They say we should always listen to our hearts, but we should also listen to our stomachs when it comes to good health. That’s because what happens in our gut can affect the health of our entire body. Why is that? Because 70 percent of our immune cells can be found in the gut.
There are actually more nerve cells in the overall digestive system than in the peripheral nervous system. Major neurotransmitters found in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, norepinephrine and nitric oxide are in the gut as well. Poor digestive health can lead to mood disorders and other neurological disorders.
Understanding The Gut Microbiome
Your digestive system is like a little city, with a diverse population of bacteria and other microscopic lifeforms. In fact, there are as many as 1,000 different species just of bacteria some of which can help you and some of which can harm you. We call this ecosystem in our digestive system the gut microbiome.
But that doesn’t mean you’re in danger; humans have evolved with the aid of these bacteria, and they help us in many ways we don’t even realize.
And, of course, what we eat influences the bacteria in our microbiomes, which in turn affects our health. In addition to helping to manage our immune system, gut microbes help us digest fiber, regulate mood, regulate weight, and more. Some studies have even found connections between gut health and the body’s ability to fight cancer.
Tips For Good Gut Health
The good news is that it’s relatively easy to have a healthy gut microbiome! And it all comes down to diet. It’s really true that you are what you eat! Here are a few tips to help you get started on the road to good gut health:
- Switch to a plant-based diet: We’ve discussed in the past some benefits of a plant-based diet for athletes, but really adopting this type of diet can do wonders for anyone. At least one study has found that gut bacteria produce chemicals that promote artery blockage when metabolizing red meat, whereas people with plant-based diets tend not to have this substance. Another study found that a plant-based diet appears to reduce the number of disease-causing bacteria in the gut, such as E.coli.
- At least more fruit, veggies, and whole grains: Even if you aren’t willing to give up meat entirely, eating more vegetables and whole grains can greatly increase your microbiome’s productivity. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help fuel the growth of healthy microbes.
- Avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners: We recently talked about avoiding sugar and sweeteners over the holidays, but really these are things we should avoid on a regular basis (to be sure, it’s a little easier when it’s not holiday season). Sugar and artificial sweeteners can cause inflammation, which can hamper our gut’s ability to function properly.
Want to learn more about improving your gut health? Shakthi is here to help! Our top priority is helping patients live healthier, and our specialists can create programs personalized to each patient. Schedule an appointment with our integrative medicine doctors and nutritionists and get on the path to a healthy gut!