A System Of Living Things – Your Gut.
Your body is home to trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microscopic organisms. The large portion of them live inside your gut and is collectively referred to as the gut microbiome – a system of living things, primarily concerned with maintaining your body’s digestive and immune systems.
A healthy gut doesn’t only mean healthy digestion: it’s also critical to mineral and vitamin absorbency, vitamin production, hormone regulation, immune response, the ability to eliminate toxins and, most certainly not least, your overall mental health. Gut health importance equals overall well-being importance.
The relationship between gut and brain health is still not understood completely but that’s not to say it’s not there. People suffering from bowel-disorders such as Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome or leaky gut are also at a higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases, and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Many people falsely believe that an unhealthy gut presents as digestive problems only (bloating, abdominal pain, reflux, and flatulence). In reality, however, the signs of a poor gut microbiome can be as subtle as recurring headaches, fatigue and joint pain, and immune system weakness. In my case it was responsible for many of my chronic fatigue symptoms. Your gut health affects your entire well-being.
So How Exactly Does Your Gut Affect Your Entire Well-Being?
Gut health has an effect on weight.
You can’t really cleanse your gut microbiome from all the bad bacteria: it’s actually the balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ microorganisms that ensures the healthy gut. That being said, having too many unhealthy microbes can lead to diseases. This imbalance is sometimes referred to as gut dysbiosis and research suggests it’s the main contributor to weight gain. You can read more about the gut biome here.
A healthy gut is able to absorb the minerals, vitamins and other nutrients from the food you consume. If you suffer from poor gut health, your intestines are not able to draw the right nutrients from the food. Too much gut bacteria, for instance, can transform fiber into fatty acids, which can cause fat deposits to build inside your liver.
In turn, this has been linked to a higher prevalence of weight-related disorders such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
In fact, a recent study found that the gut microbiome had an integral role in promoting HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and triglycerides. Certain unhealthy microorganisms in the gut, on the other hand, contribute to heart disease by producing trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO).
The link between your gut and brain.
Your brain function is dependent on certain brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters. One of the primary neurotransmitters, serotonin, is particularly linked to the good health of your gut: it’s mostly made inside your intestines and its levels depend on how well your gut manages to extract nutrients from the foods you eat.
What’s more, the gut is connected to the brain thanks to millions of nerve connections: the unhealthy gut can, therefore, interfere with the signals sent to the brain through these nerves.
This link is known as the gut-brain axis and studies have shown that gut bacteria may contribute to certain disorders of the central nervous system, such as anxiety, depression and even autism disorder.
Diseases Seemingly Unrelated To The Gut
Have you thought your arthritis, psoriasis or eczema can actually be attributed to the health of your gut? Scientists have long discovered that an altered intestinal microbiome can contribute to the development of various arthritis types.
This is so because a large percentage (about 80%) of your immune cells live inside the gut where their interaction with the gut microbiome can activate certain immune responses in the body, such as the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, is actually a chronic inflammation, an immune hyper-response that can be provoked or exacerbated by the overgrowth of certain pathogenic bacteria, or the lack of immune-modulating organisms inside your gut.
Psoriasis and eczema, on the other hand, can be attributed to side effects resulting from a leaky gut. The hyper permeability of your intestines can lead to overgrowth of undesirable bacteria.
A leaky gut is also not as effective at absorbing the nutrients your skin needs – such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Click here to learn here about the best foods to heal a leaky gut.
Additionally, a poor gut microbiome won’t be able to excrete the metabolic byproducts of digestion or cleanse the toxins your liver is excreting via the bile in the gut. What happens is that all of these toxic elements get reabsorbed, clog up your lymphatic system, which then eliminates them out through the skin.
What Damages Gut Health
Your gut health can impact how well your body absorbs the nutrients you consume but the opposite is also true: the food you eat can have a tremendous effect on the health of your gut microbiome. A diet low in fiber but high in pesticides and herbicides is amongst the main reasons for the development of leaky gut syndrome or other related conditions.
Artificial sweeteners like aspartame have also been found to stimulate the growth of unhealthy bacteria like Enterobacteriaceae so it’s best to stick to natural alternatives.
Try to take antibiotics only when necessary: they can kill both the good and the bad bacteria in your gut, and taking them too often can lead you to develop an antibiotic resistance. If you do have to take antibiotics, make sure you add probiotic foods to your diet.
A course of probiotic supplements after the antibiotic course finishes can help restore your gut microbiome once the treatment is finished.
Last but not least, the relationship between gut health and obesity is not a one-way street. A leaky or unhealthy gut can contribute to weight gain and obesity.
A number of studies have shown that the gut microbiome differs significantly amongst identical twins, one of whom suffers from obesity. This means that the differences in the gut microbiome are not genetics, but rather, attributed to the effects of obesity. This only highlights the importance of a good, well-balanced diet.
Putting It All Together.
Give your body what it needs, stay away from alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and low-fiber foods, help your gut and your entire health and well-being will thrive!
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