We all know that gut health is important, but do we know exactly why? To understand things we have to first acknowledge and get to know the function of our gut “microbiome”. It turns out, there's a lot of bacteria in our bodies. A whole lot. To put it into perspective, there are more bacteria cells in and on the human body than actual human ones. But before you reach for the nearest anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, it must be noted that the vast majority of these bacteria are not harmful “germs”, they are actually an incredibly beneficial subgroup of bacteria known as probiotics, and the bulk of them live within the gut. We're talking lactobacillus, acidophilus, and bifidobacterium to name just a few key gut-healthy strains. They are vitally important in our digestive processes, in developing and regulating our immune system, and even in fending off those germs we just mentioned. And that's just the beginning.
Here are 5 reasons why you should give your gut some extra love!
You'll digest your food better
Having a balanced microbiome means our digestive system works more efficiently, meaning less digestive disturbances like gas, bloating, heartburn, etc. Chronic digestive issues are more than just an inconvenience, they can become a huge life-impacting issue, and the key is focusing on balancing the gut. Ingesting enough probiotics is key, as is eating a healthy diet, drinking enough water, and managing stress levels – because our mental and emotional health seriously affects our gut health and vice versa.
You'll absorb more nutrients
We all know that eating enough nutrients is an important part of being healthy, but when the gut isn't balanced, even if we eat the best diet on the planet, we may not be absorbing and utilizing all of those amazing nutrients properly. Probiotic bacteria in the gut help to break down our food more effectively, and even help synthesize certain vital nutrients like B12. When we are well-nourished we not only look more vibrant and healthy, but we feel better and have more energy too.
You'll get rid of toxins more efficiently
Our digestive system (specifically our colon) is one of our bodies #1 detoxification organs – one of its main functions is to manage and eliminate waste. If it is taxed and imbalanced and can't do this important task effectively we may end up with toxic overload in our body leading to disease, inflammation, and a host of other issues like chronic fatigue and brain fog.
Your immune system will be stronger
Many of us don't realize that when we talk about the immune system, we're actually not talking solely about our body's own defense mechanisms, but also about our microbiome – the plethora of beneficial microbes living in our gut. In fact, about 80% of our immune system is in the gut. Our probiotics are literally like an army of good guys waiting to fend off foreign invaders – i.e. that nasty flu bug circulating around the office.
Your mental outlook may even improve
Want a happier mind? Work on creating a happier gut. Why? Because it turns out the gut isn't just the core of the immune system, it's also like a second brain. The GI tract is home to what's known as our enteric nervous system made up of 200-600 million neurons embedded in the walls of our entire gastrointestinal tract – from our esophagus to our large intestine. The gut is also where the majority of the body's serotonin is found - the neurotransmitter known for its ability to make us feel happier, calmer, less anxious, more focused, and more emotionally stable. While we can't “think” with our gut in a traditional sense, most of us have all experienced that “gut feeling” when we know something doesn't feel right. Our gut is incredibly smart!
The importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle cannot be overstated when looking to improve gut health. Avoiding processed foods and refined sugar while eating a plant-based diet rich in nutrients is key. Look for foods and beverages that contain naturally occurring probiotics, like coconut yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Be sure to ingest plenty of foods containing prebiotic nutrients too like Jerusalem artichokes, yacon syrup, honey, onions, garlic, leeks, chicory, cacao (or dark chocolate) and banana.