Everyone knows that the gastrointestinal tract is important to your health—it transports food from your mouth to your stomach, converts it into absorbable nutrients and stored energy, and shuttles waste back out of your body.
In recent years, your gastrointestinal tract has been linked to numerous aspects of health, like emotional stress and chronic illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. We now know that the GI tract is full of trillions of bacteria that not only help us process food, but that also help our bodies maintain overall well-being.
The key to many health issues may lie in your gut (more formally known as the microbiome), which is the bacteria and other microorganisms in the stomach and intestines. Studies have found that certain environments, foods and behaviors can influence gut health. Here’s why that matters and what you can do to improve yours.
Why is gut health important?
All food is ultimately broken down in the gut to a simple form that can enter the bloodstream and be delivered as nutrients throughout our bodies. This is only possible with a healthy digestive system. A healthy gut contains healthy bacteria and immune cells that ward off infectious agents like bacteria, viruses and fungi. A healthy gut also communicates with the brain through nerves and hormones, which helps maintain general health and well-being.
What are signs of gut health problems?
When your gut is thrown out of balance, it’s normally easy to tell. You’ll likely be experiencing bloating, gas, diarrhea, stomach pain or nausea. These imbalances often fix themselves after a short time but, if they become chronic issues, they might require medical attention. Gastroenterologists can test for specific conditions associated with your microbiome, like an overgrowth of certain bacteria.
Behind the curtain, our gut is responsible for putting our body into working order. As it breaks down the foods we eat, our gut absorbs nutrients that support our body’s functions from energy production to hormone balance, skin health to mental health, and even toxin and waste elimination.
In fact, about 70 percent of the immune system Trusted Source is housed in the gut, so making sure our digestive system is in tip-top shape can be key to addressing many of our bodily woes. But how do we translate our gut feelings into health solutions? Your gut may not be a literal voice, but it’s functions communicate in a form of code. From complete silence to hunger grumbles and bathroom habits, get insight into what’s going on inside.
How to maintain gut health
You have to follow a balanced diet, stay hydrated, exercise regularly and get a good night’s sleep—basically all the things you need to do for overall health. Staying healthy will help you maintain a healthy gut. The same habits that are bad for other parts of your body like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also hurt your microbiome. Avoid taking unnecessary medications and talk with your doctor about how your current drug regimen might be affecting your gut health.
Limiting dairy, red and processed meats, and refined sugars can also improve your gut health. It’s also important to get the recommended amount of fiber—20 to 40g a day, depending on your age and gender. Things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are sources of healthy fibre that you can add to your diet. Eat Healthy… to be Healthy!