The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Now, centuries later, it turns out Hippocrates was right. Doctors, scientists, and researchers alike are starting to realize just how powerful the gut truly is. As they uncover more about how this vital organ affects overall health, they are starting to realize how unhealthy most people actually are. After reading this, you may be surprised too!
The Bacteria Inside Of Us
Our gut is loaded with bacteria. In fact, researchers estimate that we have 100 trillion bacteria living inside of us. Yes, that’s trillion with a “t.” It may be hard to believe, but that’s 10x more bacterial cells than we have human cells. So, if you think about it, we are actually more bacteria than we are human!
The word “bacteria” may frighten you at first. After all, we are groomed into viewing “bacteria” as a bad thing. We want to avoid it like the plaque. I mean, we buy cleaning products specifically designed to get rid of bacteria. While you definitely want to continue cleaning off your countertops and toilet bowls, gut bacteria is actually a good thing.
Out of the 100 trillion bacteria inside of us, there are hundreds of different species. This diverse bacteria is a delicate ecosystem commonly referred to as the microbiome. It’s that microbiome that helps keep us strong and healthy.
Not all of our gut bacteria is good. Don’t worry … it’s perfectly normal! In order for our bodies to function properly, doctors say we should have about 80% good bacteria and 20% bad bacteria. Throughout this article, you will see me use the words “balanced” and “unbalanced.” When I use these terms, remember the 80/20 rule.
Have you ever seen a commercial for probiotics? They’re pretty popular right now. Well, probiotics are good, living bacteria. Eating probiotic-rich foods and taking a daily probiotic supplement are two ways we can put more good bacteria into our bodies. I’ll talk more about probiotics below. First, let’s take a look at the five ways our gut affects our overall health.
This one may seem pretty obvious. If you have a healthy digestive tract, you can expect to have good digestion. Maintaining a balanced gut bacteria is key for regular bowel movements.
Today, though, the number of people who suffer from digestive issues is staggering. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder that affects between 25-45 million Americans. Then there’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This severe digestive disease affects more than 1.4 million Americans.
For people with digestive issues, doctors have found unbalanced gut bacteria plays a large role. Proof of that lies in fecal transplants. A fecal transplant is a procedure where stool is taken from a healthy donor and placed into an ill patient’s colon. It may sound gross. Ok … it does sound gross. But the point of the procedure is to repopulate the ill patient’s gut with healthy bacteria. According to a study published in the journal of Gastroenterology Hepatology, fecal transplants have a 93 percent success rate in curing and/or healing digestive issues.
Your gut is very closely linked to your immune system. In fact, approximately 80% of your immune system is located in your gut. So if your gut bacteria is properly balanced then your immune system will most likely function properly and help ward off illnesses.
Are you one of those people who seems to always get sick, though? You know who you are. I’m talking about the type of person who can literally be across the room from someone who sneezes and the next day you’ll have a runny nose. If that sounds like you, chances are your gut bacteria is unbalanced. It’s extremely easy to kill your good bacteria. If bad bacteria take over, your immune system will weaken. So if you want to stay clear of illness, you need to keep your gut in tip-top shape.
* Find out how you are killing your good gut bacteria below!
3) Mood/ Mental Health
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “I have a gut feeling about that.” But do you really know why people use that expression?
The gut is often referred to as “the second brain.” That’s because embedded in your intestinal wall are 500 million neurons that make up your enteric nervous system (ENS). Your ENS plays an important role in the production of 30 different neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are chemicals responsible for regulating mood.
In multiple case studies with mice, researchers were able to completely alter the mice’s behavior by changing their gut bacteria. The mice that had balanced gut bacteria were less anxious, more adventurous, and seemed to be in a better mood. Researchers at UCLA wanted to find out if the same reaction would happen in humans.
In their study, UCLA researchers gave healthy women a fermented milk beverage. Some women were given milk that had a probiotic supplement in it. Other women were given milk without probiotics. Next, researchers scanned their brains while showing them photos of people with emotional facial expressions. They found the two groups of women had different reactions. The women who were given the probiotics showed a reduced brain response, meaning they weren’t as emotional when viewing emotional expressions.
The gut is believed to affect more than mood, though. Some researchers believe that late-onset autism and other brain disorders could also be linked with poor gut health. A study based out of Arizona State University found children with autism had a less diverse microbiome than children who don’t have autism. The gut’s possible tie to autism and other brain disorders is still being researched.
Do you eat healthy and workout, yet still struggle to lose weight? Have you ever wondered why your skinny friend who seems to be able to eat anything and everything can still fit into her size 2 jeans? This reason may lie in your gut bacteria.
There’s a growing amount of research that suggests your gut bacteria actually influences food cravings, metabolism, and how many calories your body absorbs from the food you eat.
A number of studies show that a diverse gut microbiome is key to staying lean. A 2013 study found that thin people have 70 percent more gut bacteria than people who are overweight.
Getting even more in depth, researchers found that the species of bacteria are different in people who are obese compared to those who are slim. Dr. Joseph Mercola highlighted a study where researchers found obese individuals to have about 20 percent more of a bacteria strain called firmicutes. Firmicutes help the body pull calories from complex sugars and turn those calories into fat. When firmicutes microbes were transplanted into normal-weight mice, researchers noticed those mice started gaining twice as much fat.
In that same study, researchers also discovered that lean people have approximately 90 percent more of a bacteria strain called bacteroidetes. Bacteroidetes are believed to help break down starches and fibers into shorter molecules that the body can use as energy.
Studies show firmicutes and bacteroidetes are not the only bacteria strains that affect your weight. The point here is – if you want to drop a dress size, you should focus on improving your gut health!
If you dream of blemish-free skin you may want to focus on improving your gut health. I’m not joking! I know it sounds far-fetched at first, but there’s a growing amount of research that links poor gut health to skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, and eczema.
While researchers are still studying the impact of gut bacteria and skin, what they have found so far is quite telling.
One study found that when acne patients drank a probiotic-rich fermented milk beverage, they’re acne lesions started to show signs of healing.
Then there was a study published in 2008 that found babies who didn’t have a wide variety of gut bacteria at just one week old were more likely to develop eczema by 18 months old. Just one year later, another study found children who ingested probiotics daily were 58 percent less likely to develop eczema. According to doctors, the number of eczema cases has been on the rise for years. One theory for the increase is that kids aren’t being exposed to as much bacteria as they once were.
You may wonder how your gut could possibly affect your skin. Think about it this way — when your gut is filled with too much bad bacteria, the pores in your digestive tract widen. This allows harmful toxins to essentially “leak” into your bloodstream (it’s called Leaky Gut Syndrome). When someone suffers from Leaky Gut, their body detects invaders and attacks. This causes inflammation. Did you know acne and rosacea are inflammatory conditions?
There’s One Problem …
We are killing our good bacteria!
Gut bacteria isn’t made of titanium. The “good guys” can easily be attacked and killed. If that happens, bad bacteria will take over and our health in-turn will suffer. Since our gut microbiome is completely influenced by everything we do, we have the power to improve or destroy our own health.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you want to be healthy and live a long life. To do that, you should avoid the following gut killers:
The word antibiotics means “anti-life” or “against-life.” While there are instances where you will need to take antibiotics, they should always be viewed as a last resort. Nowadays doctors are quick to whip out their prescription pads and order a round of antibiotics. If you can get rid of an infection or illness naturally, though, then you should definitely try that first. It may be hard to believe, but if you’ve had even one dose of antibiotics in your lifetime, then your gut microbiome can be permanently altered.
2) Sugar/ Processed Foods
Eating an abundance of sugar and processed foods wreaks havoc on the body. This type of food can act as fertilizer for bad bacteria and yeast.
3) GMOs, Pesticides & Chemicals
Since GMOs, pesticides and chemicals are unnatural, the gut perceives them as invaders. To avoid these toxins, go organic!
Gluten is another unnatural substance that the gut perceives as an invader. When we eat gluten our digestive tract kicks into overdrive, defending the body. This toxic substance not only kills off good gut bacteria, but it can cause inflammation, bloating and indigestion.
5) Tap Water
Unless you are drinking well water, tap water is full of excess amounts of chlorine and fluoride that can kill off the good bacteria in your body.
Stress takes a major toll on the body and your gut is no exception. When stress hormones are released into the body, good bacteria are attacked and killed. In one study by Ohio State University, researchers placed an aggressive mouse into a cage of docile mice. They then compared the gut bacteria of the stressed-out mice to a group of calm mice. They found the stressed mice had lower amounts of a particular (important) bacteria strain.
The 17 Warning Signs Of An Unhealthy Gut
- Frequent colds
- Autoimmune diseases
- Chronic fatigue
- Food allergies
- Acid reflux
- Weight fluctuation
- Thyroid disease
- Joint pain
- White-coated tongue
How To Improve Your Gut Health
Along with avoiding the 6 gut-killers I just mentioned above, you definitely want to work probiotics into your daily routine. As I briefly mentioned earlier, probiotics are the good guys. They are living bacteria that are found naturally in certain foods. You can also take a daily probiotic supplement!
Find out how to incorporate more probiotic-rich foods into your diet:
If you weren’t taking notes during the video, here is a list of probiotic-rich foods you should add to your grocery list:
- Live-cultured yogurt
- Miso (miso soup)
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Dark Chocolate
If by chance you don’t care for the taste of sour, fermented foods, you can also take a daily probiotic supplement. Probiotic supplements are considered safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Additionally, there are probiotic supplements on the market designed specifically for kids. As you just found out, there are benefits to giving your child probiotics starting from a young age.
As with anything, it’s always best to talk to your doctor before starting a probiotic supplement. Since all probiotic supplements contain different bacteria strains that benefit various functions of the body, your doctor may even be able to recommend the perfect brand for you.