Why Gut Health Is So Crucial to Holistic Wellbeing
The link between physical and emotional wellbeing is being increasingly recognised and discussed. Evolving from a singular narrative that promotes exercise to reduce stress, it is encouraging to see topics that were once overlooked such as sleep, mindfulness and gut health being included in the conversation along with more established markers of health such as cardiovascular fitness and weight. Gut health in particular is having its moment in the spotlight, with recent research suggesting that a healthy gut microbiome could hold the key to wider physical and mental wellbeing.
Our extended state of lockdown over the last few months has, unsurprisingly, seen sedentary lifestyles increase. Compounded with the existential crisis that coronavirus has posed to our way of life, our lack of movement and physical activity has seen a sharp increase in stress and anxiety. Over the last two months, from the confines of our homes, we have been expected to live, work, exercise and socialise virtually. Not to mention maintain healthy eating habits and moderate consumption of alcohol. Once the initial novelty of downloading new apps and augmenting your Zoom background has worn off, many have found themselves slipping into inactive routines comprised of fast-food fixes and extended hours of screen time – which can negatively impact our physical and emotional wellbeing in ways we may not initially suspect. Often overlooked, gut health is increasingly recognised for its central role in our health.
Most commonly associated with unhealthy consumption and purely physical symptoms (digestive discomfort, weight gain etc.) the role that our gut can play in alleviating mental distress and increasing our capacity for happiness has begun to enter academic realms. Traditionally, it was assumed that mental or psychological issues could impact on our gut health (through communications between the brain and the ENS – enteric nervous system). However, more recent studies have suggested that our ‘gut-brain axis’ runs both ways. This axis has been identified by researchers as key to regulating brain function and initial studies suggest that attending to intestinal flora – in addition to psychiatric care – could help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety in patients. It seems that the relationship between our gut and our emotional wellbeing is much more intrinsic than first assumed, with gastrointestinal patients also noting their pain levels increase in times of stress.
With gut health playing such a pivotal role in our holistic wellbeing, it is then important to consider how we attend to it. Lifestyle choices to maintain a healthy gut are relatively simple: eating probiotic foods, exercising regularly and keeping a rhythmic sleep pattern can all contribute to gut health specifically, but also will help maintain wider wellbeing. Fermented foods such as kimchi, miso and sauerkraut have been identified in particular for promoting healthy bacteria in the gut. It is interesting to note that instances of bowel disease are less common in Asian nations such as Japan, China and Korea where ferments have appeared in the local diet for centuries and remain popular today.
As the world begins to open-up and we return tentatively to our workplaces and social interactions, tending to our emotional and physical wellbeing will be crucial. Recognising the interconnected nature of our physical and emotional wellbeing, taking a holistic approach to our health is key to achieving balance, health and happiness. Tackling symptoms without exploring the causes of pain or anxiety, or attending to our cardiovascular fitness for example, without considering the role that our diets and mental wellbeing play in our overall health will only produce singular and short-term benefits.
On Friday 19 June, Community Business will be hosting our second LIVE! Day of the year. This series of webinars, hosted on our Employee Wellbeing Virtual Platform, explore four aspects of Employee Wellbeing: work-life harmony, and physical, emotional and financial wellbeing. Our Physical Wellbeing LIVE! Day will feature expert speakers covering a range of topics related to the physical health of you and your employees, including Dr Ramesh Pattni and Viv Kan who are running sessions on yoga and meditation and managing sleep patterns respectively. Catch a sneak peek of Viv’s session on our social media channels now. To gain full access to this and all our Employee Wellbeing resources, you need to subscribe to Asia Employee Wellbeing Link. Find out more and subscribe now.
About the Author: Emily Moss, Head of Marketing & Communications at Community Business