The Importance of Gut Health
The microbiome is a collective term for the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi found throughout our bodies. While some of these are responsible for disease, many more are vital to the proper functionality of the brain, immune system, heart, weight, digestion, and more. A large portion of these exist in our intestines, specifically in a “pocket” in the large intestine called the cecum. This “pocket” is referred to as the gut microbiome and includes over 2,000 different species of bacteria alone.
Many are surprised to know that the human body is made up of approximately 40 trillion bacterial cells, but only 30 trillion human cells! These 40 trillion bacteria weigh as much as your brain (2-5 pounds) and essentially function as an extra organ of the body by aiding in numerous bodily functions. Your gut microbiome is an integral part of your health, and without it, it would be difficult to survive.
If this integral system of microbes is out of balance, digestive disorders can ensue. Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, C. difficile infection, leaky gut syndrome, and even cancer are related to overgrowth of harmful microbes or underproduction of good bacteria.
While a common practice in the past was to treat the bad bacteria with antibiotics, research has found that the overuse of antibiotics is actually more harmful to gut health because it adds to the imbalance of good and bad bacteria. Unfortunately, antibiotics aren’t smart enough to know what’s good bacteria and what’s harmful, so it eliminates both, leading to an upheaval in your large intestine and throughout your body.
Instead, we believe that encouraging good bacteria to grow and creating a healthy environment for them to thrive is the best solution to treating digestive disorders. Options that have been shown to improve gut health include:
- Consuming probiotics and prebiotic-rich foods
- Eating more fermented foods
- Limiting sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Eating whole grains
- Consuming a plant-centered diet
- Eating foods rich in polyphenols
- Limiting the use of disinfectant cleaning products
- Reducing stress
- Exercising regularly
- Getting enough sleep