March 22

What is Gut Health, and Why is it Important?

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Have you ever heard the term gut health before? You might have, but not know exactly what it means. Gut health is all about maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in your digestive system. A healthy gut contains healthy bacteria and immune cells that ward off infectious agents like bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

When your gut bacteria are balanced, it can help improve everything from your digestion to your mood and energy levels. The phrase “listen to your gut” has significantly more meaning when you look at it through the scope of your overall health.

the importance of gut health

There are a few different things that can influence gut health, including what you eat, how much sleep you get, and the amount of stress in your life. Making sure to eat plenty of probiotic-rich foods, like yogurt and sauerkraut, can help keep

your gut bacteria healthy. Exercise and getting enough sleep are also important, as they can help reduce stress levels.

Keep reading to learn more about gut health and why it’s so important!

Understanding Gut Health

Before understanding why it is so impactful on our overall health, we need to first understand what people are referring to when they say “the gut”. The gut is actually a long, hollow tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. Along the way, it goes through the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (also known as the colon). The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, both good and bad. In fact, there are more bacterial cells in the gut than there are human cells in the entire body!

The majority of these bacteria are located in the small intestine and colon. The good, healthy bacteria help keep the bad bacteria in check, preventing them from overgrowing and causing problems. When the gut bacteria are balanced and healthy, they can do amazing things for our health. But when the balance is off, it can lead to a number of digestive and other health concerns.

Why is Gut Health Important?

Now that we know a little more about the gut and the bacteria that live there, let’s take a look at why gut health is so important.

1. Gut health is essential for proper digestion.

The gut is responsible for digesting food and absorbing the nutrients from it. When the gut bacteria are imbalanced, it can lead to issues like constipation, diarrhea, and gas. It can also make it harder to absorb the nutrients from food, leading to deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals. Mood and digestive system health (especially problems such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease) are closely linked via the brain-gut connection.

2. Gut health can affect your mood and energy levels.

The gut is sometimes referred to as the “second brain” because it produces 80% of the same neurotransmitters (like serotonin) that the brain does. The human gut microbiome in your body affects your physical AND your mental health. When the gut bacteria are out of balance, it can lead to problems like anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

3. Gut health is essential for immune system health.

The gut is home to a large portion of the body’s immune system. The good bacteria in the gut help protect us from bad bacteria and other pathogens. When the gut bacteria are out of balance, it can lead to issues with the immune system and make us more susceptible to infections. An unhealthy gut can lead to many physical health issues, creating a domino effect in the body.

4. Gut health has been linked to a number of chronic diseases.

There is growing evidence that gut health plays a role in a number of chronic diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. An unhealthy gut is an environment that allows these illnesses to thrive. While more research is needed, it is clear that gut health is a critical factor in overall health.

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut is a condition that occurs when the lining of the gut becomes damaged. A healthy gut is impermeable, meaning that it acts as a barrier between the inside of the gut and the outside world. This barrier helps to keep bad bacteria and toxins out of the body. When the gut becomes damaged, this barrier is broken down, which allows toxins to leak through the gut and into the bloodstream.

leaky gut

An unhealthy gut can translate directly into issues with your digestive tract and ability to absorb proper nutrients. When this happens, it can lead to inflammation throughout the body and a number of different health concerns.

Leaky gut is often caused by things like poor diet, stress, and certain medications. It is also a common concern in people with autoimmune diseases. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, famously said, “all disease begins in the gut.” This statement is more true than we ever could have imagined. The health of our gut has a direct impact on every other system in the body.

The Benefits of Having a Healthy Gut

As you can see, gut health is incredibly important for our overall health. Maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria is essential for proper digestion, mood and energy levels, immune system health, and more. Making a few adjustments to your daily life to improve gut health can translate into numerous positive changes to your quality of life.

gut health

There are a few different ways to keep your gut bacteria healthy, including eating probiotic-rich foods, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress levels. There are countless benefits to having a healthy gut, from boosting energy levels and

improving sleep quality to reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases. But what does that really mean for you? Here are a few examples:

If you struggle with regular headaches or migraines, chances are that your gut health is playing a role. A healthy gut is less likely to produce inflammation, which can lead to pain in the head.

If you’re dealing with a chronic illness, such as diabetes or Crohn’s disease, optimizing your gut health may be one of the most important things you can do for your health. Studies have shown that a healthy gut can help manage these conditions and even reduce symptoms.

If you’re trying to lose weight, a healthy gut is key. Poor gut health can lead to problems like hormone imbalance and food allergies, which can make it difficult to shed pounds. A healthy gut helps to regulate digestion and absorption of nutrients, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight.

How to Improve Your Gut Health

There are a few different ways to restore gut health and improve gut health. Studies have shown that certain environments, foods, and behaviors, can influence and help to maintain gut health. Here are a few of the most effective:

gut health

1. Eat probiotic-rich foods.

Probiotics are live bacteria that can help to restore the balance of gut bacteria. They can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, as well as in supplements. These foods work with your gut to build a healthy digestive system.

2. Get enough sleep.

Getting enough sleep is essential for gut health. Proper rest is also essential for mental health. It helps to regulate the immune system and promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria.

3. Reduce stress levels.

Stress can have a negative impact on gut health by causing the release of cortisol, which can kill off beneficial gut bacteria. Everyday lifestyle adjustments can influence gut health. Taking steps to reduce stress can help keep your gut bacteria in balance.

4. Drink plenty of water.

Drinking plenty of water helps to flush out toxins and keep the gut healthy and functioning properly. Being properly hydrated is essential in maintaining a healthy digestive system.

5. Take a probiotic supplement.

If you’re having trouble restoring the balance of gut bacteria, taking a probiotic supplement may be helpful. Probiotic supplements have become increasingly popular in the world as awareness that a healthy microbiome helps maintain general health. Probiotics are available in capsule form and can be found in health food stores. Not all probiotic supplements are high quality or will actually provide benefits.

It is important to note that probiotic supplements are not for everyone, and you should check with a health care professional to see if this would be beneficial in working towards a healthier you.

Following these simple tips can help to improve your gut health and overall wellbeing. A healthy gut is essential for a healthy body, so it’s worth taking the time to care for your gut bacteria.

Foods to Avoid to Maintain a Healthy Gut

Introducing healthier lifestyle choices is very impactful in improving your gut health. However, if you continue to eat foods that are damaging to your gut microbiome, it can be counterproductive. This can make regulating your gut microbiome feel like a constant uphill battle. Trying to completely transform your lifestyle overnight might feel impossible, making small adjustments can put you

on the right track. There are a few foods that you should avoid if you want to maintain a healthy gut. These include:

1. Sugar.

Sugar can feed bad bacteria and yeast in the gut, leading to an imbalance of gut bacteria. It’s best to limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks.

2. Processed foods.

Processed foods are high in unhealthy additives and chemicals that can damage gut bacteria. It’s best to avoid processed foods and stick to a balanced diet of whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible.

3. Artificial sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners can also disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and lead to health problems. These synthetic sugar substitutes have been known to be “intense sweeteners” because sometimes they are significantly sweeter than sugar. They grew large popularity in the world of dieting because of their low-calorie impact. However, some are known for a lingering after-taste.

Stevia is a natural alternative sweetener. It is derived from the leaves of the stevia plant and can be very (100 to 300 times) sweet in comparison to table sugar. Stevia can provide a natural alternative for people looking to transition sugar out of their diet.

4. Alcohol.

Alcohol can damage gut bacteria and contribute to inflammation. It’s best to avoid or limit your intake of alcohol if you want to maintain a healthy gut.

5. Dairy products.

Dairy products can cause digestive issues in some people and also promote the growth of bad bacteria in the gut. If you experience issues digesting dairy, it’s best to avoid dairy products altogether.

6. Fried foods.

Fried foods are high in unhealthy fats and oils that can damage gut bacteria. It’s best to avoid or limit your intake of fried foods.

Following a healthy diet and avoiding these foods can help to maintain a healthy gut. Spend a little time analyzing what you eat in a day — consider writing down your meals in a food journal — and make any adjustments necessary to optimize your digestive health. By keeping your gut bacteria in balance, you’ll be on your way to better health and wellbeing.

How a Functional Medicine Center Can Help

If you’re struggling to improve your gut health, a functional medicine center can help. Functional medicine centers focus on whole-body health and work to find the root cause of health problems. They offer a variety of services, including nutrition counseling, stress management, and lifestyle coaching. These services can help you make the necessary changes to improve your gut health and overall wellbeing.

Ready to get started on your functional medicine journey? The holistic doctors at Thrive! Wellness Center are ready to help you. Contact Thrive! Wellness Center to answer any questions you may have and to book your consultation with our functional medicine physicians today!


Tags

gut health, leaky gut, sibo


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