Why Gut Health Is Important To Your Well-being

Illustrated by Jihyang Lim

A happy belly = a happy life

In today’s oversaturated world, humans are as busy as they’re stressed out. One result of this is that we eat out and order in more than we cook due to our overbooked schedules. We scarf down junk food while slaving away at our desks, and think that a large coffee is a suitable breakfast. At the same time, we probably find that we suffer from a slew of health problems, however minor they may appear—from eczema or acne to constant exhaustion, even following nights when we pass out early. And chances are, we make excuses as to why we don’t have the time to get to the root of all these problems.

Okay—so when I say "we," I *might* be talking about myself here, but I’ve found that a good 80 percent of people I know are pretty much doing the same thing, and feeling the same way to some extent. And I wanted to get to the bottom of it.

I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter about the importance of gut health, the bacteria that lives in there, probiotics, and fermented foods, but really didn’t know how much an unhealthy gut could affect my everyday life. Is it true that my shitty mood and recurring eczema are actually a result of my digestive system failing me? The answer: yeah, pretty much.

I chatted with health experts to get the lowdown on what’s really happening inside that gut of ours and how to keep it—and, by extension, us—happy. From a list of symptoms of gut problems to solutions on how to fix it all (and what the deal is with fermented foods and probiotics), read on to learn how to make your belly a healthy one.

How do your gut health and well-being affect one another?
The state of your gut can greatly affect your well-being; at the same time, your well-being can greatly affect the health of your gut.

Regina, an Ayurvedic health and wellness counselor and yoga teacher behind Wolf Medicine, explained to me that you could essentially treat the health of your gut as an indicator of how the rest of your body is doing. “The state of your digestion is a significant window into your overall health,” she says “Your gut is actually linked to your brain, and the two work in tandem, processing food, emotions, experiences, and feelings that enter the body. Often, our guts and brains are overwhelmed. Your body is always sending you signals—also known as symptoms—as to how it’s doing, and your gut health is crucial to showing you how in balance your health is.” Therefore, when your health is good, you’re going to feel good. When your health is out of whack and off balance, you’re going to notice that something with your stomach and digestion is off.

It all has to do with the (good) bacteria that live inside of your gut. Catalina Martone, health educator, master herbalist, and chef, explains that the good bacteria that live in our gut are in charge of many tasks, like sending chemical messages to the brain to activate immune responses. The more we feed and nourish this bacteria (as well as our organs, glands, bones, and skin) with healthy foods, the better we’ll repair, grow, and heal ourselves. However, unhealthy food options begin to kill off good gut bacteria over time, as well as take a toll on our detox organs, causing us to gain unwanted weight and a slew of other symptoms.

While this is happening, the gut is still sending messages to our brain—and not ones we want it to. “When our microbiome, or gut health, has begun to degrade, those chemical messages being sent to the brain begin to affect our emotions, our moods, and our energy levels. We all know how hard it is to be happy and positive when we’re down in the dumps,” says Martone.

Stress is another major factor. In fact, Martone even refers to it as gut health’s number one enemy. “Simply put, stress requires us to be in a ‘fight or flight’ mode, and in this mode, the human body is not designed to optimally rest or digest,” she says. “If you’re not digesting properly, then your food—and everything else you consume—is left undigested in your gut, making it an inflamed, acidic, unfriendly hot mess and the ‘best spring break ever’ for the nasty bacteria that wreak havoc and degrade our health.” No thanks.

What are the signs of an imbalanced, unhappy gut?
So, how do we know when our gut is out of balance? Well, basically, everything else will go wrong.

Dr. Svetlana Kogan, holistic M.D. and author of Diet Slave No More, gave me a lengthy list of what symptoms to expect from poor gut health. “We get skin manifestations of it, from acne to an eczema flare-up; we feel fatigued and never well-rested, despite getting an adequate amount of sleep at night; we feel down emotionally and easily irritable; we feel bloated, gassy, and distended; we get extreme manifestations of bowel movement patterns, such as diarrhea or constipation, instead of normal regular bowel movements; and we may lose weight due to lack of an appetite or gain weight due to cravings for malabsorbed nutrients.

While this basically sounds like a nightmare scenario, fear not, my friends—there are ways to make your gut happy again if you’re suffering from the above.

How can you improve the health of your gut?
There are a number of ways to improve the health of your gut, number one being: You have to take care of what you put into your body. There are specific foods that you should strive to make part of your daily food intake, and others that you should avoid as much as possible—however, it’s not just about your diet.

“My top tip that I give everyone is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate,” says Regina. “Drink a ton of room temperature or warm water, and then drink some more. Make sure it’s warm so that your agni [the Sanskrit term for your digestive fire] can stay in balance. Sip warm water throughout the day, and drink 12 ounces before meals in addition to your sips of water throughout.”

Of course, the food totally matters, too. Processed foods are a major culprit of an unhappy gut, so you’ll want to cut these out as much as possible. “The degree to which you [cut out processed foods], will depend on how much effort you want to put into improving your gut health,” says Regina. “In a perfect world, folks stop eating restaurant food and start growing their own organic food to cook all of their meals with.” However, that’s not possible for most of us, and with delivery app after delivery app making a slew of restaurants available at the click of a button, on top of all the temptation to go out with friends after work, it’s hard to want to cook for yourself all of the time. “Restaurant food is made in large quantities with saving money in mind—which usually translates to mystery ingredients and a low-quality product. Save your nights out for special occasions,” suggests Martone. We know it’s hard to resist the allure of Seamless or that new restaurant on the corner, but it’s all about the effort you put in to get the results you want to see.

Overall, a gut-friendly diet will consist of no processed sugars, grains, dairy, or meat. According to Regina, everything you do consume should be as close to organic as possible (especially meat and dairy, if you choose to eat it at all, which should also be grass-fed with no added hormones and antibiotics). Cook with coconut or avocado oil while absolutely avoiding canola, soy, or corn oils. Grains should be ancient grains and/or sprouted—such an einkorn, faro, spelt, amaranth, quinoa, millet, and hemp hearts. According to Ayurveda, raw or cold food puts out your digestive fire, so keep things cooked (or, cue in the warm water). However, cooking food can also remove its natural enzymes, making it hard to digest, so Martone suggests taking digestive enzymes along with your food. While this is pretty much a given, alcohol and coffee consumption should also be minimized.

Additionally, the intake of probiotics—aka good gut bacteria—is crucial to improving and maintaining gut health. “Because most of us can’t grow our own organic food, it’s vital to improve and maintain gut health via probiotics,” says Regina. She suggests getting your daily probiotics from foods like organic, grass-fed, non-GMO kefir, kombucha, beets, fermented veggies, and kimchi. The good gut bacteria in these foods can improve your ability to process hard-to-digest foods like wheat and dairy.

Pill forms of probiotics exist, however, they're not deemed as effective as getting them through food—at least, according to both Regina and Martone. “As a practitioner, I only recommend store-bought or prescription probiotics when a person is suffering from severe gut imbalances—in which case I usually recommend Premier Research Labs Probiotic,” says Martone. “Otherwise, I believe acquiring your beneficial bacteria from fermented and cultured foods is far superior.”

Also, since stress can negatively affect your gut health, try taking the time to relax and calm down. “This will balance our serotonin metabolism in the gut,” says Dr. Kogan. This means that you should feel okay about splurging on a nice massage, getting into yoga, or even planning a vacation, because these things will make some improvements to your gut and your overall well-being. Noted! 

Photos by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

This photo proves that they are the chillest onscreen family

Sophie Turner just posted a photo of herself, Maisie Williams, and Isaac Hempstead Wright—aka the Stark siblings—to her Instagram, showing just what the three used to get up to when the Game of Thrones cameras weren't rolling.

The photo shows Wright looking quite pleased with himself while sitting on a makeshift throne, wearing no pants. As he should be, seeing as (spoiler) his character, Bran, won the Iron Throne this weekend. Williams, meanwhile, is looking way too cool to be involved in the shenanigans, wearing a pair of black sunglasses and staring absently off-camera. As for Turner, she's looking away from her onscreen brother, too, nervously smoking a Juul.

"The pack survived," Turner captioned the photo.

This photo just goes to prove that the Stark siblings are the chillest onscreen family. (It also proves, yet again, that Turner's social media is an absolute delight.)

We're actually a little sad that this footage didn't make it into the final season, considering how many modern-day objects have been spotted in the show's last few episodes.

Photo via @mileycyrus on Twitter

Meet Ashley

Miley Cyrus shared the trailer for her forthcoming Black Mirror episode, and it's basically Hannah Montana set in a dystopian future. Cyrus is a pink wig-wearing pop star named Ashley who is rolling out an in-home virtual assistant, named Ashley Too, that looks like her and shares her voice. But, as is the case with every Black Mirror episode, this technology is not as cute and fun as it's advertised to be.

In the trailer, we get the idea that Ashley is all about wanting fans to "believe" in themselves—but underneath that pink wig, maybe she doesn't feel that same self-love. After Ashley Too introduces herself to fan and new owner Rachel, promising to be her friend, we get a look at Ashley's darker side. She's depressed and tired of the pop star life. A record label executive says to several people in the room, "She doesn't understand how fragile all this is." As they consider upping her dose of medication, Ashley's life is on a downward slope. "It's getting so hard to keep doing this," she voices over glimpses of a police car chase, performances, and breakdowns backstage.

But back to the technology: Does Ashley's breakdown also mean the breakdown of Ashley Too? Looks like it. We see Rachel's virtual assistant screaming, "Get that cable out of my ass! Holy shit! Pull it out," breathing a sigh of relief as soon as they pull it out. A title card then reveals the episode name, "Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too."

Watch the full trailer and get a full view of Cyrus' cyborg-esque pop star look, below. Black Mirror returns to Netflix on June 5.


Photo by Paras Griffin / Stringer / Getty Images.

Several actresses allegedly had "issues" with him

Lena Waithe's Showtime series, The Chi, just lost one of its main characters. Jason Mitchell, who was also set to appear in the Netflix film Desperados, has been dropped from both projects following multiple allegations of misconduct. He has also been dropped by his agent and manager.

Hollywood Reporter heard from a source "with knowledge" of The Chi, who says that Tiffany Boone, the actress who plays Mitchell's girlfriend on the show, is just one of several actresses who had "issues" with him. She eventually told producers at Fox21 that she could no longer work with him after filing several sexual harassment complaints. Apparently, her fiancé, Dear White People co-star Marque Richardson, would join her on set when she would shoot with Mitchell.

While news of Mitchell's alleged misconduct is just now beginning to surface, it looks like the ball started rolling on the fallout weeks ago. He was dropped from Desperados and replaced by Lamorne Morris before filming began. A source from the production team said that the producers received "specific information" that they reviewed and acted on quickly. Similarly, a source familiar with Mitchell's former agent, UTA, said the decision to drop him a few weeks ago was very quick following the allegations.

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Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images

Prior to the college admissions scandal, she said she doesn't "care about school"

Apparently, Olivia Jade wants to go back to school despite all those YouTube videos that suggested otherwise. Back in March, it was revealed that her mom, Fuller House actress Lori Loughlin, and dad, Mossimo Giannulli, had scammed Jade's way into the University of Southern California. Now, Loughlin faces jail time, and Jade lost out on plenty of lucrative ad partnerships.

According to Us Weekly, "Olivia Jade wants to go back to USC," per a source. "She didn't get officially kicked out and she is begging the school to let her back in." Another source though ousted Jade's real motivation to the publication. "She knows they won't let her in, so she's hoping this info gets out," they shared. "She wants to come out looking like she's changed, learned life lessons and is growing as a person, so she for sure wants people to think she is interested in her education."

Jade previously shared in a YouTube video she's in college for the "experience of like game days, partying" rather than the education. She also said, "I don't know how much of school I'm going to attend... I don't really care about school, as you guys all know." Though these statements were made prior to the scandal coming to light, her brand partnerships didn't come into question until her parents were indicted.

Right now, despite previous reports that Jade and her sister would both be dropping out of USC, Jade's enrollment has been placed on hold—meaning she cannot register for classes, or even withdraw from the school—until her parents' court case comes to a close. Then, the school will make its own decision as to how Jade will be affected. I think, either way, she should have to pay off a few of her classmates' loans for all the BS she pulled.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

He'd previously said he wanted to punch Jackson's 'Leaving Neverland' accusers in the face

Aaron Carter has been one of Michael Jackson's fiercest celebrity advocates in the aftermath of the Leaving Neverland documentary in which two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, alleged that Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. In a new clip from People, however, he seems to walk back his defense.

People reveals that Carter will be joining the upcoming season of reality TV show Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars Family Edition with his mother. It's noted that he will be revealing more thoughts regarding Jackson following the documentary and the sneak peek specifically sees him alluding to a negative experience with the singer.

Carter, who has previously said that Jackson was never inappropriate toward him, says that Jackson "was a really good guy," though he does note that this is only true "as far as I know." "He never did anything that was inappropriate," he continues before stopping himself, as though remembering something. "Except for one time. There was one thing that he did that was a little bit inappropriate."

Carter does not provide any more detail after this statement. He has previously said that he would stay at Jackson's Neverland estate and sleep in the same bed as the much older star when he was 15 years old, though he hasn't seemed to understand then just how creepy that is. He also said earlier this year, in a clip from TMZ, that he would be telling a story of something that happened between them in an upcoming book about his life.