“All disease begins in the gut.”- Hippocrates. That quote right there (from around 2000 years ago!) speaks very potently to the truth about the importance of gut health.
So, what is the “gut” in the human body? What is the connection between the gut, the rest of the body, the immune system, the brain, our emotions… and our whole health?
In my free Facebook group, I host weekly experts to talk about a variety of health, wellness, faith, and intentional living topics. This week, we covered gut health. Within the group, we had an amazing conversation about what is gut health, the gut-brain connection, gut health and skin problems, gut health and inflammation, signs you need probiotics, and how to achieve optimal gut health.
I linked to the Facebook group above!
Whenever I do a live in the group, I like to summarize the content in a blog post as well to make it easy for everyone to access the information… so you can either watch it in a video, OR read it in a blog. Or both.
What is Gut Health
Gut health sounds a little fuzzy and confusing, so let’s break it down.
In this article by NCBI, you’ll see that 70% of the immune system is actually in the gut. Isn’t that AMAZING? The first time I heard that, I actually said, “I’m sorry, how much of the immune system is in the gut?”
I couldn’t believe it. This part of our body that we don’t really like to think about, or talk about, is the part of our body that can make or break our health.
When you think of how much of our immune system is in the gut, it makes the importance of gut health clear.
The gut is the meeting place for bacteria and the immune system. That sounds odd, but bacteria is VERY important to health. In fact, in the body, human cells are outnumbered by microorganisms 10:1. Seriously! Check the research out here.
So we need bacteria. We just need GOOD bacteria.
For example, my oldest son was born via C-section 7 years ago. He suffered from illnesses in a big way for the first 5 years of his life. We tracked down a really good functional medical practitioner and drove 3 hours to see him.
When he saw my son, he hypothesized that when my son was born via C-section, he picked up bad bacteria in the operating room, and had not been inoculated by my good bacteria through vaginal birth, so the bad bacteria was able to flourish.
We had to not only rebuild my sons gut health, we actually had to start it from scratch. But now- he’s strong, healthy… and way more energetic than I ever could have imagined.
Gut health is so important, because healing starts in the gut.
Gut Brain Connection & Gut Health and Anxiety
There’s a whole system connecting our gut and our brain, and it’s called the gut-brain axis. The vagus nerve appears to be what makes this connection work.
In addition the the vagus nerve acting like a highway, the gut is also home to neurotransmitters (that come from the brain). These neurotransmitters (including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA) control our emotions and our feelings.
Serotonin and dopamine are both often described as our “feel good” hormones. They play a huge role in feelings of happiness. Researchers say that GABA has a calming effect on the nervous system.
The importance of gut health is taken to a new level when we consider that our emotions, and how much enjoyment we get from life, could actually greatly depend on the health of our microbiome. A microbiome is essentially where microorganisms live.
So, humans live in houses, and microorganisms live in microbiomes. We feel happier when our houses are in order, and I’m sure all the microorganisms (and our hormones) are all happier when the microbiome is in tip-top shape!
As we see anxiety, depression, and more mental health issues on the rise, the research shows it would be foolish of us not to look at the connection between stress and gut health, anxiety and gut health, and depression and gut health.
The Benefits of a Healthy Microbiome
When we’re looking at the importance of gut health, a healthy microbiome can not be understated.
There are countless benefits of having a healthy gut. We’ve talked a lot about why gut health is important, but we haven’t covered everything. So, let’s summarize what we have talked about, and add a few other really important points:
- The health of the gut microbiome is directly related to brain health
- A healthy gut microbiome = A healthy immune system.
- Food Digestion. Good bacteria in your gut actually helps you digest your food, so that you can assimilate and use as much of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients as possible.
- Supports a healthy weight- Good bacteria actually help your body eliminate unneeded fat, and prevents your body from storing it in unhealthy places. An imbalance of bad bacteria and good bacteria are linked to obesity.
- A healthy microbiome supports calcium absorption, therefore strengthening your bones.
- By assisting to heal the gut lining, healthy bacteria can have an impact on reducing the inflammatory response- so a healthy gut microbiome has been linked to a decrease in allergies, eczema and autoimmune symptoms.
What are things that can negatively affect gut health?
- Antibiotic use. Not only do antibiotics kill “bad guy” bacteria, they also kill “good guy” bacteria.
- Alcohol consumption
- Lack of sleep
- Chronic stress
- Not moving your body
- Not eating prebiotic or probiotic foods
- Neglecting to eat a diverse range of foods
- Eating Processed Foods
Signs of Bad Gut Health
Many people think that stomach upset is the only symptom for gut health. But, it’s definitely not.
- Upset stomach. This could be diarrhea, constipation, cramps… basically anything that Pepto Bismol claims to fix.
- Fatigue or poor sleep
- Skin issues, such as eczema
- Anxiety, depression
- Food Intolerances
- Recurring infections
- Autoimmune disease
With that list of unpleasant symptoms, you can see why the importance of gut health should not be ignored!
How to Improve Gut Health Naturally
Improving gut health is a journey… it’s not a quick fix! Here are some ways that you can start healing your gut naturally:
- Eliminate sugar (See this related post on the link between sugar and inflammation).
- Eliminate artificial sweeteners
- Reduce Stress and simplify your life. If you can reduce stress and improve sleep, you’ll be putting less stress on your gut, which will enable it to heal
- Avoid Highly processed foods
- Eat more vegetables, fruit, fiber, and prebiotic foods
- Eliminate any foods that you could be intolerant to and are causing you issues. You may find the elimination diet helpful to identify what your trigger foods are.
- Incorporate probiotic foods into your diet (listed below)
- Take a high quality probiotic supplement
*** Sauerkraut. Making your own is the best option, since you can eliminate the canning process which may kill off some of the probiotics. I have some fermenting in my crawl space right now!
*** Water Kefir or Milk Kefir. This is also easy to make using kefir grains. Reach out if you directions or want to know where to get grains!
*** Kombucha. This is my kids “juice.” And, it’s fizzy, which kids find fun. Sometimes I’ll let ours ferment a little too long, and the fizz gets intense! If you want me to save you a scoby so you can make your own, let me know in the comments!
*** Kimchi. This is a Korean food with some kick!
*** Pickles. Who doesn’t love pickles?
*** Certain cheeses
The Importance of Gut Health
I hope this post about the importance of gut health was helpful to you. We broke down what the gut is, the gut-brain connection, how the gut is connected to anxiety and depression, the benefits of a healthy gut, how our gut health can get de-railed, signs that our gut health needs improvement, and how to improve gut health naturally.
As always, I’m available to email you or chat about your health concerns and goals. It’s my favorite part of blogging! You can contact me here.
If you love learning about different health topics like this, you NEED to get into our Facebook Group. It has turned into a true mastermind group, where I host expert guests live every week. We take on a huge range of topics that impact our health, wellness, and environment. JOIN US!
Here’s 2 links to the live about gut health. Facebook crashed in the middle, so it’s split into 2 sections. It s a closed group, so you will be prompted to request being added to the group before you can access the videos.
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