Always tired? Bloated after eating? Have to run to the loo every time you have a coffee?
That could be all down to your gut and it turns out you probably have some work to do.
Nutritionist and naturopath Jess Blair joined Newshub podcast Fierce Fitness this week to talk all things gut health, including why we should all be working on improving our gut microbiome, even if you think yours is in tippy-top shape.
But what is the gut? According to Blair, it's not just the part of your tum that can make it tough to fit into your favourite jeans.
"The gut is the long tube that runs from our mouth all the way down to our bum - it's not just the midsection as most people think," she told podcast host Nats Levi.
"[And] our 'microbiome' is what's going on in our stomach lining - all the different bacteria. It's full of different types of [bacteria] - some good, some bad, some ugly... when we have a balanced microbiome things work pretty well, but when things get unbalanced that means we have too much of one type of bacteria.
"I always say it's something we need to work on every single day, regardless of whether you think you have gastro-intestinal issues."
Blair said it's not just what we eat that matters when it comes to managing our gut, instead it can be all different types of stress on the body.
"For example, I was running late today and I was stressed which can affect the gut - my body didn't realise I was just running late for a podcast, not that I was running from a lion.
"So all my energy goes to my extremities and doesn't bother digesting the food in my stomach because it's not a priority.
"Your body can't differentiate [the two] so that's why when we're eating when we're stressed we might get a stomach upset we normally wouldn't get because we're in fight or flight mode."
Common gut problems Blair sees from clients include bloating, belching, diarrhea, constipation, pain, heartburn - all things clearly related to gastrointestinal tract.
"But there are other things that can come about from gut health but you don't realise are related - fatigue, sleep, energy and mood can all be related back to your gut health," she explained.
"It's a double-edged sword - if you're stressed it can affect your gut, if your gut isn't right it can affect your stress."
Blair said there are several things that we can all be doing to improve our gut health, digestion and therefore overall health:
- Prioritising sleep. "Sleep is when everything can really regenerate - we need to make sure we're getting enough sleep and rest."
- Drinking enough water. "It's something we can all do. Not drinking enough can lead to constipation - we need water to flush everything out from our bodies."
- Cutting out triggers. "This is one you should be doing with the help of your healthcare professional, but coffee is a big one - if you know everytime you have a coffee you run to the bathroom with explosive diarrhea, it might be time to cut it out. I don't really recommend cutting out whole food groups, because sometimes you might be missing out on key nutrients but coffee is a big one that again puts stress on you and some people have a bad reaction"
- Managing those stress levels. "We can't get away from stress - it can be good in that it helps us get our deadlines done, gets us to podcasts on time. But manage it - thats where things like deep breathing, mindful eating comes in."
- Movement. "Meditation, yoga, exercise - all these things are so good for digestion and so good for our mental health."
For more advice and information on the gut, listen to the full episode of Fierce Fitness.