Many of us might only think of our guts when we’re having some gut trouble—like some bloating after a meal, or difficulty digesting certain foods. Whether we’re aware of it or not, the truth is that the gut profoundly affects almost every area of our lives! Read on to learn more.
The Gut Microbiome: At the Heart of it All
So, how does gut health affect overall wellbeing? This seemingly simple question has practically endless answers, because your gut affects pretty much every aspect of your overall health! That being said, the key link between your gut and the rest of your body is the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome—the complex ecosystem made up of trillions of microorganisms living in your gut—is like a central hub where all the action happens. Here are a few examples:
Emotional & mental health
To start, the gut is actually a “second brain” of sorts, profoundly affecting your mood and how you feel. The way this works is via the bacteria and other microorganisms in your gut microbiome. These organisms and your brain actually send neural signals back and forth to each other along a dedicated neural pathway between your brain and gut , . This means that when your gut is out of balance, you may feel more depressed or stressed. On the flip side, a healthy gut is strongly associated with better mental and emotional health , .
The gut-brain connection affects more than just your mood! The close link between gut and brain means that an unhappy gut can lead to impaired brain function as well . Specifically, an imbalance in your gut microbiome causes inflammation that affects your whole body—including your brain . Chronic inflammation affects cognitive skills in all sorts of ways, messing with your concentration, memory, and inducing that dreaded “brain fog” . In fact, an unhealthy gut is even associated with the development of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease ! So, keeping your gut bugs happy and healthy is a crucial part of maintaining overall cognitive health.
The health of your gut and the strength of your immunity are closely linked. Over 70% of immune system tissue resides in the gut, but the connection goes much deeper , ! For instance, the gut microbiota play a key role in keeping the immune system balanced so that it can fight off pathogens without attacking the body’s own cells . Also, an imbalance in the gut microbiome can lead to all sorts of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, including IBD, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease , . In other words, a healthy, balanced microbiome is crucial for strong immunity and overall health.
Weight & metabolic health
An imbalanced gut microbiome can also affect your weight. Although the exact mechanism of how this happens is not yet fully understood, there is a clear link between the gut microbiome and metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes , . On the other hand, a thriving gut microbiome helps to regulate appetite and maintain a healthy weight .
Although it may seem obvious, it’s worth mentioning that a happy gut microbiome means a healthy gut overall. Dysbiosis—an imbalanced or damaged gut microbiome—is at the heart of most gut problems. For that reason, taking care of those gut bacteria and making sure they have everything they need to stay happy and healthy is a vital part of any long-term, effective gut health plan.
Skin health & appearance
In many ways, your skin is like a mirror of your internal health. This is especially true when it comes to the health of your gut microbiome, as the gut and skin are actually closely connected. An imbalanced or damaged gut microbiome can manifest as poorer skin health, including the development of inflammatory skin conditions , .
All this may have left you wondering: since gut health affects pretty much everything, what can you do to make sure your gut stays healthy? Luckily, there’s lots you can do! Check out our article on holistic gut health to learn more.
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- Happy face blueberries: https://pixabay.com/photos/blueberries-fresh-fruit-food-4356066/