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Gut Health: Why It Matters

March 21, 2018

Gut Health: Why It Matters

If you've ever experienced bloating or constipation, you've seen the digestive system at work (or not quite working) first-hand. This important bodily system starts at the mouth and ends at the anus, and it is tasked with the primary jobs of breaking down nutrients from food, helping the body absorb them and eliminating waste.

The digestive system is composed of various organs, including the liver, pancreas and gallbladder, in conjunction with the gastrointestinal tract. The GI tract consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus. An abundance of bacteria flourishes here in the GI tract that is crucial for overall health and wellness.

The Gut Microbiome

When many people hear the term bacteria, something negative or harmful comes to mind. It's true that foreign bacteria invade the body, causing illness and disease. However, other beneficial bacteria live in your gut that are actually necessary for keeping the body healthy. These good bacteria, combined with trillions of other microorganisms, make up the gut microbiome. The microbiome is a complex network of organisms that play a role in a number of biological processes in the body.

How Gut Health Influences Overall Health

The gut microbiota, or flora, living in the intestines helps digest foods and absorb essential nutrients that support cell growth and repair. When these good bacteria are plentiful, they keep the digestive system moving along, preventing constipation and promoting regularity. The beneficial bacteria in your gut also defend the body against foreign invaders like bad bacteria or pathogens, which boosts overall immune functioning.

As you can see, what happens in the gut, doesn't stay in the gut-- these bacteria ultimately influence overall health and well-being. In fact, many experts now look closely at a patient's gut health when developing treatment plans for chronic diseases that may be seemingly unrelated to the GI tract.

What's more, due to the gut-brain connection, our intestinal health is directly linked to our mental health, too. This is aptly portrayed when a queasy feeling occurs in your stomach when you get bad news. The gut and the brain communicate back and forth with one another. What that means is poor gut health caused by a variety of factors can trigger psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression.

Supporting Gut Health

So, what factors negatively affect gut health and what can you do to prevent this? The livelihood of your gut microbiome is significantly compromised by diet, particularly processed, sugary and fiber-deficient foods. Certain antibiotics and medications may also threaten the beneficial bacteria in your gut. And, as previously discussed, a high-stress lifestyle can jeopardizes gut health, too.

For a healthier gut, try this:

  • Eat high-fiber foods, like leafy greens, whole grains and
  • Eat fermented foods that contain natural probiotics, like kombucha, yogurt, kefir and
  • Avoid foods that irritate the gastrointestinal system, such as dairy or gluten.
  • Take a probiotic supplement to help the beneficial bacteria in your gut flourish.
  • Talk to your doctor about the medications you're taking to see if you can find alternatives that don't compromise gut health.
  • Manage stress by doing relaxation exercises like deep breathing and meditation, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep each night.

Poor gut health can not only lead to gastrointestinal issues, but may also increase your risk of chronic medical conditions and psychological disorders. Take strides to nurture the beneficial bacteria in your gut that supports overall health and wellness.

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