By Sarah Hyett, Prevention and Screening Services - March 16, 2019
Gut health plays an important role in our bodies, and gut complaints are quite common. Sheri Maltais, Registered Dietitian at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, explained the relationship between gut health and overall health and well-being.
“The ‘gut’ refers to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus,” said Maltais. “Some of the common issues and symptoms of gut complaints are stomach pain or discomfort, gas, bloating, belching, heartburn, nausea, change in bowel habits, food intolerance, abdominal pain and cramps, loss of appetite, and weight loss.” Additionally, in Canada approximately 12% of the population is affected by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Bacteria play a major role in gut health. “Bacteria are often thought of in a negative manner, but a healthy gut is full of millions of different types of healthy bacteria,” Maltais explained. Not-so-healthy bacteria do find their way into the gut and can cause some of the symptoms previously mentioned. “Research in this area is constantly evolving and science to date has supported connections between bad gut bacteria and various conditions including obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and even depression,” said Maltais.
Many factors can cause an imbalance in good and bad gut bacteria, such as aging, stress, overuse of antibiotics, and unhealthy dietary habits. Maltais suggests consuming a variety of plant-based foods to promote healthy bacterial growth. Those with IBS may notice an improvement in bothersome GI symptoms by reducing their intake of fermentable sugars. These sugars are found in common foods, which are not the usual suspects, such as apples, garlic, and onions. Working with a dietitian can be useful to identify trigger foods and learn how to manage often embarrassing symptoms, while ensuring a healthy diet to support long-term gut health.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your gut health, including information on how to manage IBS through diet and lifestyle, join Maltais at the Healthy Get-Together Speaker Series hosted by Prevention and Screening Services at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. The session titled, ‘It Takes Guts: Eating for Good Gut Health’ will take place on Tuesday March 26th from 7:00 to 8:00 pm in Auditorium A at the Hospital. The event is free, open to everyone, and parking passes are available. This event is part of Eating Healthy Together, which aims to provide a supportive, informative, and healthy food environment for consumers at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.
To register for the event, call 684-7237. If you can’t make it to this session, feel free to view it and other recorded Healthy Get-Together sessions at www.bit.ly/healthygettogether.