As a gastroenterologist who follows a plant-based lifestyle, I have come across several studies suggesting that nature and gut health are closely related. The essence of these studies is that being around nature may reduce stress, inflammation and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in our gut. However, the depth of this relationship has yet to be well known, so I decided to explore the topic further. Let’s dive deeper into the associations between nature and gut health.
Spending Time in Nature Can Reduce Stress
Many of us lead stressful lives, and chronic stress can wreak havoc on our gut health. But did you know that spending time in nature can significantly reduce stress? Several studies have shown that exposure to green spaces can relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. For example, one recent study found that walking in the forest for just 15 minutes lowered participants’ cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. This is excellent news for gut health because high cortisol levels can lead to an imbalance in gut bacteria, leading to inflammation and various health issues.
Nature Can Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural response by the body to fight off pathogens, but when it becomes chronic, it can lead to several health problems, including digestive disorders. Interestingly, spending time in nature has been shown to reduce inflammation, even at the cellular level. A study conducted in Japan found that after spending time in the forest, participants had lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (molecules that cause inflammation) than those who spent time in an urban setting. Furthermore, being around nature can increase the production of anti-inflammatory chemicals that promote gut health.
Exposure to Soil Bacteria May Promote a Healthy Gut
Did you know that soil bacteria exposure may benefit gut health? Soil is home to trillions of bacteria, many of which can benefit our gut microbiome. Some studies suggest that exposure to soil bacteria may help prevent immune disorders, including allergies and asthma. So, spending time in nature, gardening, and even playing in the dirt can benefit gut health.
Eating a Plant-Based Diet Can Improve Gut Health
Eating a plant-based diet has numerous benefits, including gut health. Plants are rich in fiber, prebiotics, polyphenols, and other compounds that promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Furthermore, plant-based diets can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress and promote weight loss, improving gut health. Incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet is a simple and effective way to support your gut health.
Good gut health and nature go hand in hand!
Spending time in nature and eating a plant-based diet can profoundly impact gut health. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind this relationship, studies suggest that being around nature can reduce stress, inflammation, and exposure to soil bacteria can promote a healthy gut. As a gastroenterologist who follows a plant-based lifestyle, I recommend incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet, spending time in green spaces, and gardening to support your gut health.
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