As science and time progress, we learn more about how the body works, what we’ve been doing wrong throughout history—and what we’ve been doing right. One thing we keep exploring is the health of one’s gut. According to record, the study of gut health began in the mid-1880s.
Since then, we now know our gut branches into various systems and functions in the body outside of the digestive tract.
What Makes Up the Gut?
Technically, the gut is the digestive tract. It consists of each part of the digestive system, beginning at the esophagus and working its way through the stomach, intestines, liver, gall bladder, and pancreas.
The Gut’s Bacteria
Millions of tiny bacteria found throughout can explain the health of this system. These bacteria make up the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the key to how the rest of the body is affected. Your gut microbiota, or gut flora, is the bacteria explicitly located within you.
Nearly two-thirds of these bacteria are unique to you as an individual. Birthplace, method of labor, and how an infant is breastfed may all have an impact on the bacteria.
The Gut’s Microbiota Evolution
As your body grows and evolves throughout life, so does your gut. By the time a baby turns three, their microbiota stabilizes, meaning they have adjusted to the many environmental factors and calibrated their system to work with them. The power of the digestive tract to adjust can be observed throughout life as it is positively and negatively affected by things introduced to the body.
The Importance of Improving Gut Health
Achieving gut health that is serving your body well is necessary for maintaining the best health of the body overall. Here’s how.
Maintain Cognitive Health
The brain-gut axis or the connection between the two is both physical and biochemical. The vagus nerve making this connection transports signals from the brain to the gut, and vice versa. In this, the central nervous system is an active part as well. Important mood-regulating neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine are affected.
A decline in mental health, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, have also been linked to imbalances in the gut. Specifically, it has been isolated that a diet low in antioxidants that help to cleanse the gut, and high in foods that cause inflammation in the gut, are culprits.
Support Mental Health
Mental health can be affected by the development of consequential conditions. The state of your gut and the bacteria it produces can have an impact on the production of such essential neurotransmitters. Damage of the gut can result in a shortage of these, which can affect mental health.
Common mental health byproducts of an unhealthy guy are depression and anxiety. These pertain to the previously mentioned neurotransmitters.
Improve Cardiovascular Health
Heart and gut health are closely related. A balanced and healthy microbiome can help to fight heart disease. In this case, the gut will produce HDL cholesterol, which is the good kind that your body needs. A gut-health focused diet can help reduce blood pressure and hypertension, promoting cardiovascular health.
Support Digestive Health
This connection may be the most obvious, but it promises to be the most complex connection for its diverse impact. The gut, of course, is the digestive system, and therefore their health is synonymous. However, your digestive health, in combination with all of the previously mentioned interactions, can have an impact on:
How to Improve
With substantial evidence that gut health is as imperative as it is, please note that you can improve yours. Truthfully, because of the transient nature in which the gut plays a role, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Listening to and understanding your body is key.
There is some truth to the saying, “trust your gut.” How you feel and the symptoms you experience must be noted carefully to determine if they are relevant to your gut, and chances are, in some way, they are.
Try these tips for caring for your gut today:
- Avoid foods that can harm your microbiota.
- Go for fermented foods that can help.
- Try probiotics.
- Opt for foods to speed up your digestion.
- Avoid abrasive digestive practices.
- Manage stress.
A Note from GR8NESS
If you suspect you may be experiencing issues with your gut health, never fear! Stay updated and informed on the latest in gut health, and consider consulting with your physician.