The gut, the gateway to our overall health and wellbeing. When our gut is not happy, our health and happiness can suffer too.
Our guts are made up of a trillion different bacteria, both good and bad. The problem occurs when we have an imbalance in the ratio of good and bad bacteria living in our guts, with the amount of bad bacteria overriding the good.
Your gut is the most important organ in your whole body with the gut doing way more than just digesting your food.
Your gut bacteria can affect your digestive health and your ability to absorb nutrients from foods
When your gut health is in a poor state, the ability to digest and absorb your nutrients can be disrupted. This often occurs due to the development of a common condition known as leaky gut aka intestinal permeability.
A leaky gut aka intestinal permeability is when small holes/gaps in the tight junctions of the small intestine occur allowing toxins and unwanted food particles to leak out through the digestive system and into the blood steam. This leads to a state of inflammation and a dysfunctional immune system.
With the modern western diet that is high in sugar, processed foods and wheat and gluten based carbohydrates, the occurrence of leaky gut is much higher than you think, with many people having no idea that they even have it.
As the barrier of the gut lining has been impaired, it can be hard for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients to occur. So even if you are eating all the right foods for good health, if your gut health is poor, you may not be reaping the nutrition benefits due to an inability to absorb those nutrients.
Your gut bacteria can affect your mental health
Research has now well established the strong correlation with the brain and the gut. Our digestive system and nervous system are closely linked by what is known as the gut-brain axis. The gut-brain axis is the two-way communication pathway that sends messages back and fourth from the gut to the brain as well as from the brain to the gut. Both the brain and the gut are capable of influencing the health of one another.
Bacteria living in our gut, can influence how we respond to stress.
When the balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria in our gut is out of balance we are more than likely to respond negatively to a stressful situation- anxiety, mood swings, yelling at the kids for no apparent reason, regular feelings of overwhelm and/or depression.
Your gut bacteria can affect your ability to lose weight
Research is now showing how important the health of the gut is when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. So how does the gut influence your weight?
When the gut is in a poor state, the gut is inflamed. Inflammation is a key driver of weight problems. A nutrient poor diet that is high in refined sugar, processed foods, unhealthy fats and high in carbohydrates, is inflammatory and fuels the overgrowth of bad bacteria living in our guts.
The gut environment lacks diversity of bacterial species needed to promote good overall health, which includes maintaining a healthy weight.
When comparing healthy lean people to bigger obese people, it seems that healthy lean people tend to have more of a diverse amount of bacterial species in their guts when compared with an overweight or obese person.
The more diverse the environment of the gut is, the easier it will to be able to maintain a healthy weight. The number one thing you can do to influence the diversity of the gut, is to eat a diet that includes a wide variety of healthy wholefoods, in particular vegetables. Choose a variety of different vegetables from different families and be conscious of eating a rainbow daily. Lots of colour and variety equals a more diverse gut environment, which is better able to support your body to maintain a healthy weight.
Your gut bacteria can affect your hormones
When we have an overgrowth of bad bacteria living in our guts, our ability to make serotonin (one of our happy hormones) is compromised, which can lead to low mood, anxiety and depression.
Not only does low serotonin affect your mood, but low serotonin is thought to be an underlying cause of constipation too. When serotonin is reduced in the gut, the number of neurons are reduced, leading to an impaired gut lining and a slower motility rate which is turn leads to constipation. As the health of the gut as well as the level of serotonin present plays a major role in the functioning of the brain, people who suffer with constipation can often also suffer with depression or anxiety and vice versa.
Your gut bacteria plays an important role in regulating circulating estrogen levels. When there is an imbalance of gut bacteria living in your gut, estrogen are unable to be metabolised properly most commonly leading to an excessive build up of toxic estrogens or in some cases estrogen deficiencies.
While estrogen is needed in some amounts, excess estrogen can be very detrimental to ones health. Excess estrogen otherwise known as estrogen dominance, can cause menstrual irregularities, PMS, migraines, female related reproductive disorders such as PCOS, endometriosis etc, decreased sex drive, bloating, and a sluggish metabolism leading to weight gain.
The Thyroid hormones are responsible for a number of bodily functions including maintaining a healthy weight, regulating body temperature, for producing energy, for healthy hair, skin and nails, for healthy bowel movements, muscle contraction and bone maintenance.
The Thyroid is most common seen hormonal imbalance that can often occur after giving birth and having kids. For healthy thyroid function to occur, conversion of T4 (inactive hormone) to T3 (active hormone) must take place. As 20% of Thyroid conversion takes place in the gut, gut bacteria influences how well this process takes place.
Your gut bacteria can play an important role in how good your immune system is
Did you know that 70-80% of our immune system is situated in your gut?
What does this mean? We have a trillion bacteria living in our guts, a mix of good and bad. Yet the problem occurs when there becomes an overgrowth of bad bacteria which outweighs the good. When bad bacteria overrides, this is when you develop a low immunity and become more susceptible to illness.
You may find yourself picking up every cold, flu or virus going around, that you come in contact with. Or you may find this the same with your kids. Just because you come in contact with someone who is sick, that does not mean you will necessarily contract what they have.
Keep your gut healthy, eat gut supporting foods, look after yourself and your immune system will stay strong!
Your gut bacteria can affect your adrenals
When we are stressed, this can have a impact on the health of the gut, with stress being one of the known causes of leaky gut aka intestinal permeability. Leaky gut causes inflammation in the gut and throughout the whole body. The stressed and inflamed gut can then stimulate the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones like cortisol to help adapt to the stressor.
When stress becomes chronic and the gut bacteria is out of balance, the adrenal glands eventually no longer can cope and now cortisol (your stress regulating hormone) that was really high, comes crashing down. What was high cortisol in the acute stage, is now low cortisol in the chronic stage. Your adrenal glands must work harder to regulate cortisol levels and cope with stress, until eventually the adrenals give way and no longer can function anymore. This is where the development of adrenal dysfunction occurs with the most common related symptoms being chronic fatigue and exhaustion.
Your gut bacteria can affect the health of your skin
If you do not have enough good bacteria in your gut and an overgrowth of bad bacteria, you may just start to see the effects of your poor gut health show up in your skin.
The skin is the largest organ and is a great detoxifier. When the gut is toxic, quite often the first place that it will show up is on the skin. While your skin is trying to remove toxic waste from the gut, it may show up in the skin as breakouts, acne, eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, rosacea and even increased skin ageing.
It has been quite often referred to as “Our skin is a reflection of your internal organs’.
Your gut bacteria can affect virtually every organ in your body.
If you truly want to feel well and thrive, it is essential that your gut health is in working order!
So now that you know the importance of a healthy gut, its time you start taking control of your gut, because when you look after your gut, it will look after you!
Not sure where to start? Jump on over to my blog post ‘Gut Health Tips for Busy Mum’s’ to get some simple tips you can start implementing today.
Wishing you all the best on your journey to better gut health and an overall more healthier, happier you!
Heres to good health and happiness