Gut health – everyone is talking about it. How many of us know the Knitty-gritty of it, and how exactly it works? Definitely a smaller number compared to the number of us who talk about it. An unhealthy gut affects health in many ways, making it imperative for keeping it healthy. There is much compelling research on how important a healthy gut is in very many aspects of our overall health – physical, mental, and emotional.
Why Your Gut Health Is Important?
Contrary to widespread assumption, the gut is the path that begins at your mouth and ends at your anus isn’t just responsible for digestion. It has an essential role in chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and even mental health conditions such as mood disorders. The common thread that ties the involvement of our gut in these varied disease conditions is our GUT MICROBIOME.
What Is A Gut Microbiome?
Our microbiome is comprised of trillions of bacteria and microorganisms that call our gut home. These are what you must have heard people refer to as the ‘good bacteria.‘ Yes. Not all bacteria are harmful to us. Yet, not all of them in our microbiome are good – some are pathogenic too. We must take care of these little beings in our gut to remain healthy and happy. They are responsible for regulating things like hormonal balance, mood, your immunity, producing crucial vitamins, and cleaning out toxins from our bodies.
How Does The Microbiome Function?
The food we eat is not readily available as nutrients that our cells ultimately need. The food is broken down into its constituent metabolites – which are nutrients in case of the spinach you eat oh so painstakingly or the preservatives in a bag of chips you go to town with. Your microbiome carries out this conversion of food into substances that can nourish your cells.
It is precisely why no matter how healthy you eat, the food will not nourish you if you have an unhealthy gut microbiome – if you don’t have enough good bacteria. You read that right. All the cold-pressed juice and salads you consume will do no good unless you fix your gut first.
You might have come across this scary inspiring quote –
“Food can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”Ann Wigmore
Food is not meant to please your taste buds and fill your belly. Its primary purpose is to NOURISH you. If you figure out ways to tick both these boxes, then you are on the right path to a sustainable, healthy lifestyle. Win-win, I say!
Ways To Know If You Have An Unhealthy Gut
Many indicators can scream of an unhealthy gut; you have more of the harmful bacteria (pathogens) than the good guys (probiotics).
• Excessive bloating
• Feeling sluggish
• Feeling gassy
• Brain fog
• Weight gain
• Auto-immune disease
• Food sensitivities
• Rashes, eczema, or acne
• Foul-smelling stools
• Frequent nausea
• Inflammatory bowel disease/Ulcerative Colitis/Crohn’s Disease
• Thick white coat on the tongue
Impact Of An Unhealthy Gut On Your Health
There are several significant ways in which your gut health is determinant of your well-being. It can mess things up in ways, not most of us know about.
1. Lowers Immunity
Believe it or not, over 70% of our immune system lies in our gut. An imbalanced microbiome predisposes us to intestinal infections, inflammation, and auto-immune conditions that, trust me, you do not want.
2. Hormonal Balance
Inflammation developed as a result of an unhealthy gut can wreak havoc on the production of different kinds of hormones in the body ranging from estrogen, serotonin to melatonin. It is why everything from your mood to your sleep is well under the influence of the condition of your gut.
3. The Gut-Brain Axis
Referred to as the second brain to the gut, there is a well-established biological link between your brain and gut. The gut has its own nervous system – the Enteric Nervous System, which communicates with the primary nervous systems linked to our brain. It is the reason behind you feeling the butterflies in your stomach when you are anxious before you get your exam results per se. Or, the reason why you sometimes feel sick to your stomach on seeing something unpleasant. It is the foundation of the famous expression – ‘Gut Feeling.’
A nerve connects our brain and gut called the vagus nerve, which explains the episodes of emotional eating, food cravings when you are depressed, and the feeling of content and happiness when you eat good food well. Now you know it’s not just a random feeling. It has its roots in this connection your gut has with your brain.
4. Production Of Essential Vitamins
Some vitamins need to be produced in our bodies, which we cannot get through our diet. One such essential vitamin is Vitamin B6 – the microorganisms produce over 80% of it in our gut. This vitamin is required for over a thousand enzymatic reactions in the body and has everything to do with the functioning and keeping your brain healthy, nervous system, sleep, the health of your blood cells, and even heart health.
The anatomical and physiological link exists between the gut and the brain via the vagus nerve. Our microbiome produces neurotransmitters and houses a majority of serotonin receptors in the body associated with social emotions and general happiness; it is fitting that the role of a healthy gut in us being happy and well is profound.
HEALTHY GUT = HAPPY YOU
6. Issues In Weight
What possibly could be the reason behind your weight loss plateau? Maybe its time you check on the health of your gut and the balance of your microbiome. A pathogen rich microbiome is suggested to be the reason behind insulin resistance, disposing you to emotional eating and craving for sugars and unhealthy refined, processed food, making every day a cheat day. Ultimately up the numbers on the scale, setting you up for depression. It progresses your craving for more junk settings in a vicious cycle.
Stress and gut health are also components of an endless cycle as one leads to another. When you are in tension, it triggers an inflammatory response disrupting the blood supply to your digestive tract, wrack your microbiome off balance and even compromise your gut lining. It leads to a stress response reaching your brain, and the cycle continues.