The human gut is one of the biggest revelations in nutritional science and medicine in the past 50 years. Health professionals are increasingly recognizing the hugely important role that the gut plays in physical and mental health.
What exactly is your “gut”?
The term “gut” refers to the gastrointestinal tract, which includes your:
• small intestine
• large intestine
The digestive tract is responsible for breaking down and digesting the food you eat. It extracts and absorbs nutrients into your blood stream, which are then used, excreted, or stored for later use.
Why is your gut so important?
We’re now learning about the role of gut health in terms of:
• Immune function – At least 70% of your immune system is found in your gut, which is why keeping it in top condition is so important.
• Autoimmune conditions – Healthy gut bacteria is linked to reduced symptoms of autoimmune diseases, such as Coeliac and Crohn’s disease.
• Weight management – A healthy gut has a positive effect on appetite regulation, total intake and metabolism.
• Mental health – Anxiety and depression have been linked with imbalanced gut bacteria.
Signs of an unhealthy gut
• Upset stomach – Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut.
• Unintentional weight changes – Weight loss can be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Weight gain can be caused by insulin resistance or the urge to overeat because of decreased nutrient absorption.
• Trouble sleeping – Serotonin which helps to regulate the body’s sleep cycle is largely produced in the gut, so any gut damage can impair your ability to sleep well.
• Skin irritation – Problematic skin is often a sign of an internal problem, most commonly with the gut. Gut issues and indigestion can affect the way the body absorbs nutrients from our food. This means that the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that would normally nourish your skin are missing, potentially worsening skin conditions.
• Autoimmune conditions – Inflammation can alter the normal functioning of the immune system. This can lead to diseases where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders.
• Food intolerances – Food intolerances could be caused by poor quality bacteria in the gut. This can cause difficulty digesting certain foods and uncomfortable symptoms like gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and nausea.