There is a good chance that you have heard the term “gut health” before and have likely heard it more in the past few years as we’ve gained more scientific insight on the topic. Our gut, or our gastrointestinal tract (GI tract), runs from our mouth all the way to our anus and it plays a large role in our overall health. While it can be a very broad term, it typically is referring to our intestines, where most of the discussion and research aligns.
But why are so many people talking about it and why do we care if it’s healthy? When we talk about our gut, we are likely referencing our gut microbiota, which includes all of the good and bad microbes that live within our GI tract. Each person has a unique gut microbiota with an estimated number of microbes to be over 100 trillion!1. These microbes are key to making certain chemicals and compounds to help us achieve overall health. For example, roughly 90% of our body’s serotonin is made in our gut! Additionally, our gut makes a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as compounds called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs are produced in our gut and are utilized by the body to make immune cells to help us fight inflammation and in turn, keep us healthy.
While the gut microbes are busy making these beneficial compounds, it is also important to note where they end up. Our gut is often referred to as our “second brain”, because it has a direct connection to our brain through nerves. This bidirectional connection allows the brain and the gut to communicate in ways that we see through our emotions like anxiety and depression or through physical pain like GI distress. Since this connection has such an important role in our health, it is vital that we work to maintain a healthy gut through diet and lifestyle habits.
So, you can see how if our gut is not in a healthy state, it is not able to perform at its best and therefore we end up seeing negative side effects. These side effects can be seen as a number of different symptoms including emotional distress, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, skin rashes or acne, inflamed joints, and fatigue.
What can we do? The best approach is to first understand if the gut is in a healthy or unhealthy state. This is typically done through diet recalls, understanding lifestyle factors, stool tests and sometimes blood tests. Once we get to the root cause(s) of the problem, we can work to repair the gut through diet, lifestyle habits, and supplements. The gut is a fascinating and ever changing topic of research so if this speaks to you or a loved one, let us know or schedule your consultation call today to gain more clarity on your health.
- Dinan TG, Cryan Jf. The Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis in Health and Disease. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2017;46(1):77-89. doi:10.1016/j.gtc.2016.09.007