We all have specific tastes, goals, and desires. No matter how much of an individual we are, we all still want the same thing. Everyone would like to live a longer, happier, healthier existence. The key achieving this lies deep within the confines of your gut. This area is known as the microbiome.
Here, trillions of cells work in unison to make sure you continue to run like a well-oiled machine. Our microbiome is responsible for how we feel physically and emotionally. Let’s take a deep dive inside the microbiome and explain how your gut health impacts every facet of your everyday life.
What is Gut Health?
Many write gut health off as caring for a stomach ache. However, that is just a sliver of the whole pile that is known as gut health. As Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, famously stated, “All disease begins in the gut.” Every time we consume food, beverages, or medications, these solid pieces of matter get broken down by the acids in our stomach and organs in our belly.
As the ingested sources are broken down, their chemical compounds are dispersed out into the system. When they are nutrient-dense whole foods, the body is nourished with a load of micronutrients, amino acids, and carbohydrates. Poor food choices have a less desirable effect on the system.
When we are young, our bodies start off with a fresh slate. Eating preservative-rich boxed foods, high-fat drive-thru menu items, and loading up on starchy bread didn’t present much of an issue for a good portion of your life. However, these decisions add up with time.
By including an abundance of synthetic ingredients, artificial flavors, and GMOs into our diets, it eventually wreaks havoc on the system. That’s because these aren’t naturally occurring ingredients. Since they don’t come from nature, our body doesn’t know how to break them down.
With each passing calendar year, those foods become sticky plaques that suppress pathways for oxygenated red blood cells and create a breeding ground for inflammations. In the end, this disrupts the safe haven our body cells known as the microbiome.
What is the Microbiome?
It sounds a bit far-fetched, but it’s true. Our body is comprised of trillions of microscopic cells .They crawl all over our skin, live in our hair, and really love taking up residence deep inside of our gut. A majority of the microbes that live inside of our body can be found in the digestion tract.
The microbes that make up your body are various strains of fungi, virus, bacteria, archaea, and yeast. For the most part, these bugs are beneficial. They work to help you push through your day and grow into a strong, healthy, dependable member of society. In fact, these microbes have been working toward this goal your whole life.
When a female egg becomes fertilized, the fetus’ first interaction with other other living organisms are the various microbes also in the womb! These formative cells are what helps create the immune system and eventually, the infrastructure of a full-blown human being.
The connection to a mother’s microbes are so far intertwined that studies have shown breastfeeding to “improve infant health outcomes lowering the risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal tract infections, necrotizing enterocolitis, otitis media, and allergic disease and to prevent later health problems such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes mellitus .”
Behind these promising results are the beneficial microbes that comes from the mother. We know these microbes in medicinal circles as probiotics. They are beneficial bacteria that play an integral role in every major function of life.
Why Gut Health is Important
As we age, our body continues to evolve. So do the microbes that live inside of your microbiome. Strong cells fostered from mother to infant become compromised as we enter the world. This is in thanks to the germs of others, medications, and unhealthy food choices.
Any medical journal or scientific study will attest to one general principle. Inflammations are the precursor to disease . No matter if you are feeling bloated, your skin is flaky, or your mind is filled to the brim with anxiety, there’s an inflammation at the root of these feelings.
In areas that are predominantly inhabited by beneficial microbes, everything is peachy keen. However, the compromises on our systems mentioned above (germs, meds, foods) begin to add up. This inevitably makes it more difficult for healthy microbes to maintain control over the microbiome. These are the moments where opportunistic harmful microbes strike.
With the growth of detrimental bacteria in the body, these strains will start to damage cells within your system. The acidic vapors of foreign microbes oxidizing will destroy cells that could otherwise be rejuvenated by an oxygenated red blood cell supply. However, due to sticky plaques caused by a lifetime of poor food choices, the blood cells have trouble getting to the area. In turn, the weakened tissues die, decay, and turn into inflammations.
Seeing as the majority of microbes in your body reside in your gut, this area of the microbiome acts as a sort of barometer for the system. Problems don’t tend to arise elsewhere if you haven’t started having gut issues first.
Poor gut health is tied to six major health care concerns. They are:
We’re going to dive deeper into digestive issues and their association with gut health. However, let’s uncover the importance of a diverse microbiome in treating gut-related issues first.
Diversity and Its Implications to Good Gut Health
There seems to be a running theme going on here that you may have caught onto…diversity is key to a healthy gut. From the moment we are born, we are thrust from the comfort of a mother’s womb into the germ-infested world we reside in today. Initial interactions with microbes in the womb and out of it are formative in a person’s life cycle. So formative, that studies have confirmed that cases of childhood autism have a common bond–lack of biodiversity in the microbiome .
In the microbiome, strength in numbers is a way of life. Good and evil are always in a battle for supremacy. Think of a sports team. Everyone has a role. If multiple people have the same role, then an enemy can figure out a weakness and infiltrate from there.
The number of microbes out there is infinite. At Thryve, our database of 35,000 scientific journals covers 4,000 microbes. However, new ones are being discovered all the time. Just like we are no longer like bonobos, microbes have evolved as well. Therefore, harmful bacteria are growing stronger and figuring out ways to work around beneficial bacteria that are in our systems.
As harmful bacteria evolve, we as a society have made it easier for them to grow. This is because the CDC has discovered that 47 million unnecessary antibiotics are being prescribed each year .
Antibiotics work to clear the system of viral infections. However, it also wipes out good bacteria. Due to this, your body is a clean slate. Just like a baby first entering the world, your gut is susceptible to being influenced by whatever comes in contact with it first. Studies have shown that probiotic use can significantly decrease the needs of antibiotics. By keeping your microbiome diverse, you ward off the chance of bacterial and viral infections that may render your system devastated .
Digestive Diseases Associated with Poor Gut Health
Your gut is your first line of defense. When you notice that something is amiss (whether you aren’t going regularly, you’re having dire cramps daily, or your stools look different), that’s a sign that something is going on inside.
One of the most common digestive issues that many with poor gut health encounter is Leaky Gut Syndrome. As Harvard Health explains, “We all experience a form of Leaky Gut .” Our digestive tract is comprised of numerous tight junctions. Just like you need to ventilate room to keep mold from growing, these tight areas need ventilation as well. After all, they’re dealing with toxic substances.
Due to these inner-pipings’ somewhat loose fittings, it’s not unusual for some of this toxic substances to leak into the bloodstream. In a healthy microbiome, you might feel an upset stomach but at the end of the day, the probiotics in your system will take care of it.
When our plumbing gets clogged up from diets full of sticky refined sugars and fatty processed foods, this allows toxins to sit longer in the tight junctions. As a result, more toxic substances are able to enter the system. This is when symptoms associated with Leaky Gut Syndrome persist.
Offsetting from Leaky Gut Syndrome, it may lead to the rise of two similar conditions that also common. These are Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Small Intestinal Bacterial Growth (SIBO) . Symptoms for both are very common. They are described as, “abdominal pain and/or discomfort, irregular stool form and passage.”
Many who experience IBS also have SIBO. SIBO is a little less common because it is defined as having an “increase in bacteria equal to or greater than 105 colony forming unit per mL of upper gut aspirate.” Due to these bacterial intruders, SIBO patients have all the symptoms of IBS plus “abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating, flatulence and loose motion.”
Analysis on SIBO has found that “SIBO is known to occur in absence of anatomical factors predisposing to it.” In layman’s terms? Something has predisposed your body to this bacterial overgrowth. That something is a lack of probiotics in your system that keeps guard of the breeding ground.
Another factor doing a number on our digestive system are the fillers in our foods. From pesticides to GMOs to artificial sweeteners, our system is getting bogged down by foods that cause inflammation. Research shows that GMOs have started to transfer their DNA to living organisms such as plants and soil . Seeing as we have many of the same chemical compounds as these beings, who’s to say GMOs can’t rewrite our DNA as well?
Let’s take gluten for example. Research indicates that this protein is the culprit for “20-45% of adults who self-report food hypersensitivity .” That’s because the crops our ancestors harvested are nothing like the ones used in shredded-wheat cereals, “nutrition” bars, and sandwich carriers.
By piling more of these indigestible foods into your diet, it leaves a food-fort for harmful bacteria to fester under. In turn, it worsens your sensitivity to these foods and leaves you susceptible to more digestive disorders.
Immunity Issues Associated with Poor Gut Health
To further prove that everything is all connected, the immune system relies on your microbiome to keep it strong. When our gut health is out of whack, it’s known as dysbiosis. Studies have found that dysbiosis can lead to autoimmune disease issues . That means everything from autism to Crohn’s Disease to Parkinson’s Disease all boil down to the bacteria (or lack thereof) in our human gut microbiota.
What causes an autoimmune disease to develop are instances where an excited electron loses its way from the pack. When this happens, the excitatory molecule becomes a free radical and may latch onto anything that accepts an electron. Naturally, the electron and its new companion will chemically react. Depending on what this rogue electron attached itself onto, the results may be catastrophic to your immune system.
Besides autoimmune disease, other immune responses are also a result of your gut health. Whether you’re fighting off a cold or are knocked out in your bed from influenza, your immune cells have become compromised. Seeing as 80% of your immune cells are derived from your gut, it’s in your best interest to keep your microbiome healthy .
Immune cells do more than just keep us from using our sick days on being sick. They also keep us alive. This was discovered in a study involving fruit flies. Unbelievably, humans and fruit flies have “70 % similarity in terms of their biochemical pathways .” When scientists discovered that increasing the biodiversity of microbes in fruit flies’ systems increased their lifespan by 60%, it opened up researchers’ eyes. By supplementing with probiotics, these insects’ immune responses protected them against “chronic diseases associated with aging.”
Chronic diseases that have become increasingly troublesome for humans are an assortment of allergies. 50 million people suffer from allergies each year, with the numbers increasing exponentially since the industrial revolution . Allergies happen as a result of a foreign substance weakening your immune response. As a result, you feel symptoms that range from an itchy throat to excessive sneezing to stomach pains. However, studies of 23 different bacterial strains found that your gut health has a crucial impact on how your body responds to attacks courtesy of allergens .
Mood Disorders Associated with Poor Gut Health
Remember those unhappy bacteria we were talking about? Well, if they’re unhappy, guess what? You’re unhappy too. Science has shown that there is a strong connection between the gut and brain. This bromance has earned our guts the moniker, “the second brain.”
In our bodies, a long nerve connects the two ecosystems. While research articles call the line, “the gut-brain-axis,” it’s scientific name is the vagus nerve .
The vagus nerve attaches to the brainstem. Like a turkey thermometer, the base of the nerve sits at the top of our gut. Here, the neural tissues act as a barometer for how your stomach acid is stewing. When the vapors reach an unpleasurable level, the receptors receive this message for help. From there, the tissues send impulses through their axons. This process sends a signal up to the brain.
Your brain senses the attack of foreign antibodies and it goes into stress mode. As a result, your adrenal glands start pumping out cortisol . Cortisol is our fight-or-flight instinct. It’s behind our irrational decisions when we’re upset, our sleepless nights of tossing in bed, and that anxious tick in our brain that something’s not right in our gut.
When gut health becomes chronic, your body’s stress levels get chronic. In turn, your stress levels become chronic. Your body can only house so many hormones. When cortisol is in overdrive, it leaves no room for other hormones to produce.
Hormones you lack in the wake of stress include testosterone and estrogen . This will deplete your sex drive and may increase the chances of infertility . These sort of life-altering situations can open the door to mental health conditions as fleeting as trouble concentrating on tasks at-hand or as permanent as Major Depressive Disorder.
Another hormone that cortisol disrupts in melatonin production . Due to our circadian rhythm, our body has figured out when the sun sets and rises, as well as when we need to get up for work. Like clockwork, your body should adjust to the changes in the day without any notice from you. On cue, you should get tired around two hours prior to bedtime and start to stir awake moments before your alarm goes off.
With too much cortisol in the system, there is no room for melatonin. Therefore, you stay awake all night. Thanks to cortisol, the one time of day where your body can get some work done, it’s up counting sheep with you.
During our rest period, the body is not fighting off the germs of others, dealing with the stresses of co-workers, or using energy to function as it does during the day. Most of your hormones are created while you are asleep . Therefore, no sleep? No hormones.
The most effective way to fight off cortisol is by generating “reward” neurotransmitters and hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. When your mind receives messages from these hormones, it feels sensations such as calmness or elation. As a result, your adrenal glands don’t get the signal to pump out more cortisol. By having dopamine and serotonin on hand, all the other hormones can be created, restoring balance in the system.
Further proving the connection between the gut and brain, research has found that 90% of the serotonin in our system comes from our gut . Therefore, if you have poor gut health, a majority of the serotonin that your body needs to fight off mental illness is destroyed before hitting the bloodstream.
Weight Issues Associated with Gut Health
It doesn’t come as a shock to anyone that your weight is impacted by the health of your gut. Isn’t that where your food ends up? It’s also the first place where adipose (fat) tissue is stored. So, if you are experiencing weight gain, most people tend to see it right where your digestive area lies. The gut!
Our body can’t break down a good portion of foods that are in the average person’s everyday life. We’re talking about:
• Pasteurized Dairy
• Processed Foods
• Smoked Meats
• Refined Sugars
• Artificial Food Colorings
• Processed Wheat
At this point, if you’re not growing your food on your own, in a greenhouse, with well water, your body is under attack by something you’re consuming! For those who tend to lean toward the modern conveniences of fast food and deli lunches, the problems will most likely rear their heads a bit sooner than those who make conscious decisions.
The first step to fighting off these build-ups is to break them down. Healthy bacteria don’t know how to feast on these fake foods. Harmful bacteria do. Therefore, your junk food is actually determinantal bacteria’s Thanksgiving feast .
You need to one, cut back on the bad foods and implement healthier foods. Whole foods that come from the earth contain chemical compounds that compute with the bacteria we entered this world with. These foods are known as prebiotics. You need to go back to basics and create an environment not suitable for harmful bacteria by eating prebiotic-rich foods.
From there, using probiotic supplements can help burrow more healthy microbes into your system. These probiotics feast on prebiotic-rich foods you consume. In turn, probiotic bacteria grow stronger, changing the acidic levels of your microbiome and altering your gut health. As a result, your gut motility will improve . This will help create the bile necessary to excrete out the excess toxins causing your weight issues.
On top of that, beneficial bacteria has been scientifically proven to “increase levels of the protein ANGPTL4 .” This is a lipid that regulates how triglycerides are stored in adipose tissues. Therefore, it stores these sources of energy more efficiently so that they are burned at a faster, more natural rate. Otherwise, the fat is free to store itself anywhere in the gut, making these energy sources less readily available…and harder to burn.
Speaking of burning, gut bacteria also help burn your fat tissue more efficiently. Probiotic bacterias facilitate a process known as thermogenesis. This is when your body draws on adipose tissues and convert their nutrients into energy. When adipose tissue is with other white tissue, it tends to stick together, making it harder to excrete energy from the source. Harmful bacteria help keep that adipose tissue right along the gut lining. We interpret this bloat as excess weight.
Studies have shown that probiotics excite electrons around the gut lining. This causes the white tissue to have a chemical reaction which turns it into a brown hue. Affectionally known as fat-browning, when white tissues turn beige, it sheds more weight. That’s because this dormant tissue is now being used as a more efficient source of energy .
Part of the issue with weight gain is the metabolism isn’t working like the well-oiled machine it used to be. To give the metabolism a bit of a hand, probiotics help facilitate the creation of a hormone known as GLP-1. This hormone suppresses feelings of hunger so we don’t feel the need to eat unnecessarily. In a two-for-one deal, the GLP-1 has also exhibited an ability to improve glucose intolerance . That makes this hormone crucial for those suffering from diabetes or are at risk of the condition.
On top of superficial consequences, there are also health risks associated with weight gain. For instance, too much weight can lead to the onset of diabetes. Cases of obesity are typically caused by the overconsumption of refined sugars. Refined sugars are known to spike your blood glucose levels. When these practices become habitual, it may lead to cases of Type 2 Diabetes or bouts of diabetic shock.
Furthermore, these artificial sugars stay in your system for the long haul. With time, they start to harden and create sticky plaques that disrupt the complex highways that are your arteries. As a result, blood can’t get to sections of the body including the brain, genitals, and heart. When oxygenated blood cells can’t reach these areas, it leaves the body open to a plethora of conditions such as mental health disorders, reproductive abnormalities, and cardiovascular disease.
General Health and Gut Health
It may be safe to say that general health IS gut health. There are so many over-the-counter remedies to take for every aspect of our lives. We pop caffeine pills to stay awake, sleeping pills to go sleep, and heart meds to keep the ticker ticking. Optimal gut health can go a long way in fighting off the need for all these pricy quick-fixes.
For instance, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) attributes 1 in 4 deaths to cardiovascular disease . While many mitigating factors play a role in this alarming statistic, the number one cause of heart disease is atherosclerosis . The name might sound unfamiliar, but you’re very familiar with what it does. Atherosclerosis is when sticky residues from synthetic food additives build up in your arteries and form a plaque. Blood cells can’t go through this wall of muck, eventually closing off blood flow.
Research confirms that beneficial bacteria play a role in breaking up the sugary veins. One study on 617 female twins found, “the measure of arterial stiffness was higher in women with lower diversity of healthy bacteria in the gut .” Therefore, if your microbiome consists of mainly harmful bacteria, the chances of atherosclerosis significantly increase.
Moving on from the top cause of death, let’s look at our number one addiction…coffee! Sure, the first cup is necessary, but is cup number five at 3:00 PM a bit overboard? Studies find that “up to 10% of an individual’s daily energy needs can be derived from the byproducts of bacterial fermentation .”
Instead of coffee, opt for healthy sugars and indigestible fibers that your beneficial bacteria crave. This is called prebiotics. By feeding probiotic bacteria prebiotic-rich food, you can naturally create energy. Byproducts your bacteria creates from feasting is that jolt of alertness you crave from a cup of joe. Therefore, having an abundance of beneficial bacteria feasting on indigestible prebiotic-rich fibers will naturally boost productivity levels. You can achieve this without the nasty jitters that are synonymous with a coffee comedown!
Have a microbiome rich with probiotics also has a positive impact on your fat tissues. Beneficial bacteria stimulate the adipose cells in your gut lining. As a result, the white tissues turn into a beige hue . Beige tissue is easier for your body to absorb nutrients from. Therefore, the fat burns off and is used to give you an energy boost!
Lastly, beneficial bacteria is the key to getting the most out of your nutrition. What’s the sense of taking a supplement or multivitamin if it’s going to burn off in dangerous stomach acids full of harmful bacteria? Having probiotics in your system naturally increases the bioavailability of your nutrients. This bacteria works with your system to ensure that the most is made out of the nutrition you feed it. The efficacy of delegating where the nutrients go is much smoother and your body as a whole absorbs more of the benefits!
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