At first glance, the digestive tract is generally understood as a part of the body that does just that: help you to digest your food. While this is true, your gut is the center of operations to a myriad of systems that essentially run your body.
The Anatomy of the Gut and How It Operates
The entire system consists of seven parts that all participate in the digestion process. First up is the esophagus, where food is initially ingested, broken down by saliva, and passed down to the stomach. Stomach acid and enzymes then work to kill harmful germs, bugs, and break down the food further.
Once this occurs, food is processed through the small and large intestines. The small intestine absorbs nutrients, while the large intestine turns waste into fecal matter. The liver, gallbladder, and pancreas aid in dispersing nutrients, storing and producing bile, and influencing metabolism according to what has been processed.
Throughout the gut, millions of bacteria participate in this process. What’s fascinating is that digestion is only one corner of what is affected. The entire body is affected by the health of your gut. Here’s how.
It’s the Boss of Your Digestion
Of course, you know by now that a healthy gut equals better digestion. The ability to digest food properly aids in absorbing necessary nutrients to provide the body with optimal health. Alternatively, an unhealthy gut can cause major complications like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive disorders and symptoms.
It’s Something Like a Second Brain
There is a clear connection between the gut and the brain, and valid truth behind the euphemism “trust your gut.” Your gut microbiome, or in other words, the makeup of it, contains millions of neurotransmitters. It plays a significant role in not only ensuring proper brain function but regulating mood as well.
Two major neurotransmitters that affect mood, serotonin, and dopamine, are present in your gut. These are also common culprits to affect the onset of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. In addition, the senses have also been suggested to be influenced by the gut. Processing of sights, sounds, and taste are all related.
It’s Got Your Heart
Another critical organ that the gut is closely related to is the heart. The health of your heart and the health of your gut are synonymous with one another. For this reason, working to balance the bacteria found in your microbiome is a viable strategy for addressing heart-related complications.
A healthy gut is primed to fight dangerous plaque buildup, as well as produce necessary and beneficial cholesterol. Introducing probiotics as well as prebiotics, which are ingestible, balancing bacteria, can have an effect on blood pressure. Just as well, consuming foods that are rich in fiber or otherwise beneficial for the gut can help to maintain and improve the health of the heart.
It’s in a Relationship with Your Hormones
It’s typical for talk of hormones to be about sexual organs, but they too, are at one with the gut. The key thing to understand is that there are hormone receptors in your gut that receive cues from your gut’s function. That said, like any healthy relationship, there needs to be proper communication between the gut and your hormonal system.
Major hormones progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone are all a part of this relationship. Hormone fluctuations concerning these three can result in anything from weight gain, to developing diseases like endometriosis or breast cancer.
It Can Put You to Rest (Or Not)
Another hormone affected by the gut is melatonin, otherwise recognized as the hormone that helps to regulate sleep. Aside from this, GABA, an amino acid having to do with relaxation, dopamine, and serotonin, all contribute to one’s ability to sleep. If any of these are thrown out of balance, sleep cycles may be as well.
Science may continue to reveal other connections between the gut and the body overall. If the gut so critically influences the brain, it’s probably safe to assume that nothing else the brain affects is off-limits in relation.