You might be surprised to know that what you eat can determine your gut health in the digestive tract. Learn more about what gut health is and why it matters.
Photo by Vitalii Pavlyshynets on Unsplash
Your gut, or your digestive tract, does more than help convert the food you eat into the nutrients your body needs. It can help other body parts work more efficiently and effectively, thereby improving your overall health and well-being.
You should eat foods to improve the health of your gut. Why is this important? Because healthy bacteria live in your gut, and those bacteria do several things for your body.
Anywhere from 300 to 500 distinct species of microorganisms live in our gut. They total around 100 trillion individual bacterial cells. And they're perfectly at home in your intestines. In fact, they could be vital to your health. Find out more about why gut health is important by reading below.
What Is Gut Health?
Gut health refers to the state of the microbiome that lives in your small and large intestines. Think of a microbiome as a tiny ecosystem that relies on several parts to survive, much like a natural stream or forest ecosystem. When your gut microbiome is out of balance, it isn't healthy and can affect other things around it, just like a biome on Earth.
Good gut health happens when you have a good balance of helpful bacteria in your intestines. Bad gut health occurs when your intestines have harmful bacteria and yeast thrive in your digestive tract.
What Lives in Your Gut?
Two major good gut bacteria types come from Bifidobacterium strains and Akkermansia, while unhealthy ones include E. coli and Ruminococcus. They're part of a healthy gut microbiome that scientists continue to learn more about.
Don't worry. Gut bacteria are entirely normal — humans need them to survive.
The gut microbiome helps our bodies digest food, improve metabolism, and protect against bacteria and viruses that can make us sick. Knowing what gut health is important can help you make the right dietary choices for better overall well-being.
Why Is Gut Health Important?
Gut health is vital to how your body maintains other key systems. Northwestern Medicine says good bacteria in your gut help regulate inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation is a natural response to a cut on your finger or a cold virus invading your lungs. When your gut microbiome is out of balance, your body can stay in a constant state of inflammation, and your immune system is always on high alert. Having an overactive immune system can make you more susceptible to other disorders and diseases, which is why gut health is essential.
On the other hand, a healthy gut triggers an inflammation response only when necessary. Chronic inflammation that never shuts off has been shown to be an underlying cause of arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, type II diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and gastrointestinal disorders like inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn's disease. Chronic inflammation can also cause depression, anxiety, and autism spectrum disorders.
A better balance of bacteria in your gut can lead to better nutrition because the helpful microorganisms help your intestines absorb more nutrients. A healthy gut also prevents bad bacteria, like yeast (a fungus, not a bacteria), from taking hold and causing chronic inflammation.
Gut health can also improve your mood. Your gut produces 90 percent of your body's dopamine and serotonin, two chemicals your body makes that naturally improve your mood and make you feel good. Newer studies suggest that good gut bacteria can also improve your memory and assist the brain because your digestive tract has more than 100 million nerve endings.
How Do You Maintain a Healthy Gut?
This article has covered why good gut health is vital to your overall well-being. Now, we'll go over ways to maintain an effective gut microbiome as to why gut health is essential.
Eating a healthy diet rich in whole foods can improve your gut microbiome and bring it into balance. Lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all fantastic because the fiber in these foods encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in your intestines. Juices won't do. You'll need the fiber from the whole foods to move through your digestive system completely to feed the good bacteria living in your gut.
Consider eating these foods because they contain probiotics, prebiotics, and fiber to encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut:
• Fully cooked legumes, like beans, chickpeas, and black-eyed peas
• Jerusalem Artichokes
• Green, Leafy Vegetables
• Dandelion Greens
Other ways to improve your gut health include:
• Drinking coffee and tea (without sugar) can also assist gut health due to their polyphenols.
• Avoiding overly processed foods and foods high in sugar. A typical Western diet, popular in the United States, can kill good bacteria and cause an overgrowth of yeast in your gut and other parts of your body.
• Only use antibiotics when prescribed by your doctor. Antibiotics can destroy good gut bacteria while they also fight harmful ones.
• Exercise regularly. Because of increased blood flow, getting up and moving encourages good bacteria to grow in your gut. Exercise will also encourage better metabolism, which, in turn, helps your gut bacteria to thrive.
Keep these tips in mind as you plan your dietary needs for better gut and overall health. We want you to live your best life possible — a healthy gut is one way to achieve that.