Did You Know Your Gut Has 3-5 Pounds of Bacteria?
Have you ever had a strong gut feeling about something? We’re here to tell you that there are valid reasons you should trust in your gut and it’s time we all paid more attention to this incredible part of our body!
The difference between your gut feeling and a feeling in your gut is separated by an acre of good and bad microorganisms that harbor in your gut microbiome. These microorganisms play a crucial role in your health and wellbeing, including your metabolism, body weight and immune regulation, as well as your brain functions and mood.
In this article, we’ll navigate the intestinal tract to reveal some incredible insights into the gut microbiome and share how to keep your gut running at its best.
What Is The Gut Microbiome?
The ‘gut microbiome’ refers to the bacteria, archaea, viruses and eukaryotic microbes that put in the hard-yards digesting the food you eat, absorbing and synthesizing nutrients, and nurturing the relationship we have with the rest of our body.
According to the Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, our gut harbors a complex community of over 100 trillion microbial cells that make up – in a healthy human – almost 3-5 pounds of bacteria in our digestive system.
This microbial cultivation is created upon conception, and there are many factors that influence the types of bacteria that will flourish in your gut including:
- the genetics and health of your parents
- whether you were delivered vaginally or by caesarean
- if you were breast or bottle fed
As we grow older this microbial community is fostered by our lifestyle behaviors, and factors such as diet, illness or stressful events can shape our gut ‘club’ for better or for worse.
Why It's Important To Have A Healthy Relationship With Your Gut
Can you think of a time where you’ve experienced a “gut-wrenching” feeling? As it turns out, our gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion and can be held accountable for our feelings of anger, sadness and elation– which finally speaks some truths about the term coincidentally coined “hangry” (hungry and angry).
This relationship also extends to the gut microbiome’s other “brothers and sisters” such as the immune system, heart health, as well as attributing to blood sugar levels and weight loss.
Our bodies have a mutually-beneficial relationship with gut bacteria; when we keep them happy through providing the right nutrients, they keep us healthy and happy. By directing the traffic flow along the ‘gut-brain connection’ (two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells that line your gastrointestinal tract), research shows that these microbes in the gut directly influence how we feel physically, mentally and emotionally every day.
How the gut microbiomes support our health:
- Contribute to metabolism
- Control inflammation
- Help digest dietary nutrients
- Produce vitamins
- Train our immune system to fight viruses, bacteria, and infections
However, if the gut bacteria don’t get what they need (fermentable fibers that they feed on) they turn to the mucus lining of the gut for their food source. Because the mucus lining keeps the gut wall intact and protected from infection, a whole host of health problems including obesity, depression and type 2 diabetes can occur when this lining wears down.
Abnormalities in the gut microbiome have been associated with:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Colon cancer
- Antibiotic-associated colitis
How Can My Gut Control How I Feel?
As mentioned above, the brain has a direct effect on the stomach. For example, think of a time where you’ve walked past a bakery filled with sweet smelling treats, or perhaps you’ve caught the aromas of your favorite restaurant preparing the dinner feast. The very thought of eating can release the stomach’s juices before the food even gets there. The connection goes both ways; your gut can also send signals to the brain as an adverse reaction to stomach or intestinal distress triggering anxiety, stress or depression.
The nerves in your digestive system are constantly speaking to your central nervous system, which ironically makes the gut like your second brain. Studies have shown that depression is interrelated to your gut health, specifically your serotonin reuptake inhibitors, that absorb the serotonin in the digestive tract significantly decreasing the amount that reaches the brain.
How To Aoid Getting A Depressed Gut
Mastering mind and body, here are a few key ingredients that can help you and your gut stay happy and healthy:
1. Feed your probiotics!
By eating a diverse range of foods, you can help promote the growth of Bifidobacteria (a fancy term for the good bacteria that live inside our gut). You should aim to include a variety of fermented foods and prebiotic foods in your diet regularly. These include:
2. Stop taking drugs! (if you can)
We all know antibiotics are good for ridding infection, but they also strip you of your good bacteria. By limiting your consumption of antibiotics (if possible) you can help save your gut’s good bacteria from an untimely death.
3. Avoid refined sugar
It’s no secret that refined sugar is no one’s friend, and it’s certainly not your gut’s! Foods and drinks loaded with refined sugar feed the bad bacteria in our gut that creates an imbalance leading to obesity and other health problems starting in the gut.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Stay positive! Given how closely the gut and the brain react, you might want to consider how you can reduce your stressors or identify and minimise triggers that might make you feel nauseated or feel intestinal pain – your gut will thank you for it!
Who knew that following your gut could make such a difference to your inner wellbeing?