Role of Gut Health in Bodily Functions
Gut health plays a crucial role in well-being and supporting various bodily functions. The gut, specifically the gastrointestinal tract (also known as the “GI tract”), contains trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that are collectively known as the gut microbiota. These microorganisms have important functions that impact our health in many ways.
Here are 6 Reasons Why Your Gut Health and Proper Nutrition are so important for overall well-being:
- Nutrient Absorption and Digestion: A healthy gut is imperative for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. The gut microbiota helps break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats which is essential for absorption and utilization. This process is required for our bodies to receive the necessary nutrients for energy, growth, and maintenance.
- Immune Function: The gut microbiota helps regulate the immune system. It helps ensure a balance between the proper reaction to substances. Ideally not reacting to harmless substances and reacting to pathogens. A healthy gut microbiota promotes a strong immune system.
- Mental Health and Brain Function: Emerging research suggests that there is a strong connection between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis. The gut microbiota sends messages to the brain which influences brain function and mood. A healthy gut is believed to contribute to optimal mental well-being, while imbalances have been linked to anxiety and depression.
- Inflammation and Chronic Diseases: A healthy gut with reduced inflammation supports overall health. A gut disruption can lead to inflammation which is the precursor to the development of IBD, IBS, and some autoimmune conditions.
- Nutrient Production: The gut microbiota produces essential vitamins, such as vitamin K and some B vitamins. Certain strains of bacteria synthesize these vitamins which is essential for maintaining adequate nutrient levels.
- Metabolism and Weight Management: Our metabolism and energy balance is influenced by the gut microbiota. The extraction of calories is influenced by certain bacteria. An imbalance in the gut microbiota has been linked to metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Support Your Gut Health
To support gut health, it is essential to maintain a balanced and diverse gut microbiota. This can be achieved through a healthy diet rich in fiber, prebiotic foods (which nourish beneficial gut bacteria), and probiotic-rich foods.
Prebiotics and probiotics may sound similar but they have different functions.
Here’s the difference between Prebiotics and Probiotics:
Prebiotics are types of dietary fibers that are not digested by the human body. Instead, they feed beneficial bacteria in the gut. They reach the colon intact and stimulate the growth and activity of specific beneficial bacteria.
Common examples of prebiotics include inulin, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), and galactooligosaccharides (GOS). Prebiotics can be found naturally in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that boost health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts and are referred to as good bacteria. Probiotics can help maintain the balance of the gut microbiota. It is thought that they inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, enhance gut barrier function, and regulate immune function.
You’ll find them in fermented foods such as kefir, yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut. You can also find them in supplement form with common strains such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Fiber’s Importance to Gut Bacteria
It can be difficult at times to get enough fiber in your diet which is essential for the gut bacteria to thrive. The goal per day is 14g for every 1000 calories. Most Americans get about 15g per day. Lack of fiber in the diet can lead to constipation and diverticulosis, a disease where you form small pouches in the lining of the G.I. tract.
A great way to get more fiber is to include many plant-based foods. Here are some great fiber-rich recipes to help enhance your gut bacteria such as Mixed Berry Baked Oatmeal, 3-Ingredient Chia Seed Pudding, and Colorful Cabbage, Apple and Walnut Salad.
Book your appointment today with Julianne to help you increase your fiber intake and support your gut health.