The Gut and Your Overall Health- What's The Connection?
Host to about 100 trillion bacterial cells, your gut microbiome is responsible for a number of bodily functions that contribute to whole-body health. The health of your gut is so important it may significantly influence the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, obesity, IBS, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Type 2 diabetes. The good news, however, is that gut health can be improved and doing so can--not only help protect against chronic disease--but can improve the digestion and absorption of nutrients as well.
Here’s what you should know:
Your Unique Microbiome
Your gut microbiome is completely unique and begins to develop as early as birth. Vaginally delivered babies are more likely to have a diverse gut microbiome as they are exposed to bacteria in the birth canal. Studies also indicate breastfed babies are at an advantage because breastmilk (and skin-to-skin time) transfers beneficial bacteria from mother to baby. This can increase infant immunity.
A number of factors--such as diet, immune function, environment, and exposure to different bacteria--can affect our gut and can cause it to change over the course of our lives. The bacterial colonies in our gut are so sensitive, however, that they can change in as little as a matter of hours. The change, though, is not always for the better as things such as medications (antibiotics in particular) and stress can negatively impact gut health.
The Roles of Gut Microbiota
Microbiota is a plural term encompassing all the species of bacteria on or within the human body. The role and impacts of gut microbiota are:
Digestion and fermentation: gut bacteria can help the body process dietary fibers that are otherwise non-digestible by humans.
Energy production: bacteria can produce fat molecules used to fuel the colon and liver.
Vitamin synthesis: gut bacteria synthesize Vitamins B, B12, and K.
Immune system: good bacteria can prevent bad bacteria from colonizing in the gut and secrete antimicrobial substances.
Less gut distress: good bacteria may relieve symptoms of diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Neurotransmitter production: the gut produces neurotransmitters which allows it to interact with other parts of the body--such as the brain.
Ways to Improve Gut Health
The best way to improve the health of your gut--thus preventing the development of chronic diseases--is to consume a diet high in prebiotics, probiotics and fiber as they increase the population and diversity of good gut bacteria.
Probiotics are live, beneficial organisms found in food and may help our bodies function properly, lower inflammation in the gut, and stimulate the immune system. Sources of probiotics include: sauerkraut miso, kefir, yogurt, tempeh, yeast, and kombucha.
Similarly, prebiotics are natural food components that pass through the digestive system but cannot be broken down for use by our gut cells. They do, however, encourage the growth of good gut bacteria. Sources of prebiotics include: fruits, vegetables, onions, garlic, nuts, oats, flax seeds, and whole wheat foods.
At Total Body Health, we know how important the health of your gut is to achieve optimum wellness. Let us help you feel your best now and prevent chronic disease later. Call us today for your FREE consultation.