We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat” before, but most of us have probably written it off as a metaphor.
At most, we may figure that the food we eat provided the building blocks for our new cells (which is true). But did you know that keeping your gut healthy can actually impact every area of your health?
You have helpful bacteria in your gut that help to regulate everything from your weight to your mood.
Read on to learn more about your gut bacteria and why it’s so important to keep it balanced.
Why Does Gut Health Matter?
Before we dive into how gut bacteria can improve your health, let’s take a quick look at why gut health matters in the first place. Gut health can affect every part of your life, from your mood to your sleep.
Keeping a good population of gut bacteria is about more than just maintaining a healthy weight.
When your gut health is out of whack, you may notice that you have an upset stomach or that your weight fluctuates a lot. You might crave sugar more and find yourself always tired.
You might also have more skin irritations like rashes or pimples thanks to inflammation that leaks certain damaging proteins out into the body.
What Is Gut Bacteria?
But wait, you say, surely all these gut bacteria we’re talking about can’t be actual bacteria, right? Bacteria is what causes things like tuberculosis, tetanus, fevers, and the plague. While this is all true, all bacteria aren’t the same, and the ones in your gut happen to be good bacteria.
The word “bacteria” refers to a tiny organism; some bacteria harm us, but some of them help us. Your gut is populated by about 300 to 500 different species of helpful bacteria that are crucial for breaking down food, absorbing important nutrients, and keeping things running smoothly.
Certain actions, like taking serious courses of antibiotics or eating an imbalanced diet, can throw off that gut bacteria population, interfering with your normal healthy digestion.
When you get your gut bacteria population balanced is you may begin to lose weight. Your gut bacteria are responsible for the way your body breaks down, absorbs, and stores food. When you don’t have enough helpful bacteria working in your gut, you can start to gain weight.
A study published in 2013 looked at the gut bacteria of identical twins, one of whom was overweight and the other of whom was a healthy weight. Their gut bacteria biomes were very different, and since genetic factors weren’t at play, this seemed to explain their difference in weight.
Furthermore, when researchers added some of the microbes from the overweight twin to mice, those mice started to gain weight.
If you live with irritable bowel syndrome, you know how disruptive it can be to your life.
You may not be surprised to learn that some of these symptoms can be due to an imbalance of healthy bacteria in your gut. Taking a probiotic or eating more yogurt could help reduce the symptoms of IBS.
The less helpful bacteria in your gut can produce gas and other chemicals that can increase some of the symptoms of IBS. And having more of the healthy bacteria around can keep disease-causing bacteria from sticking to your intestinal walls and causing you problems.
If you’re planning to start taking a probiotic to help with IBS, first talk to your doctor, and then look for a probiotic that contains Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.
Increase Heart Health
You might be surprised to learn that improving your gut bacteria balance can improve your heart health. We all know that eating a lot of fat and cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. But not having the proper gut bacteria balance can also change how your body processes cholesterol and fat.
Having enough good bacteria in your gut can help to produce good cholesterol and triglycerides, things that are crucial to heart health.
Too many of the unhealthy bacteria species can produce more trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO. TMAO is a chemical that contributes to blocked arteries and heart attacks.
Lower Risk of Diabetes
Keeping healthy blood sugar levels is crucial to keeping your risk of types 1 and 2 diabetes low.
Your gut microbiome plays a huge role in how your body processes the sugar it takes in. Even in infants, keeping a healthy microbiome could help to lower the risk of type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can occur when your body can no longer process sugar effectively and you become insulin resistant. Making sure that your body is processing those sugars correctly from the start can lower the amount of insulin your body has to produce to keep up. If you’re at risk of diabetes, talk to your doctor about how to restore gut health.
Improve Brain Health
You might be surprised to learn that keeping a good population of gut bacteria can improve your brain health. For one thing, according to the American Psychological Association, as much as 95 percent of your body’s serotonin is produced in your gut. Having an imbalance of gut bacteria can increase conditions like anxiety and depression.
But the gut is also physically connected to the brain through millions of nerves. Simply put, when you eat badly, you feel bad. Making sure your gut bacteria are well balanced can help to improve your mood and increase your motivation.
Learn More About Helpful Bacteria in Your Gut
Having bacteria in your gut may not sound like a good thing, but in fact, it’s a crucial part of staying healthy. The right helpful bacteria in your gut can improve every area of your health from top to toes. So grab that cup of yogurt or start taking a probiotic and get your body the helpers it needs.
If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your health, check out the rest of our site.
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