I use the word "gut" often thinking everyone knows what I mean. It has recently been brought to my attention that that isn't true, so I'm here to explain myself.
When I use the word “gut”, I’m speaking of your microbiome – the bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses, all of it – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
We have trillions of microorganisms of thousands of different species; so many that they outnumber our human cells by 10 :1 (this sounds pretty gross, doesn’t it??). I guess we should start thinking of ourselves as hosts to these bacteria since they outnumber “us”.
Most of your microbiome lives inside your intestines where they play an enormous role in many different biological functions that the body needs to perform in order for you to survive. Their most important role is establishing and developing your immune system and protecting the integrity of your gut lining.
Yup, you are kept healthy by bacteria, who knew (well, me…)
There is a symbiotic relationship between you and your gut microbes - they depend on you to be a considerate and accommodating host and to feed them what they need to survive, and they in turn are absolutely necessary for many of the processes of the health of our bodies:
· protect you from dangerous toxins you may consume from food and those in your environment
· regulate your metabolism
· absorb the food you eat
· mange your hormones levels
· create natural chemicals that help feed and protect the lining of your gut
· create gut secretions necessary for hormones
· synthesize the vitamins thiamine, folate, biotin, riboflavin and panthothenic
· make vitamin K
· make enzymes
· move food through the GI tract while protecting the integrity of the delicate gut lining
· help support your immunity
· send signals to your brain so you don’t overeat, and you feel satiated
· move nutrients through the healthy lining of the gut to the rest of the body where they’re needed
· support your immune system
· only activate an immune system when necessary
· eliminate waste from the body
They’re busy little bees, aren’t they??
Each person’s biome is unique to them. During gestation its diversity is determined by your DNA, and it morphs throughout your life, starting at birth.
Those of us born vaginally have a more diverse biome as infants then those born via C-section, this also sets us up to have a more diverse microbiome as adults. Then, as babies, those of us who were breast fed will also have a more diverse biome as we age.
Your microbiome is constantly evolving based on external and internal influences – lifestyle choices, how much stress you’re under and how you manage it, the toxins in your environment, how you move our body, and even the people you surround yourself with.
A healthy gut will have about 85% good “bugs” and 15% bad “bugs”, research has found that this is the perfect balance to keep you healthy.
Your microbiome is actually considered a supporting organ because it plays so many key roles in keeping your body running smoothly on a daily basis, it’s when this delicate balance is disturbed, the fallout can be serious - leaky gut, low-grade chronic inflammation and illness can occur.
A healthy gut is a world unto itself and keeping it that way is extremely important to both your mental, and your physical health.
Like your skin forms a barrier to the world outside of you, your gut does the same thing in your body.
It has a surface area that is 200 times larger than your skin, making it the largest surface of interaction with the outside world – yup, it’s HUGE!
It is in continuous contact with nutrients, toxins, food additives, microbes, and drugs that pass through your digestive tract on a daily basis.
Your gut is the gatekeeper that does many things that keep you alive – it is the filter for the building blocks of life, but also keeps out all the detrimental substances you may be exposed to.
In order for your gut to do all it jobs, you need to make lifestyles choices to support it. If these processes aren’t supported, it leads to inflammation that cause all of those “aging illness” we believe are “normal” but aren’t.
An imbalance can happen due to illness, eating an unhealthy diet, antibiotic and over-the-counter drug use, toxins in your environment, stress, lack of sleep, and not exercising, just to name a few.
But it’s never too late to make positive changes to your food and lifestyle choices that will have a positive effect on your biome, and therefore your health.