Happy Gut, Happy Mind—Why Gut Health Matters

Happy Gut, Happy Mind—Why Gut Health Matters

Learning about the digestive system in school was simple enough: once you eat food, your stomach digests it and then passes it along through the rest of your system to get rid of the leftover gunk. As it turns out, your gut isn’t quite that simple!

Every person has a gut microbiome, which is a system of microorganisms that live in the intestines. The species of bacteria that dwell within it are usually great for the body, but too much of the “bad” bacteria may cause harm. Keep reading to learn more about the role that the microbiome plays in your overall health.

What does a healthy vs. unhealthy gut microbiome look like?

Since your microbiome stimulates your immune system, having “good” microbiota plays a large part of keeping you healthy, and a healthy gut even offers you some extra protection if you happened to consume contaminated food or water. The gut can be classified as unhealthy when the microbiome’s balance is off and may cause issues such as skin irritation, stomach aches and lead to autoimmune diseases. Additionally, a majority of the body’s serotonin is in the gut, so when your gut is unhappy, you probably are, too.

Your gut health impacts your entire body.

An article on Harvard’s School of Public Health website calls the microbiome a “supporting organ” since it plays a major part in many day-to-day bodily functions. Poor gut health could cause your body to struggle to dispel toxins that would normally be discarded within waste, which may lead to symptoms like chronic fatigue and inflammation. Finding good balance in the microbiome also benefits inter-organ communication—all organs depend on the immune support that the gut provides.

Believe it or not, gut health especially affects the brain.

A study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation found evidence that ever-changing, poor gut health may influence cognitive dysfunction and eventually lead to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Taking care of your gut is taking care of your mind, and vice versa, as some symptoms of stress have direct effects on the gut. Ever had a stressful experience where you felt your stomach tie in knots? Quite literally, that may have been gut wrenching for you!

So, what are the best actions to take for your gut health?

Taking a probiotic is perhaps one of the easiest ways to increase the “good” bacteria in your body. If you need to change your diet, opt for these foods that promote beneficial bacteria growth: beans, oats, berries, leeks, garlic, onions and fermented foods like yogurt, miso, sauerkraut or kimchi. Getting your full 8 hours of sleep and practicing mental wellness helps too—try yoga, meditation or spending time with your family or a furry friend. Your gut can’t heal overnight, but it won’t take a turn for the worse overnight either. Consistency and perseverance will be the key to helping your microbiome thrive.

Through a nutrient-rich diet, patience and tending to your overall well-being, you may begin to see a change in your overall health as your healthy gut kicks the immune system into gear. If you enjoy eating fried food and sugary snacks, continue to enjoy these in moderation—there is gut health balance for a reason, and life’s too short to not have a treat!

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