Most of the nutrients and energy that your body needs are obtained from the food that you eat. So, it should go without saying that your digestive system, and especially your gut health or more specifically your gut microbiota, is incredibly important. Your gut plays a crucial role in maintaining your entire body’s health, from digesting your food to distributing the nutrients to making you feel happy.
Your gut is full of microbes, which are essential to the body’s immune, metabolic, and neurobehavioral functions. The collective community of microorganisms in the gut is called microbiota.
When gut microbes are in balance, that is, existing in proper ratios to one another, they are the good guys, helping you with digestion, immunity, and removing toxins from your system.
However, too much of any of them and you are going to be sick.
Gut microbiota starts to develop at birth and evolves throughout your entire life. Each person has a unique gut microbiota, which determines how their system fights infections and diseases, digests food, and even feels emotions or acts a certain way. It is affected by several factors, particularly diet and drugs.
Here are the essential functions of gut microbes:
+ Gut microbiota helps you break down food and absorb nutrients.
Have you ever wondered how your stomach digests food? Well, that’s thanks to the bacteria present in your intestines. Gut microbiota affects your metabolism, helping you break down complex molecular compositions from the meat and vegetables that you eat.
+ It affects your immune functions.
You first get microbes from your mother’s cervix during birth, which is the initial point that your body learns to respond to microbes and potentially disease-causing organisms. It is called adaptive immunity. When microbe ingestion is disrupted early on, it can be linked to allergies and autoimmune conditions.
+ Gut microbiota impacts your psychological functions.
Would you believe that your gut health can affect your mood and behavior? Gut microbiota is actually called the “second brain.” As your gut microbiota breaks down molecules from the food you eat, it triggers nerve functions, the release of hormones, and cognitive function. An imbalance can lead to bad moods, anxiety, poor quality of sleep, and depression, among others.
+ It can help you fight disease.
One of the most important functions of your gut microbiota is helping you prevent and fight diseases. With a balanced composition of bacteria, you are protected against infections and illnesses. However, when the harmony is disturbed, it can lead to various gut conditions, such as inflammatory bowel diseases, ulcerative colitis, indigestion, and metabolic syndrome.
What Makes Gut Microbiota Get Out Of Balance?
Gut microbiota can be disturbed by different factors, such as poor diet, stress, antibiotics, lack of sleep, drinking too much alcohol, and some drugs. Processed and unhealthy foods can affect your gut health, which is why it is important to be aware of the consequences of what you eat and drink.
Repeated use of antibiotics can kill some of the good bacteria in your gut, causing an imbalance that impacts other body functions, such as metabolism.
Studies have confirmed the link between gut health and diseases and conditions. Some of these are diabetes, obesity, malnutrition, eczema, cancer, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis, among others.
What Can You Do To Keep Your Gut Healthy?
Given the important role that gut microbiota plays in your overall well-being, it is crucial to keep it healthy.
There are many ways you can do so, and the first and foremost is being mindful of what you eat. If you are regularly indulging in sweets and processed foods, a far healthier option is to swap them for whole and fiber-rich foods. Adding prebiotic-rich foods and probiotics to your diet will also be helpful to your gut health.
Aside from the food that you put into your stomach, it is also essential to engage in regular exercise, get enough sleep, and reduce your stress, or learn to manage it better. Given the uniqueness of each person’s gut microbiota, your nutritional needs may vary, and your optimal diet may have to be tailored to your gut microbiota. For instance, you may be allergic or intolerant to some foods, such as dairy, grains, or gluten.
There’s more to your digestive system than breaking down the foods that you eat to give your body the energy it needs to function. It is important to keep your gut healthy to maintain and improve your overall well-being.
For more tips that impact your digestive system, read How To Improve Gut Health.