The gastrointestinal (GI) system is referred to as the “gut.” While most of us believe that gut health is all about having a good digestive system, the fact is that it has an overall impact on the health of our entire body. From the esophagus to the intestines, gut health encompasses the health of the entire digestive system. The various organs in our body are responsible for breaking down food into individual nutrients that support the proper functioning of the body, immune system health, and emotional well-being.
According to nutritionist Silky Mahajan, about 80% of our immune system resides in the gut. When your gut health is good, you have more energy, stamina, better mental clarity, and emotional health.
“In the case of poor gut health, your immune system and hormones may not be working properly and you may get sick more often. The imbalance between good and bad gut bacteria can lead to various health problems such as autoimmune diseases, diabetes, neurological disorders, obesity, weight gain, hyperacidity, bloating, constipation, PCOS, frequent headaches, anxiety and depression,” said the founder of Foods & Nutrition Clinics, Bangalore .
Our bodies are made up of trillions of bacteria, so as humans we have more bacterial cells than human cells. Similarly, our gut is home to trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi associated with various bodily functions. In addition to bacteria, our gut has more than 500 million neurons that constantly communicate with the brain, which is why it is also called the body’s second brain.
More than 90% of the happiness hormone serotonin is produced in the gut, which affects both happiness and GI activity.
“Another example is gamma-aminobutyric acid GABA, which helps control feelings of anxiety and anxiety. Because of the brain-gut connection, we sometimes feel butterflies in our stomach when we’re nervous or in tense situations,” Mahajan said.
Reasons for the microbial imbalance
There can be several reasons why a microbial imbalance occurs. Some of the reasons are frequent antibiotic use, inorganic foods, unhealthy/processed/fried foods, irregular sleep cycle, stress, cesarean births, alcohol consumption and poor eating habits.
Foods to improve gut bacteria
It is obvious that to improve/maintain gut health we should improve gut bacteria. Dietitian suggests including good probiotic foods in diet to improve gut bacteria count like green olives, kefir, fermented cucumber, beetroot kvass, cottage cheese/buttermilk, kanji, sauerkraut, kombucha, probiotic supplements.
“At the same time, it’s important to feed good bacteria high-fiber foods called prebiotics so they can survive,” Mahajan added.
Simply put, prebiotics stimulate the growth of already existing good bacteria and it is important to feed these bacteria high-fiber foods such as whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, lentils, apples, bananas, oranges and green tea extracts.
Having good and diverse bacteria in the gut helps regulate weight, controls blood sugar, lowers the risk of diabetes, helps improve brain health, and can benefit heart health and a good immune system. It also improves skin health as the gut and skin are connected through the gut skin axis.
How can you understand your gut health?
A microbiome test can be performed to understand human gut health. The stool sample is collected to analyze the microbiome index. After analyzing these lab reports, foods are recommended that are good, bad, or consumed in moderation to restore and maintain gut health over the long term, explains Silky Mahajan.