Your most important relationship is the one you have with your gut.
As Dr. Martin J. Blaser said, “It’s reasonable to propose that the composition of the microbiome and its activities are involved in most, if not all, of the biological processes that constitute human health and disease.” (NYU Human Microbiome Program).
It starts with your gut microbes…
The human cells in your body only make up 43% of the total cells, the rest are microscopic colonisers such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. They are everywhere, but the greatest concentration of this microscopic life resides in the intestine. It’s the perfect environment – it’s wet, dark, and there’s always food.
Good gut bacteria help us digest food, enrich the body with nutrients, help strengthen our immunity, and even help synthesise some vitamins and hormones,. Meanwhile, pathogenic bacteria, if left to thrive, can result in a weakened immune system, a poor or unstable mood, increased stress, malnutrition and disease.
Your gut impacts almost all areas of your health and wellbeing but here a few of our favourite examples:
The gut & brain – Approximately 80-90% of serotonin (the happy hormone) in our body is produced in our gut cells with help of our gut bacteria. This means that the state of joy can heavily depend on the health of the intestines, and therefore our nutrition.
Our gut bacteria is also involved in the production of cytokines. These proteins increase blood circulation around the source of infection and regulate the body’s immune response which is essential in fighting infection, however, cytokines also contribute to fatigue, that’s why we often feel tired and sad when we are sick. If our bodies stay in this state for a long period of time it can lead to depression.
The gut & immune system – 70% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract. If the intestine is working properly, then its microflora neutralises hostile agents as quickly as possible, preventing your immune system from wasting precious immune defences. If the intestine isn’t working properly, then it’s more likely that diseases will occur. It can also result in an over active immune system and autoimmune diseases.
The gut & kidneys –These two organs help to regulate the water-salt balance in the body and cleanse the body of water-soluble toxins that may have entered the bloodstream from the intestines or as a result of the vital activity of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract. If the gut lining is damaged, it can negatively affect the kidneys. This results in more harmful substances entering the blood from the intestines, to which the immune response is enhanced. All of this leads to a systemic inflammatory process, which can result in kidney failure.
The gut & skin – If your gut is unhealthy and struggling to absorb the nutrients your body needs, your skin will often show telltale signs of nutrient deficiencies. The most common reaction is a rash, dryness and peeling.
For example rashes around the corners of the mouth may indicate that your absorption of vitamin B2 is impaired, or a very pale face could mean you have an iron deficiency. If you have skin problems that do not go away for a long time, it is worth speaking with a GP, get a referral to gastroenterologist, dietitian or nutritional therapist.
The gut & sleep – According to a study published in Scientific Reports journal, Butyrate produced by our gut bacteria may induce sleep by binding to receptors located in the liver and/or portal vein. Serotonin which is produced with the help of your gut bacteria is also linked to your sleep-wake cycle and is chemical precursor to melatonin, the main hormone involved in sleep. Too little or too much can make the difference in a restful nights sleep and restless nights sleep.
So, now you know what an important role your gut plays in your overall wellbeing, here are a few tips to support it, so it can support you:
- Ensure you have a healthy balanced diet full of fibre and fermented foods
- Reduce your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, these can increase your levels of pathogenic bacteria
- Get regular exercise – the microbiomes of physically active people are more healthy and diverse
- Avoiding antibiotics where unnecessary
- Get plenty of sleep
- Take pre & probiotics – prebiotics help fuel your good gut bacteria and probiotics help increase the levels of good bacteria in your gut