For many people, the digestive system is not top of mind when thinking about wellness. Yet gut health plays an important role in maintaining optimal health for your entire body—far beyond losing weight and reducing belly fat.
You may wonder how all these different health benefits can be connected to your gut. The answer boils down to one word: bacteria. Research reveals there are more bacteria than human cells in the body and most of these bacteria are located in your intestines.
Gut bacteria play several important roles in maintaining wellness, including the production of important vitamins. Up to half of the body’s daily Vitamin K needs is provided by gut bacteria. Vitamin K is important for preventing blood clots while also playing a role in regulating blood calcium levels and bone metabolism.
B Vitamins: B vitamins protect the abdomen from distress and ensure the stomach and intestines function properly. The gut uses B vitamins to help the body create red blood cells and gain energy from food. Your digestive health depends on the stomach to function correctly, which requires B vitamins.
Iron: Iron increases anti-inflammatory bacterial metabolite and enhances the number of gut bacteria.
Vitamin C: Along with immune system health, this versatile vitamin aids digestion by helping the body absorb iron.
Selenium: Selenium works within the gut in many ways. For starters, selenium enhances response to inflammation. Selenium deficiency is linked to a higher risk of bowel disease and increased stress and inflammation, which damages the lining of the gut ultimately causing leaky gut. Symptoms of leaky gut include bloating, gas, cramps, food sensitivities, along with aches and pains.
Zinc: A mild zinc deficiency can reduce the production of important digestive enzymes which can cause leaky gut. Without these digestive enzymes you may experience a bacterial imbalance–the leading cause of leaky gut syndrome.
Magnesium: This important mineral for overall wellness also minimizes gut inflammation. Without magnesium, your healthy gut bacteria are exposed to harm which can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate.
The gut and the immune system work hand-in-hand to whole-body health and wellness. Healthy gut bacteria act as both a gatekeeper and a trainer for the immune system. It teaches immune cells to distinguish foreign entities from our own tissue. Likewise, every time we eat, gut bacteria break down our food and produce beneficial compounds that help the immune system function.
No matter how much extra orange juice you drink or Vitamin C supplements you take, without a healthy gut your immune system will still suffer.
There is a solid reason why you sometimes feel “butterflies in your stomach” or simply a “gut feeling” about a decision to make.
The gastrointestinal tract is directly connected to the brain by the vagus nerve, which makes gut health essential for proper communication between the nervous system and the rest of the body.
The vagus nerve plays a role in mood regulation, immune response, digestion, and heart rate. The vagus nerve also sends information about the state of the body’s organs to the brain, which makes it a compelling component for treating gastrointestinal disorders as well as certain mental health conditions such as treatment-resistant depression and PTSD. Studies find people living with depression who eat a lot of processed foods experience more severe symptoms, while eating more fresh foods and plant-based foods decrease depressive symptoms.
The potential of gut health having a positive impact on nervous system health is still being discovered. Most recently, researchers found a link between intermittent fasting and the production of gut bacteria that is essential for recovering from nerve damage. The study, conducted by researchers at the Imperial College of London, is published in the June of 2022 issue of Nature. The study found that fasting caused gut bacteria to increase production of a metabolite known as 3-Indolepropionic acid (IPA), which is required for regenerating nerve fibers known as axons.
The length of the regrown axons was about 50% greater in mice that fasted.
Axons are thread-like structures at the ends of nerve cells that send out signals to other cells in the body. This makes axons critical for carrying electrical impulses for communication within the brain and between the brain and the rest of the body.
Considering the impact of gut health on various human body systems, it comes as no surprise that the state of whole-body health and wellness is determined by the gut. In fact, improving your gut health can have unintended benefits as you focus your wellness journey on other areas of the body.
While your gut health improves, others body systems improve along with it. Consequently, gut health works synergistically with traditional medicine by improving the utilization of any medication you may be taking for chronic conditions.
Most recently, scientists found a link between gut health and how the body responds to statin medications—a widely prescribed treatment for cardiovascular disease and plaque buildup in arteries. Recent studies have suggested a link between the gut microbiome and statin use as well as the gut microbiome and the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
These latest discoveries are only the tip of the iceberg into how future treatments for other body systems may eventually be customized or eliminated as people focus on improving their gut health.
If you are concerned about your gut health, stop by Nova Vita Wellness Centers for a free wellness evaluation.