The gut, or the gastrointestinal (GI) tract isn’t just your stomach and intestines - it is actually a very specialised digestive highway, from the mouth to the anus.
The gut is so important to our overall health because it extracts nutrients from the food you ingest and delivers energy to every cell in your body. The most vital part of the gut is your gut bacterial community, or your microbiome which consists of billions of live bacteria that create vitamins, help protect against pathogens, eliminate toxins, create natural antibiotics, balance hormone levels, and help you digest food. For example, when you eat a vegetable, your body breaks down the carbohydrates to glucose and the leftovers (indigestible fibre) are then consumed by bacteria in your gut.
Your gut even impact aspects of health that don’t appear to have anything to do with digestion.
When your gut is unhealthy, your whole body may be at risk because the processes of the other systems can be compromised. This is because the digestive, immune, nervous, and endocrine systems all communicate and interact with each other. Chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, and depression can be caused by an irritated and inflamed gut. Even minor ailments like skin conditions, lack of libido, aches and pains, and fatigue are directly linked to gut dysfunction. A damaged gut can also decrease toxins being able to leave the body, leading to premature ageing.
There are many factors that affect gut health.
Type of birth delivery, diet during infancy (breastmilk fed or not), diet during adulthood, antibiotic usage (in medications as well as factory farm meats that use widespread antibiotics), chemicals in skin/home cleaning products or sprayed on food to plastic dishes, genetics and stress.
Even our emotions impact our gut health.
There is constant communication between brain and gut. Symptoms of gut disorders may even be mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Serotonin, the ‘happiness’ neurotransmitter is produced primarily by the gut as well as norepinephrine and dopamine. Stress can originate in both the gut and the mind and because the body can’t shut off acute stress response it can result in GI tract distress. The gut is also your largest sensory organ so it can influence your emotions and vice versa.
So, you see, the gut is a major player in your overall wellbeing!
Check out our next blog, when we’ll get into how you know when your gut isn’t performing optimally, and what you can do about it.