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What is Gut Health & why is it important?

The gut health topic is everywhere now, which we can all be extremely grateful for. For most of my younger life, I suffered from many symptoms that I now see normalized on social media. This normalization has lead to me being able to understand and pick apart the normal from the abnormal when it comes to my health. Social media is responsible for many negative things, but its power to influence and bring about mass change is amazing when accurate and well researched. I have found amazing communities of gut health specialists and suffers. Through these groups, I have been empowered with knowledge and a sense of solidarity. I can share my story of poor gut health and read about those who have similar experiences. Together we can educate and inspire each other with what has worked for us.


Here are some of the main questions I get asked about gut health.


1. What is gut health?


Good gut health is the foundation of great health. The quote from the world health organization, "death begins in the colon, when in doubt treat the gut first," perfectly sums this up. For our bodies to work effectively, we need all the energy and goodness from the fuel we put in. If our gut health and digestion aren't happy, our bodies will struggle to get the right nutrients and eliminate them. Without absorption and elimination, everything starts to fail. Good gut health comes from a well-balanced microbiome.


"The most common microbes that live in or on our bodies are bacteria, archaea, viruses, protozoa, and fungi. This intriguing community of microbes is collectively known as our microbiota."


The biggest grouping of the microbiota is found in our guts. These guys influence almost every system in our body, so keeping them diverse, healthy and happy is paramount to great health.


2. Why is gut health so important for our health?


Due to our gut health's immense impact on our bodies systems, it's only logical to pay close attention to how our guts function. You can do this in a few ways by monitoring:

  • your elimination

  • your moods

  • the way you feel after eating

  • your appetite

  • your immune responses (basically how often you are getting sick).

Everything about our gut health is reflected in these responses, which was the key to understanding my health priorities. So get the gut right, and the rest will follow.


"The digestive system is interconnected with the rest of the body, particularly the central nervous system and the immune system, which means that good digestive health is reflected in good overall health. I like to say that the digestive system is like a “balancer” for the body."


3. What is the microbiome?

As far as we know, the microbiome comprises bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses. We know that they live on and inside our bodies. We know that the number of genes within the microbes that make up our microbiome is 200 times greater than the number of actual human genes...which forces me to ask what actually makes up a human? Our human genome or this diverse complex system is called the microbiome.


"Every one of us is a "superorganism."


“We inherit every one of our genes, but we leave the womb without a single microbe. But, as we pass through our mother's birth canal, we begin to attract entire colonies of bacteria. By the time a child can crawl, he has been blanketed by an enormous, unseen cloud of microorganisms--a hundred trillion or more. They are bacteria, mostly, but also viruses and fungi (including a variety of yeasts), and they come at us from all directions: other people, food, furniture, clothing, cars, buildings, trees, pets, even the air we breathe. They congregate in our digestive systems and our mouths, fill the space between our teeth, cover our skin, and line our throats. We are inhabited by as many as ten thousand bacterial species; those cells outnumber those which we consider our own by ten to one and weigh, all told, about three pounds--the same as our brain. Together, they are referred to as our microbiome--and they play such a crucial role in our lives that scientists like [Martin J.] Blaser have begun to reconsider what it means to be human.”

(Source, Michael Specter)


4. What is the role of the microbiota and microbiome?


The role of these guys expands into every system in our body, but let's focus on some of the main three:

  • Digestion and metabolism- how we digest and metabolize our food is hugely based on the health and diversity of our intestinal microbiota.

"Bacteria in the gut produce several nutrients, including amino acids, vitamin K, and several B vitamins. They also aid in the absorption of calcium, magnesium, and iron." (source fullscript.com )

  • Immune system- It has become more and more apparent in recent years that our immune system is intrinsically linked to the health and function of our gut bacteria.

"Intestinal bacteria compete with pathogens for nutrients and attachment sites in the intestinal epithelium, which prevents pathogens from colonizing. In addition, our intestinal bacteria can also produce antimicrobial compounds, known as bacteriocins, which inhibit the growth of pathogens." (source fullscript.com )

  • Brain health (mental health)- It's become more and more apparent that the link between our brain function and our gut is strong. Research shows of what happens in the gut direcdirectly idirectly impactsotions.

"The microbiota can affect neurological function directly and indirectly via the production of vitamins, metabolites, and neurotransmitters, such as GABA, serotonin, and acetylcholine. Furthermore, research has shown that modulation of the gut microbiome appears to induce neurological effects related to anxiety, depression, cognition, and stress." (source fullscript.com )


5. What is the difference between microbiome and microbiota?


I have given answering this a go a few times, and while my very simplistic response of "the microbiome is the grouping of genes made up of the microbiota....." I always feel that's doesn't say enough. So let's leave it to the experts to explain because it's an important one.


"Sometimes used interchangeably when talking about intestinal bacteria, the terms “microbiota” and “microbiome” actually refer to two very different things. The human microbiota refers to the microbes that reside within each person, primarily in the gut. It’s believed that there are approximately 100 trillion of these microbes residing within the gastrointestinal tract that help to maintain symbiosis with the environment. Our microbiota is made up of bacteria and bacteriophages, viruses, fungi, protozoa, and archaea. On the other hand, the human microbiome refers to the collective genes these microbial cells contain. While it’s believed that individuals may share a core microbiome, the intestinal microbiota is characterized by a wide diversity of bacterial species (and the microbiome itself can vary 80-90% between individuals."

 

If you need more guidance -- I have created a recipe pack filled with gut-healing recipes that I have developed to give you confidence in your own kitchen. Follow this link to find out more or click on the image below:



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