How many of you battle with an upset stomach or bloating most days? Running to the bathroom at work can be incredibly embarrassing and truly limiting your social life on most days. The importance of gut health is often taken for granted throughout our life, until we are suffering from the consequences of poor decisions in the kitchen. And boy do we pay! Well, the more I have researched this topic, the more I realize that gut health is paramount to our overall wellness in countless ways. As the saying goes – “you are what you eat” – the gut truly could be the second lifeline for our entire well-being. So nurturing our gut and treating with care can reap big benefits. Throughout this month, I hope to share more information on the importance of gut health, examining the role of probiotics, laxatives, fiber and foods that can help overall gut health. Today, let’s better understand the importance of gut health.
Importance of Gut Health and the Immune System
Your gut hosts over 1,000 unique species of bacteria! When you think about it, it’s kind of gross. All those bacteria are thriving in your gut, despite a healthy immune system, armed to fight off bad bacteria. Pretty amazing. This symbiotic relationship is crucial to our overall health – our bodies house all this bacteria and that bacteria helps regulate the immune system, digest our food and protects us from toxins and pathogens. Pretty incredible.
Obesity and Importance of Gut Health
Not surprisingly, an unhealthy gut is linked to an increased likelihood of obesity. Why? Because the choices of foods of an obese person are typically less diverse than that of a healthier weight individual. That less diverse choice of foods means less diversity in the bacteria that live in the gut. This can be a real problem when it comes to digestion. “Each species has a unique function in helping you metabolize nutrients – digesting specific compounds or nutrients, for example.” So jump out of the routine, don’t stick with high fat, processed foods; choose more fruits and vegetables and you will definitely have a healthier gut!
Importance of Gut Health and the Impact on Mood
Have you ever been ‘hangry?’ This is the state of intense hunger that makes you angry! Ideally with my eating schedule, you rarely see me ‘hangry.’ But the concept of the link between gut health and mood is no surprise. In fact, many consider our mood linked to our ‘second brain,’ or our gut. “The Enteric Nervous System, or ENS, is what scientists are calling the 100 million or so nerve cells that line the entirety of people’s gastrointestinal tracts. The main role of the ENS is to control digestion, but in doing so, it communicates back and forth with the brain as to the overall health of the body’s gut, and in turn, its immune system.” In fact the key neurotransmitter that is the target of most anti-depressants, serotonin, is prolific in the digestive tract. 90% of the body’s serotonin is actually made in the digestive tract. Not surprisingly, the standard American non-diverse diet of fast food and processed foods leads to not only obesity, but also a myriad of mental health issues, like headaches, ADHD, anxiety and even dementia.
It is truly shocking how the choices we make in the kitchen everyday can affect so many of our body systems. Not only the link to obesity, but also mental health, chronic diseases and even our immune system. So take care of your gut, it truly is your second brain!
Stay tuned later this month for more blogposts about the importance of our gut health.