You might be surprised to learn that gut health is the latest buzzy topic on TikTok.
Under hashtags like #guttok, #guthealth and #guthealing, influencers and everyday users post thousands of videos and share stories about their gut health problems and remedies.
And they’ve racked up just over a billion views.
As with anything skyrocketing on TikTok, the popularity of gut health on the app can be attributed in part to the ease with which content creators can create quick and relatable videos on topics like how to reduce bloating or symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. can prevent.
Another factor is that users who want to be better informed about their health through the app are also looking for solutions – and the gut health community offers them.
This year, for example, a cleaner and easier way to get information about gut health was launched by Thorne, a science-driven wellness company that supports healthy aging, and went viral.
Testing your gut health usually requires pooping in a bucket or on a piece of paper, then scooping a sample of your own stool into a container to send it to a lab. “You get a lot of information by doing these gut health tests, but one problem is that the collection process just isn’t the best experience,” said Nathan Price, scientific director at Thorne.
Thorne’s TikTok-famous test offers an alternative: a microbiome wipe, which is used just like toilet paper after going to the toilet. You put the cloth in a container, send it and you’re done.
“It’s like what you do every day,” says Price. “We just thought this is the easiest way we can think of to collect a microbiome sample.”
The simplicity of the test, plus the actionable steps that come with the results, really resonates with creators and followers on TikTok.
But the sheer amount of information, advice and remedies on social media can be a lot to wade through. So much is coming at you that you may not be able to separate the myths from the facts, or even understand why gut health is so important in the first place.
Luckily, we spoke to a gastroenterologist about what exactly gut health is, how it affects other parts of your body, and how you can improve it. Here’s what he had to say:
What is gut health and why is it important?
Gut health is a term used to describe how the gut interacts with the rest of the body and overall health, including how you digest and absorb substances, according to a 2011 study in BMC Medicine.
The key to all things gut health is the microbiome, according to Christopher Damman, a gastroenterologist at the University of Washington Medical Center’s Digestive Health Center, and Chief Medical and Science Officer at Supergut. You could think of the microbiome as the “tamagotchi of our gut,” Damman says.
“You have to keep the tamagotchi happy to keep your whole body happy,” Damman says.
The microbiome is full of microbes, and there’s a very important reason they live in your gut, Damman says. He encourages you to think of microbes as a nutrient factory that makes the things your body needs, using the food we eat. Many of those nutrients are not present in the food itself.
“Not only are they there as innocent bystanders, but they’re actually conspiring for our health and we conspire for their health. We have a reciprocal relationship with them,” he says.
Here are some things your microbes do for your body, according to Damman:
- Produce Nutrients
- Regulate your immune system
- Protect yourself against pathogens
When your gut health is out of balance, it can affect the rest of your body, too, he says. And it’s not always the usual suspects like diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain.
“Skin can be linked to gut health. Your mental health, and neuroinflammation is the cause, can be linked to gut health. The list goes on,” Damman says, “Getting some sleep and mood.”
Research shows there are also health benefits of having a diverse microbiome, which can be influenced by your diet, he says. Unique microbiomes were associated with healthy aging and increased survival rates, according to a 2021 study published in Nature Metabolism.
4 ways to support or improve your gut health
Some experts would argue that while effective, tests like Thorne’s are not necessary. Your body will probably tell you when your gut health is out of balance due to a number of symptoms, including digestive problems, acne, brain fog, and low mood.
Fortunately, there are simple, natural things you can do to support or improve the balance of your gut. The most important thing is to improve your diet, and for this Damman encourages you to consider these four:
- Consider this quote: “Eat food. Mostly plant-based. Not too much,” from Michael Pollan’s book, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto”
- Try a Mediterranean diet
- Eat whole foods and supplement for the nutrients you may be missing
- Remember the ‘four phonetic F’s’: fiber, phenols, ferments and good fats
Fiber is what he especially recommends, as it is the preferred food source of microbes in the gut.
And of the TikTok fads, kombucha, yogurt, and apple cider vinegar are the only ones somewhat backed by evidence because they’re fermented foods, he adds.
A diet rich in fermented foods correlated with a more diverse microbiome and a decrease in inflammation, according to a small 2021 study conducted by researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine.
But it’s important to be mindful when choosing low-sugar fermented foods. “For kombucha, it has a lot of sugar in it. Sugar is probably one of the things that contributes to poor gut health,” Damman says.
Damman also warns you to be careful with keto diets because while they can help you lose weight, they usually don’t contain enough fiber and can put a strain on your liver and kidneys.
“Switch back to a really healthy diet that is more balanced,” Damman says. “The balance we’ve been missing is whole foods and fiber, and I think supplements can really fill a nice niche in the back there.”
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