Gut Health- The Low Down
It’s the start of a new year. Many of us set new goals when it comes to our health and weight. Some continue efforts to optimize their current wellness status and others don’t even know where to start.
The first and best place to start, regardless of where you are with your health journey, is always from the top, and by this, I mean the key driver that underpins most things to do with your weight and wellness concerns – your GUT.
Gut health is an area where my passion lies, as it’s something I personally have struggled with since I was a teenager. I also know that gut health is a struggle for so many out there and many of my patients arrive at my door with underlying gut issues, be it constipation, bloatedness, IBS, reflux or the usual complaint of discomfort after a meal.
Let’s be honest, how many of you have suffered with the above symptoms?!
Yes, gut health may not be your primary goal, but it should be the area you address first, because without the environment in your gut being top notch, you are less likely to come close to reaching any other goals.
There is a scientific explanation as to why the terms “trust your gut” or “what is your gut instinct tell you” are so popular and I’m going to break it down for you.
What is your gut?
The gut, otherwise known as the gastrointestinal system or digestive system, consist of a group of organs, starting from your mouth, running all the way down to your rectum. These organs each play an important role in our body and are essential for the digestions and absorption of nutrients needed to support our bodily functions, energy production, hormone balance and even toxin and waste elimination.
Our gut is not just a complex food processor, it also hosts one of the key components of our body, the gut microbiome. Heard of anyone talking about “the good” and “the bad” bacteria in your gut? Well this is what they are talking about. The gut microbiome is certainly in the spotlight when it comes to research today and refers to the 100-trillion micro-organisms living in your intestine, made up from over 1000 different bacteria, as well as viruses, fungi and protozoa – all weighing in at up to 2 kg. How mad?!
The Role of the Gut
The gut can be seen as the bodyguard of your body. This means it must be able to detect and utilize the ‘good’ that enters our gastrointestinal tract and defend against ‘the bad’ infectious agents and toxins.
The most commonly known role of the gut is to digest the food and liquids that we consume for energy, nourishment and our body’s building process. In order to do this, it needs to break it down into smaller particles that can be absorbed and used. This process is known as digestion and it involves mechanical (chewing) and chemical (digestive enzymes) breakdown of food. If you are unable to digest and absorb the necessary nutrients, your body is at risk of having deficiencies and a poor nutritional status.
The gut plays a key role in regulating your immune system. Up to 70% of your immune system is found in your gut. Your intestinal wall and your microbes form a gut barrier and act as a protective divider between the external environment and your blood stream. Your gut barrier also has what is known as ‘selective permeability’, which means its super clever and can select the nutrients it wants to absorb, while still knowing which foreign substances and toxins to boot out. If your gut bacteria balance is out-of- whack, it can result in inappropriate inflammatory processes which can result in cell damage, auto-immune responses, increasing the risk for chronic disease development, such as diabetes, as well as inflammatory bowel diseases.
Gut – Brain Connection
There is a very strong connection between the balance of the gut microbiome and brain function and behaviour. In fact, it is so strong that one could call your gut your ‘second brain’. This strong gut-brain connection affects digestion, mood, behaviours, IBS as well as regulation of your appetite hunger hormones and inflammation. The gut holds 95% of the body’s serotonin – a key player in mood, anxiety and our over-all feeling of wellbeing. An imbalance in your gut bacteria has been strongly linked to changes in central processing and stress related disorders.
As a result of the gut having such an intimate relationship with your brain, it’s understandable that it also affects weight regulation through digestion, appetite and satiety regulation, as well as sparking all those cravings you have. The gut microbiota influences the production and the release of what we call brain transmitters, components which fire messages to the brain controlling food intake and energy balance. Some favour appetite suppression while some regulate regions in the brain linked to reward-based eating behaviours. This means that an imbalance in your gut bacteria promotes diet induced obesity and other metabolic complications.
What does this all mean?
By now I’m sure you figured out how sophisticated and interconnected the gut is. There are a multitude of factors which can affect our gut health and bacteria balance such as stress, the food we eat, illness, exercise, medication and the list goes on.
With our gut microbiome being implicated in not only how our gastrointestinal symptoms make us feel, but also in mental, immune, inflammatory, disease metabolism, appetite and weight, you can now understand why I underpin gut health as being one of the most important aspects of your health and thus the first stop in this year’s journey.
Knowing which foods to eat and avoid, to maintain the integrity of the digestive tract and lining, and how to promote a good balance of gut bacteria should be on the top of your checklist, starting now.
Want to what these foods are and gain further insight into this powerful health-driver?
Stay in tune for more on the microbiome, how to improve digestion and further insight into how strongly your gut is connected to your body and mind
Nourish yourself to the sunrise.
Written with love ,
Sunrise by HM
Nourished yet? Comment on what I should write about next?
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