• Good gut health can reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and more.
• The gut microbiome helps keep your body and mind healthy.
• What you eat affects your gut health, and there are easy ways to improve your gut health.
• The Western, American diet leads to poor gut microbiome function and increases the risk of health problems.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
Your gut health is the cornerstone to your health overall. But why?
It has to do with the gut microbiome.
The gut microbiome refers to the 10-100 trillion bacteria living in your intestines. Many of these bacteria are incredibly helpful in our health journey. It has been discovered that a healthy gut microbiome can reduce the risk of:
The reason for this is that the gut microbiome affects many of our body’s systems. Researchers have found that the microbiome can impact:
Working to have a healthy gut is especially important for those of us with chronic gut conditions like:
• SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
• GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
• Celiac Disease
• Chron’s Disease
• IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
Being able to ensure that your gut is healthy can limit the symptoms that come with these chronic gut conditions. But how can a healthy gut do that?
How Does Gut Health Affect Our Bodies?
Our bodies are impacted by our gut health in many ways. As mentioned earlier, there are important areas of our lives that are affected by our gut health.
Understanding how the gut microbiome affects these will help you learn how to improve your gut health.
Immune System Function
The gut microbiome has been evolving within us throughout human history. Because of that, it plays a role in our immune system function. According to one review, the bacteria of the gut microbiome send and receive signals to your intestinal cells.
One review states that certain gut bacteria release chemicals that protect you from staph infections.
The gut microbiome is also known to regulate inflammation. Cells, like the NLRP3 and NLRP6 inflammasomes, have been reported to be activated and deactivated by different types of bacteria.
Another important feature is that your gut microbiome helps protect you against diseases. One report states that this occurs through:
1) Ensuring pathogens don’t get enough nutrition
2) Directly targeting pathogens by releasing antimicrobial substances
3) Signaling your body’s immune system
How Gut Health Affect Mental Health
Recently, we have learned that the gut microbiome regulates our brain functions and behavior. It communicates through what scientists call the “microbiota-gut-brain axis.”
It is especially important during childhood. One report states that our ability to respond to stress might be dependent on our gut health throughout childhood.
One review, reported that a high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie diet creates an unhealthy gut. This type of diet, also considered a Western American diet, can lead to poor brain health. This type of diet has been found to cause:
• Poor memory function
• Poor cognitive flexibility
• Brain inflammation
• Higher risk of depression
A healthy diet, like a modified Mediterranean diet, was seen to cause changes to the microbiome. Those changes improved cognition and reduced the risk of frailty and inflammation, according to one study.
Production of Vitamins and Essential Neurochemicals
Humans are not capable of making most vitamins. We must rely on supplements or on our gut microbiome to get the required amounts. One review reports that gut bacteria can synthesize:
• Vitamin K
• Nicotinic Acid
• Panthotenic Acid
The B-vitamins listed above are essential for DNA replication and repair as well as in making essential proteins for our body. Riboflavin is especially important because it helps our cells generate energy.
Some of the bacteria that can be found in the gut microbiome might be able to produce neurotransmitters. According to one review, the gut microbiome may play a role in producing norepinephrine, dopamine, and GABA.
These are all essential chemicals that keep your nervous system healthy.
So, it is clear to see that your gut microbiome can play many roles. Ensuring that you keep that microbiome healthy will allow you to live your best life.
But how do you do that?
3 Tips For Improving Gut Health
The gut microbiome is affected by so many things. But you can improve your gut health by doing several simple things.
- Have a Healthy Diet: Consuming a balanced and nutritious diet is essential for promoting a thriving gut microbiome. A diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria. These bacteria feed on dietary fiber, fermenting it into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are vital for gut health. Additionally, limiting the intake of highly processed and sugary foods can help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Ensure You Are Getting Probiotics: Probiotics are live bacteria that provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. Incorporating probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha, into your diet can introduce beneficial bacteria into your gut. Probiotics help maintain a healthy balance of gut microbes and can support digestion and immune function.
- Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity has been shown to positively impact gut health. Exercise can increase the diversity of gut bacteria, promoting a more resilient and robust microbiome. It may also help reduce inflammation in the gut and throughout the body, benefiting overall digestive health.
The Diet for a Healthy Gut
The key to a healthy gut microbiome is a healthy diet. One review discussed that the primary driver of a healthy gut is your long-term diet.
It is also the easiest way to control your gut health. Here are five things that you should have in your diet to improve your gut health.
1) Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables
One study reported that fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of disease. They can do this by preventing certain disease-causing bacteria from growing.
Another report stated that the polyphenols and fiber from fruits and vegetables help promote healthy bacteria in the gut. This can help prevent chronic diseases. Some fruits and vegetables that you should include in your diet are:
These have good fiber, nutrients, and other powerful antioxidants that are beneficial for your gut health.
2) Eat beans and legumes
One study reported that beans can change your microbiome to improve the colon barrier integrity and function. Another report stated that beans and legumes not only help the good gut bacteria thrive, but they also reduce pathogenic bacteria.
3) Eat probiotic foods
According to the Cleveland Clinic, probiotics are foods that contain the bacteria that help you have a healthy gut.
Examples of foods that have probiotics are:
As mentioned before, the good bacteria from the probiotics have a wide range of effects. They will help you digest food, create vitamins, and break down fibers and medications. They also can keep out pathogenic bacteria.
4) Reduce intake of unhealthy foods and drinks
Unhealthy foods and drinks are excessively high in sugar, fats, and salt. They can have severe impacts on your gut microbiome and gut health.
One study found that a diet high in sugar can change your gut microbiome and lead to chronic diseases. That study reported that high glucose and fructose intake increased the risk for inflammatory diseases and fatty liver disease.
Foods high in saturated fat were reported to cause the gut to have high inflammation and greater risk for metabolic diseases.
5) Limit alcohol consumption
One report indicated that excessive alcohol use caused changes in the gut microbiome that are known to lead to liver disease. They suggest that there are fewer good bacteria in the gut, poor delivery of essential chemicals to appropriate locations, and leaking of bacteria and other products from the intestines.
Limiting the intake of alcohol can reduce the risk of fatty liver disease, inflammatory diseases, and the other challenges listed above.
How Exercise Can Lead to a Healthy Gut
By now, you probably know that exercise provides many health benefits. But you may not have been aware how exercise affects your gut.
Exercise has been reported reduce inflammation in the gut. Further, the bacteria in the microbiome can change due to exercise.
Exercise can also reduce the risk of chronic diseases. For example, one review stated that exercise reduces the risk of colon cancer and other gut issues like inflammatory bowel disease.
However, exercise cannot change how your diet affects your gut health. One study found that exercise and diet affect your gut microbiome in different ways. It is important to consider this when attempting to improve your gut health.
In summary, the gut affects many parts of your body, including your brain. Keeping your gut microbiome healthy is the key to good physical and mental health.
By eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, you can provide your gut microbiome with the support that it needs.
The information in this blog is intended for educational purposes. Always be sure to consult your physician if you are going to make significant lifestyle changes.
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