases are often combined with depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms. In addition to the psychological and social burden associated with chronic health symptoms, the “microbiota-gut-brain axis” may also trigger symptoms or disease onset. The gut environment maintains a constant bidirectional communication with the central nervous system, sending signals about pain, movement, satiety, inflammation, and psychological stress.

The paper emphasizes that psychological stress is not only a highly relevant factor affecting gut health but is also more easily treatable. Previous studies suggest that stressful life events may be precursors to the onset of symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Considering the impact of gut symptoms on pain, mobility, and daily life, these symptoms can also cause stress and anxiety. The paper suggests that psychological stress may induce gut and psychological health symptoms by regulating the body’s physiological systems, such as gut microbiota, circulating cytokines, and other inflammatory and immune markers.

The value of psychotherapy cannot be ignored.

The paper points out that psychotherapy for stress or other “gut-brain” physiological processes (especially cognitive-behavioral therapy and gut-directed hypnotherapy) can effectively alleviate gut symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, moderately alleviate gut symptoms in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, and have value in reducing psychological sequelae in both groups of patients.

Stress reduction therapy may also have a certain therapeutic effect on celiac disease patients. For these patients, a reduction in psychological distress will often help them adhere better to a gluten-free diet. In addition, mindfulness therapy may help improve the quality of life and gut symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome patients. At the same time, mindfulness therapy may also help improve the psychological symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease patients (but cannot improve their gut symptoms). Furthermore, there is evidence that irritable bowel syndrome patients may also benefit from yoga.

Sleep, exercise, and nature exposure can also improve gut health.

The paper points out that a healthy lifestyle may also help effectively maintain gut health. One lifestyle factor is good sleep. Previous research results suggest a correlation between sleep and gut symptoms in both irritable bowel syndrome patients and non-irritable bowel syndrome patients. The composition and function of the gut microbiota fluctuate with the host’s sleep-wake cycle, and since different types of gastrointestinal diseases are often associated with disruptions in the host’s gut microbiota, a regular sleep pattern and adequate sleep may be additional powerful factors in promoting gut health.

Exercise also has a positive effect on the gut environment and may help relieve constipation. Research results show that in a colitis animal model, exercise can improve gut morphology and inflammatory characteristics. In addition, intense exercise may increase the risk of functional gastrointestinal disorders, but for patients with gastrointestinal diseases, light to moderate exercise is generally well-tolerated and beneficial for gut symptoms, psychological health, and cardiovascular health. The paper points out that approximately 30% of patients reduce their physical activity levels after being diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, and these patients need recommendations to continue maintaining their physical activity levels.

The paper states that “contact with nature” is another new strategy that can change the human gut microbiota. Studies on children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly have shown beneficial changes in the gut microbiota, inflammation levels, immune marker levels, and happiness after outdoor activities in natural environments. In other words, exposure to the natural environment can bring about 4 beneficial changes to the human body.

Analytical results indicate that microorganisms in soil, plants, and marine environments, as well as airborne microorganisms, may be the basis for these effects. Compared to urban environments, natural environments have lower levels of air pollutants, and plant fungicides (antibacterial volatile organic compounds emitted by trees) are also more abundant. In addition, spending a long time in the natural environment also brings multiple positive psychological effects, which may directly or indirectly affect the “gut-brain axis.”


Conclusion

In summary, in addition to dietary interventions, improving mental and physical health levels can also improve gut health.

Although psychosocial interventions and lifestyle interventions may not always be effective in alleviating gut symptoms, these interventions can have a positive impact on stress levels, mental health, quality of life, and potential gut microbiota, making them equally valuable.

In conclusion, in addition to dietary factors, key modifiable factors for gut health include: stress management, psychotherapy, sleep and rest, physical activity, and spending time in natural environments.

Improving gut health might be simpler than you think?

Reference:

[1] Amy Loughman et al. How can I improve my gut health via non-dietary means? The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology (2024). Doi: 10.1016/S2468-1253(23)00412-0

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