Did you know that there are over 40 trillion “chemists” deep in your gut? These are the bacteria and other single-celled organisms commonly known as gut flora or gut microbiota.
They work hard to keep you healthy by helping with digestion, protecting you from diseases, producing essential nutrients for your body and even influencing how your DNA manifests itself.
If you study how various microbiota interact with intestinal cells, you’ll easily understand how the digestive system works. What’s more, you’ll get insight into how the gut affects your entire body.
In this light, here are the seven reasons why gut health is important:
1. It Affects Nutrient Absorption
Contrary to the popular belief that the food you eat determines what nutrients your body gets, it’s actually the gut that controls the number of minerals and vitamins entering your body (bloodstream).
Research shows that the gut flora influences which nutrients are available for absorption. They also break down non-digestible food for easy digestion.
A healthy gut also prevents nutrient deficiencies by determining how the intestinal cell lining will grow and divide so that its thickness favors optimal absorption.
2. Gut Health Affects Brain Health
Fascinatingly, there’s evidence showing that a healthy gut can protect you from a myriad of mental diseases, including anxiety, autism, and depression.
However, scientists still can’t pinpoint what part or process of the gut affects brain health. But a promising theory suggests that healthy gut microbes produce SCFAs (short-chain fatty acids), which send cognition and mood improving signals to the brain.
Also, some SCFAs can directly affect your parasympathetic nervous system. This is what controls crucial bodily functions of such as breathing, body temperature, and heart rate. The parasympathetic system is part of the larger autonomic nervous system.
3. Your Gut Determines Your Toilet Habits
A healthy gut promotes regular bowel movements.
When the intestinal muscles are strong and healthy, they contract more efficiently, pushing food through the intestines faster. Furthermore, gut flora coordinate intestinal wall contractions to keep food moving at a healthy rate.
In other words, if your gut is unhealthy, you’re likely to suffer bowel problems. A healthy gut not only prevents constipation but it also dramatically reduces the risk of getting other serious diseases, including:
A paralyzingly painful and potentially life-threatening condition that occurs in the intestine or any other organ and pushes through your diaphragm’s (abdomen) walls. Hernias develop as a result of irregular bowel movements.
There are some types of cancers caused by enduring constipation. This is largely because the body fails to remove digestive fluids and toxins that can promote cancer.
4. A Healthy Gut Prevents Infections
It’s no brainer that your digestive system’s health influences how your gut wards off diseases. Good gut bacteria and healthy intestines perform complementary functions to protect the intestinal walls from dangerous bacteria.
The top layer intestinal cells act as a physical barrier that prevents dangerous bacteria from passing through the intestinal walls, while gut microbiota kills them off by:
- Producing acids to acidify the gut and make it difficult for dangerous bacteria to survive.
- Consuming all the nutrients that dangerous bacteria live on.
- Stimulating your intestinal cells to generate natural antibiotics.
Again, it all depends on whether your gut is healthy. Thus, here are some signs of an unhealthy gut:
- Constant stomach upsets
- Unintentional weight changes
- Constant fatigue or sleep disturbances
- Skin irritation
- Food intolerance
If you’ve been suffering from gut-related issues, here’s a natural way to fix your gut health.
5. Excellent Gut Health Prevents Systemic Inflammation
Systemic inflammation occurs when your immune system discharges chemicals to fight none-existing infections.
One of the most common causes for this condition is having a cholesterol or sugar sprout in your bloodstream. Your immune cells basically assume that these molecules are an actual infection and fill your bloodstream with infection-fighting chemicals.
As a result, healthy cells get damaged. If this condition lasts for long, you’re likely to develop chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
Thankfully, there’s evidence to show that good gut bacteria can produce sugar complexes that activate Treg cells – a group of white blood cells that send signals to calm the immune system and regulate the production of damaging chemicals.
6. A Healthy Gut Balances Your Hormones
According to scientists, the gut is a virtual “endocrine” organ. This means that it can secrete hundreds of hormone precursors and hormones, mostly because of bacteria diversity. Equally important, the gut assists in detoxifying hormones from the body.
This function is vital in sustaining the monthly female cycle. When ovaries produce estrogen, it circulates to various organs including the breast and uterus.
Once it completes a full cycle, it heads to the liver to get inactivated. After that, it goes to the intestines, and if all is well, it gets excreted. With an unhealthy gut, an enzyme (beta-glucuronidase) produced by bad bacteria reactivates the estrogen. This can lead to estrogen dominance.
7. Your Gut Affects Your Weight
There are gut bacteria that determine how you’ll hold onto weight, while others simply promote obesity.
When you have an imbalanced gut microbiome, methane gets produced in large quantities. Thus, your gut mobility slows down and more calories get extracted from the food on transit. More calories can lead to more fat getting stored in the body, which in turn increases your weight.
Additionally, your gut regulates insulin sensitivity as well as determines whether your body will use food as energy or store it as fat.
Your Gut Health Is Important
Now that you know why gut health is important, take the necessary steps to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
Most importantly, avoid junk food. These foods create an inflammatory environment in which bad bacteria thrive. Bad bacteria bring about many health issues, including sending signals to your brain that make you crave more junk food.
For more health advice, check out our Men’s Health and Women’s Health sections.