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What Gut Health is and Why it Matters

September 29, 2021

More people are becoming interested in their digestive health. The accepted belief today is that the gut is the “second brain”, and there is even evidence showing that depression and anxiety can follow digestive problems. With mental health being more openly talked about now, this is an interesting find, because almost half the population at some point experiences digestive problems. (Hopkins Medicine, n.d. para. 5). 

Numerous studies also show connections between gut health and the immune system, mood, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, and even cancer. (Sethi, 2020, para. 1). The term “gut health” refers to the nearly 40 trillion bacteria in the body, with a large percentage found in the gut. (Robertson, 2021, para. 1). Ultimately, our gut health is the status of these organisms in our intestines that can either benefit or harm our overall health. (US Davis Health, 2019, para. 1). 

A healthy gut has good bacteria and immune cells that resist bad bacteria, viruses, and fungi. When a gut is functioning properly, it sends messages to the brain through nerves and hormones, which help maintain general health and wellness in the body and mind. (US Davis Health, 2019, para. 3). 

There are up to 1,000 species of bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract. Most of them are there to help us, but some might be there that cause disease. (Robertson, 2017, para. 9). When there are too many bad bacteria, the body will signal to us that something is wrong. Symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, loose stools, constipation, heartburn, nausea, or vomiting. (US Davis Health, 2019, para. 4). 

Therefore, we ultimately want to balance our gut microbiota. Naturopathic and Functional Medicine doctors can offer tests that can get to the bottom of gut health and provide personalized treatment plans, and general rules of thumb for improving gut health is to eat less sugar (and that includes carbs that convert into sugar), eat prebiotic foods such as fermented vegetables and yogurt, get enough rest, exercise if possible, drink mostly only water, and eat more high fiber foods.  

It is possible to improve our gut health with the very basic proponents of health: eat well, drink water, get enough sleep, and adapt a more active lifestyle. The result to these simple lifestyle changes is better mood, better excretion, and better overall health and wellness. 

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