You might have heard about gut health a lot lately. Do you know if your gut is healthy? Your gut is an important part of your body. Keeping your gut healthy will help your body to stay healthier overall and lead a better and quality life. Thus, we are here to help you learn more about the gut, gut functions, poor gut health symptoms, and most importantly, the ways to improve gut health. Keep reading to discover all about your gut!
What is the Gut & its Function?
The Gut is also commonly known as the digestive system or the Gastrointestinal Tract, that is the GI tract. It is mainly responsible for digestion of the food you eat, absorption of nutrients, and excretion of waste as required by the body. It is a long tube-like structure present in the body starting from the mouth and ending at the rectum.
Your gut consists of a vast variety of bacteria along with a few viruses, parasites, and fungi present mostly in the intestine. They collectively make up the microbiome inside your gut. The microbiome is essential to your body as it helps in the development of the immune system and the synthesis of some vitamins. In fact, your whole body has trillions of bacterias present which help in performing various important functions in your body. If you have a healthy gut and microbiome, it can even help in warding off serious diseases like diabetes, obesity, cancer, depression, etc.
A healthy gut maintains a delicate yet proper balance of both good as well as bad bacteria. Both of these types of bacteria are important where an imbalance can lead to health issues of all sorts
Importance of Gut Health
To understand the role that your gut plays in your overall health, it is important to look at the effects it has on various parts of the body. Below we will discuss how your gut affects some significant functions going on in your body.
Unhealthy Gut and Effects on the Body
Heart Diseases and Gut Health
The bacteria that are present in your gut are responsible for all sorts of functions. Every person has a different environment in the microbiome with different compositions of bacteria. This can depend on the type of food that you eat and your genetics. Hence, research has found that your gut health can help in identifying the risk of heart attacks or strokes. These heart diseases happen due to the formation of a compound called TMAO or Trimethylamine N-oxide. Your gut bacteria form TMAO from food items like eggs and red meat. And elevated levels of TMAO can result in hardening of the arteries causing heart attacks and strokes. Therefore, a healthy microbiome is highly beneficial for your heart health.
Kidney Health and Gut Health
TMAO can also cause chronic kidney diseases which can further change the composition of your gut microbiome. This can lead to the overgrowth of bad bacteria resulting in the breaking of the intestinal walls. If your intestinal walls break, the bacteria can go out of the intestinal area which is known as a leaky gut causing more inflammation in the kidneys. Thus, to keep your kidneys healthy and functioning well, it is highly important to have a healthy gut.
Skin and Gut Health
If you have a leaky gut, then it can even lead to inflammations in your skin as well. These inflammations can lead to different skin problems like acne vulgaris and psoriasis. In other words, having a healthy gut is vital if you want healthy and glowing skin.
Immune System and Gut Health
The microbiome plays a highly crucial role in the functioning of your immune system. The bacteria of your microbiome prevent any external toxins to invade the body. More importantly, having a healthy gut ensures that the bad bacteria in your gut don’t attack your own body cells which effectively assists the immune system. In other words, poor gut health can lead to a rise in autoimmune conditions in the body.
Gut Health and the Brain
Your gut and the brain are interrelated to each other as well. Both your gut and brain are interconnected to each other where your gut health will affect how your brain functions and vice versa. The gut is directly connected to the brain through millions of nerves. In fact, your gut even produces several chemicals like serotonin and dopamine which affect the functioning of your brain. Due to the presence of a large number of nerves and neurotransmitter chemicals in your gut, which is similar to the central nervous system, the gut is also known as the second brain. A third connection between the gut and the brain is through the immune system of your body. When the gut is in an unhealthy state it increases inflammation in the body because of a leaky gut. This can lead to a few brain disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, autism, etc.
Gut Health and Mental Health
In recent times, people have started focusing on their mental health which has brought a lot of major mental health issues into the limelight. And as we are talking about the gut-brain connection, it is important to go through the effects of gut health on your mental health as well.
The inflammation from the gut can lead to disruptions in the chemicals released to the brain. This can lead to mental illnesses such as stress, anxiety, and depression. And this in turn affects the gut by creating issues in digestion like feeling gassy and uneasy in the stomach while being stressed. While research is still being done about this gut health and mental health connection, there are still a few ways to overcome issues like this. You can consider practicing meditation or any other form of relaxation technique as a healthy mind leads to a healthy body and a healthy gut.
How to Check your Gut Health?
Since you now know the importance of gut health, you might also want to check whether you have a healthy gut or not. The most common way to check your gut health is to look for symptoms of poor gut health. You then make changes in your lifestyle based on these symptoms to improve gut health. Down below, you can find some of the common symptoms of poor gut health:
Symptoms of Poor Gut Health
- Upset Stomach: Stomach issues like constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, etc can be signs of an unhealthy gut.
- Food Intolerance: Intolerance to a specific food item or food group can mean that your gut is not able to digest it properly due to an unhealthy microbiome.
- Skin Irritation: As discussed earlier, when the bacteria overgrow they tend to travel outside the gut leading to skin issues and causing inflammation in the skin. This leads to irritation of the skin.
- Disturbed Sleep: Research has suggested that there may be a correlation between an unhealthy gut and disturbed sleep. This can be caused by decreased levels of serotonin in the brain causing deprived sleep or even insomnia.
- Sudden Weight Change: Poor gut health can affect your appetite which can lead to unexpected changes in your weight.
- Increased Sugar Cravings: Increase in the growth of bad bacteria in the gut can lead to increased sugar cravings.
- Autoimmune Conditions: The gut performs an important function of working with the immune system. Poor gut health can lead to counter effects leading to autoimmune conditions.
These symptoms can turn into adverse health conditions with time like IBD, obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, liver diseases, etc.
How to Improve Gut Health?
Thankfully, there are various ways in which you can keep your gut healthy which is highly important. Let us look at the changes you can make in your lifestyle habits and your diet to effectively improve gut health:
Lifestyle Habits for a Healthy Gut
- Reduce Stress: Excess stress can hinder the natural process of digestion by directly affecting the gut. Therefore, try practicing meditation in order to relieve stress.
- Proper Sleep: Good sleep can help a lot in maintaining your gut health by keeping a balance of hormones in your gut.
- Adequate Water Intake: Water helps the body in breaking down the food which helps the gut in absorbing the nutrients necessary for the body.
- Check for Food Intolerances: If you are intolerant to a certain food, they are most likely hard to digest for your body. So, it is better to avoid them to make things easier for your gut.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can improve your microbiome and thus improve gut health.
- Avoid Antibiotics: Antibiotics should be taken only when prescribed by a doctor. As they reduce the diversity of bacteria in the gut, taking them unnecessarily will disturb your gut health.
- Chew your Food Properly: By chewing your food properly, you make it easier for your digestive system in breaking down the food properly. This is highly important for the absorption of maximum nutrients from your food.
Improve Gut Health with Food
- Diversified Food: Diversity in your meals means a variety of nutrients being consumed. This will ensure that your body is not lacking in any nutrients. You should also include high-fiber food in your diet as it will help in maintaining the diversity of your microbiome.
- Whole Grains: There are certain fibers in whole grains that work as prebiotics. This helps in feeding the good bacteria in your gut leading to good gut health.
- Fermented Food: Consuming fermented food items can help in increasing the number of good bacteria present in your gut. This leads to a better breakdown of food and helps in better digestion.
- Probiotics: Probiotics like yogurt and kefir can prove helpful if you want to improve gut health and digestion.
- Consume More Vegetarian Meals: Consuming vegetarian meals as a major part of your diet can effectively promote good gut health.
- Polyphenols: Sources like fruit, seeds, vegetables, tea, cocoa products, and wine provide your body with polyphenols which help in reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
Things to Avoid for Gut Health
- Too much Fiber: Adding too much fiber to your diet can negatively affect your gut health by causing digestive issues like bloating, constipation, and gas.
- Smoking: You must be aware of the various ill effects of smoking. It also disturbs your gut health by disrupting the microbiome.
- Red Meat: Red meat can increase the levels of TMAO in the body which leads to various heart diseases.
- Processed & Fried Food: Highly processed food and fried food can promote the growth of bad bacteria in the gut. Because of this, you may get a leaky gut which has quite a lot of disadvantages for the body.
- High Sugar Food: Food high in sugar content can also disturb the balance of bacteria in the gut. Hence, it is important to limit your daily sugar intake.
Consult a Gut Specialist
If you are going through these symptoms of poor gut health but you are not able to improve gut health even after making changes in your diet and lifestyle, then you should consider consulting a gastroenterologist. This is highly important to get a clear understanding of the issues your gut is facing.
Gut health has garnered a lot of attention in recent times. And with advancements in research and studies related to it, we are getting closer to understanding the gut and its connection with different parts of the body in more detail. It will be interesting to see in what other ways the gut affects a person’s body. The gut can also be the key to eradicating many health issues that were thought of differently before. With this article, we have tried our best to explain all the important information about gut health, poor and good gut health, symptoms of poor gut health, ways to improve gut health, and much more.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article and gathered a lot more information about your gut than you already had. Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section down below.