Also known as the gastrointestinal tract, digestive tract, or the digestive system, the gut is a very integral part of the human body and makes up a number of organs, including the colon, mouth, esophagus, small intestine, gall bladder, rectum, pancreas, and stomach.
We all know that the gastrointestinal tract helps transport food in our body from the mouth all the way to our stomach.
However, research has shown that it has a far greater and more complex function to offer. It is directly linked to certain aspects or areas of our health that apparently have nothing to do with digestion but are extremely vital to our bodily functions.
This is why there’s so much emphasis on ‘gut health’ and its importance.
What Is Gut Health?
‘Gut health’ refers to the overall function of these many organs and how well they all perform to help us eat and digest our food without experiencing any discomfort. In other words, it’s a term that describes the overall health of our digestive tract.
The health of our gut has a direct connection with our immune system, mental health, endocrine disorders, and mood.
It is essential to note here that the gut is really complex, and over the years, there have been a number of scientific opinions on the subject of gut health. However, regardless of the difference in definitions or opinions on what it really is, the basic premise is that gut health talks about the balance of the microorganisms that are found in our digestive tract, better known as ‘gut microbiome.’
The question that arises here is, “why is gut health so important?”
The Importance of Gut Health
There are many reasons why we need to pay the utmost attention to our gut and its overall health. If the gut microbiome is thrown off balance in any way or due to any reason, the imbalances tend to become chronic and need immediate medical attention.
Here are a few reasons why proper gut health is vital for better overall body health and function.
Increased Heart Health
The health of our heart has a lot to do with our gut health because the gut microbiome helps promote good HDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides.
There are many different bacteria within the gut microbiome that help reduce cholesterol, particularly the Lactobacilli.
At the same time, there are also unhealthy species present that can contribute to heart disease and other harmful heart conditions.
However, when the balance is rights, the risk factors of heart conditions can be decreased, paving the way to increased heart health.
It Affects Brain Health
Did you know that there’s a physical connection between the gut and the brain through a passage of millions of nerves?
This suggests that gut health automatically affects brain health, especially given the fact that the gut microbiome can control messages sent to the brain with the help of these nerves.
So, the gut microbiome produces certain brain chemicals and communicates with the nerves, thereby significantly affecting brain health.
The human gut thrives when there’s a properly maintained balance between the ‘good’ bacteria and the ‘bad’ bacteria. When the gut is functioning the way it should, the two types of bacteria help keep each other in check.
However, with the slightest disturbance in the balance, inflammatory bacteria take the lead and can result in several infections. It produces certain metabolites and materials that pass through the gut lining further into the bloodstream, which spreads inflammation all throughout the body.
But if your gut is in its ideal health, there’s a reduced risk of inflammation and infections, keeping your organs functioning well and properly.
Boosts Mental Health
People with disrupted gut health tend to experience mental health issues because the gut has a clear association with depression, anxiety, and many neurological conditions such as dementia.
Many studies have been conducted on the matter and have shown that people with psychological disorders have different kinds of bacteria living inside their gut. On the other hand, mentally fit people have completely different types of bacteria in their gut.
This goes to show that changes in gut health can greatly affect your mental health. So, when the gut is working the way it should, you can expect a boost in your mental health as well.
Signs of An Unhealthy Gut
While it’s not possible for you to physically see your gut, there are many signs and symptoms that help determine that you are living with an unhealthy gut.
Some of the most common signs of an unhealthy gut include:
- An upset stomach
- Sleep disturbances
- Constant fatigue
- Mood swings
- Skin irritation
- Intolerance towards food
- Unpredictable weight changes
- Autoimmune conditions
How to Improve Gut Health?
There are multiple factors that contribute towards a healthy gut, and it is essential that you keep a check on them in order to ensure that your gut is in the best condition as it should be.
Here are a few ways you can improve your gut health.
- Exercising regularly
- Have adequate sleep
- Making smart and well-thought-out food choices
- Lower your stress levels
- Eating slowly and properly
- Staying hydrated at all times
- Making necessary changes in your diet
- Eating probiotic foods
- Limiting the consumption of artificial sweeteners
Gut health has always been an on-going topic of research, but it goes without saying, one should ensure proper and increased gut health in order to enhance the overall health and function of the body.