The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Now, centuries later, it turns out Hippocrates was right. Doctors, scientists, and researchers alike are starting to realize just how powerful the gut truly is. As they uncover more about how this vital organ affects overall health, they are starting to realize how unhealthy most people actually are. After reading this, you may be surprised too!
The Bacteria Inside Of Us
Our gut is loaded with bacteria. In fact, researchers estimate that we have 100 trillion bacteria living inside of us. Yes, that’s trillion with a “t.” It may be hard to believe, but that’s 10x more bacterial cells than we have human cells. So, if you think about it, we are actually more bacteria than we are human!
The word “bacteria” may frighten you at first. After all, we are groomed into viewing “bacteria” as a bad thing. We want to avoid it like the plaque. I mean, we buy cleaning products specifically designed to get rid of bacteria. While you definitely want to continue cleaning off your countertops and toilet bowls, gut bacteria is actually a good thing.
Out of the 100 trillion bacteria inside of us, there are hundreds of different species. This diverse bacteria is a delicate ecosystem commonly referred to as the microbiome. It’s that microbiome that helps keep us strong and healthy.
Not all of our gut bacteria is good. Don’t worry … it’s perfectly normal! In order for our bodies to function properly, doctors say we should have about 80% good bacteria and 20% bad bacteria. Throughout this article, you will see me use the words “balanced” and “unbalanced.” When I use these terms, remember the 80/20 rule.
Have you ever seen a commercial for probiotics? They’re pretty popular right now. Well, probiotics are good, living bacteria. Eating probiotic-rich foods and taking a daily probiotic supplement are two ways we can put more good bacteria into our bodies. I’ll talk more about probiotics below. First, let’s take a look at the five ways our gut affects our overall health.
This one may seem pretty obvious. If you have a healthy digestive tract, you can expect to have good digestion. Maintaining a balanced gut bacteria is key for regular bowel movements.
Today, though, the number of people who suffer from digestive issues is staggering. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder that affects between 25-45 million Americans. Then there’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This severe digestive disease affects more than 1.4 million Americans.
For people with digestive issues, doctors have found unbalanced gut bacteria plays a large role. Proof of that lies in fecal transplants. A fecal transplant is a procedure where stool is taken from a healthy donor and placed into an ill patient’s colon. It may sound gross. Ok … it does sound gross. But the point of the procedure is to repopulate the ill patient’s gut with healthy bacteria. According to a study published in the journal of Gastroenterology Hepatology, fecal transplants have a 93 percent success rate in curing and/or healing digestive issues.
Your gut is very closely linked to your immune system. In fact, approximately 80% of your immune system is located in your gut. So if your gut bacteria is properly balanced then your immune system will most likely function properly and help ward off illnesses.
Are you one of those people who seems to always get sick, though? You know who you are. I’m talking about the type of person who can literally be across the room from someone who sneezes and the next day you’ll have a runny nose. If that sounds like you, chances are your gut bacteria is unbalanced. It’s extremely easy to kill your good bacteria. If bad bacteria take over, your immune system will weaken. So if you want to stay clear of illness, you need to keep your gut in tip-top shape.
* Find out how you are killing your good gut bacteria below!
3) Mood/ Mental Health
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “I have a gut feeling about that.” But do you really know why people use that expression?
The gut is often referred to as “the second brain.” That’s because embedded in your intestinal wall are 500 million neurons that make up your enteric nervous system (ENS). Your ENS plays an important role in the production of 30 different neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are chemicals responsible for regulating mood.
In multiple case studies with mice, researchers were able to completely alter the mice’s behavior by changing their gut bacteria. The mice that had balanced gut bacteria were less anxious, more adventurous, and seemed to be in a better mood. Researchers at UCLA wanted to find out if the same reaction would happen in humans.
In their study, UCLA researchers gave healthy women a fermented milk beverage. Some women were given milk that had a probiotic supplement in it. Other women were given milk without probiotics. Next, researchers scanned their brains while showing them photos of people with emotional facial expressions. They found the two groups of women had different reactions. The women who were given the probiotics showed a reduced brain response, meaning they weren’t as emotional when viewing emotional expressions.
The gut is believed to affect more than mood, though. Some researchers believe that late-onset autism and other brain disorders could also be linked with poor gut health. A study based out of Arizona State University found children with autism had a less diverse microbiome than children who don’t have autism. The gut’s possible tie to autism and other brain disorders is still being researched.
Do you eat healthy and workout, yet still struggle to lose weight? Have you ever wondered why your skinny friend who seems to be able to eat anything and everything can still fit into her size 2 jeans? This reason may lie in your gut bacteria.
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