All Disease Begins in the Gut - Hippocrates
Have you ever heard your gut is your second brain? The gut contains tiny microorganisms that have a major effect on your overall health, including (but not limited to) gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular disease, and even asthma.
We all have billions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that collectively create our microbiome. Humans have approximately 35,000 strains of bacteria that are housed from the large intestine, to the stomach, to the small intestine, and up into the esophagus.
Food is digested and metabolized in the gut where nutrients are delivered to the cells to provide the body with energy. The process of food breaking down food and disposing waste creates bioactive compounds that will either support health or lead to inflammation or increase the risk for disease.
ALL WORK NO PLAY
The reason why the gut is thought to act as a second brain is because it has implications beyond digestion; it also regulates our mood (through serotonin production), immune response, and predisposition to weight gain.
Gut lining can become compromised if its constantly being exposed to irritants. This leads to inflammation and other varieties of disorders.
There are a variety of factors that affect the microbiome:
Mode of Delivery
Sound crazy? “What does that have to with gut health,” you ask? When a baby is delivered vaginally, it is exposed to natural flora through the vagina that helps boost the baby’s immunity. Children who are born via C-section are exposed to different bacteria.
A mother’s milk also helps the infant develop its immunity by exposing them to beneficial bacteria that is provided during breast feeding. Microbiota can vary depending on their mother’s health, BMI, antibiotic use, and diet.
We want and need natural flora to thrive so we maintain healthy immunity, mood stability, and overall health. Diet has shown to have a profound impact on the types of microbiota that thrive or perish, which can affect the breakdown of our food.
Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria that cause inflammation or infection. They also kill the good bacteria. It is important to give some gut-love after taking a round of antibiotics, and/or try not use them unless absolutely necessary.
It takes up to 3 years for infants to colonize their gut. On the other spectrum, microbial diversity decreases around the age of 75. This explains why fiber supplements are commonly needed as we get older.
Some aspects of the microbiome may actually be inherited.
Gut microbiota can be disturbed even after brief periods of stress. Self-Care! Relax, pray, meditate, or do what you need to do to decompress, regularly.
The best way to support microbiota in the gut is always nutrition. Eating a clean diet that consists of whole foods, especially green leafy veggies, and fermented food sources such as Kefir, tempeh, kimchi (my favorite), sauerkraut, and yogurt (nondairy options are available).
You can also support good gut health with probiotic supplements that contain common strains, Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus.
The benefits of probiotics to maintain a healthy gut are actually quite amazing. Check it out:
Increases feelings of happiness, therefore, reducing risk of depression
Reduces the circulation of cortisol (the stress hormone that effects immunity, weight, and brain cognition)
Reduces the feelings of anxiety
Supports aging gracefully #GILF
You can also use prebiotics, which are a source of fiber. The benefits are:
Reduces risk of obesity
Increases immune function
Supports production of Short-chain fatty acids, which increase absorption of calcium and helps to reduce oxidative stress.
Supports satiety and healthy BMI
When probiotics are taken with prebiotics as part of a whole foods diet, it can help achieve the right balance of microbiota to reduce inflammation and support overall health. Healthy gut, healthy mind, healthy body.