How is the Gut Microbiome Important for our Health?

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Riin Rehemaa
Social Media & Community Manager

Trillions of bacteria live in your gut daily, with 99% of them located in your digestive tract, primarily in your large intestines. These bacteria have a profound impact on various aspects of your health. They influence digestion, nutrient absorption, circadian rhythms, vitamin production, mental health, and even skin conditions. The gut is often referred to as the “second control center” for our brain and body, emphasizing the significance of maintaining its health on a daily basis.

What is a microbiome?

A microbiome refers to the collection of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that reside in a specific area of the body. For example, we can talk about the microbiome of the skin, nasal cavity, genital tract, and so on. In the case of the gut, the microbiome consists of the viruses, bacteria, and fungi that inhabit the intestinal tract. Each person’s gut microbiome is unique, similar to a fingerprint, and even identical twins have distinct gut microbiomes. Various factors, such as living environment, pets, diet, medications, drinks, alcohol, lifestyle, and exercise, can influence the composition of the gut microbiome.

What does the gut microbiome affect and how can I take care of it?

The gut microbiome exerts its influence on the entire body, from head to toe. Gut bacteria play a role in producing vitamins B and K, and they also influence the immune system, with around 70% of our immune cells residing in the gut. When the balance of gut bacteria is disrupted, leading to the proliferation of inflammatory bacteria, it can result in illness, fatigue, and weakness. Inflammation in the gut, if left untreated, can lead to complications such as abdominal pain, discomfort, intestinal ulcers, or even cancer.

Moreover, bacterial genes can impact our circadian rhythms. If someone experiences chronic insomnia or daily fatigue, an imbalanced microbiome may be a contributing factor. The gut and brain are connected through the vagus nerve, forming the brain-gut axis. Expressions like “butterflies in the stomach” or “listen to your gut feeling” have a basis in reality, as our gut sends signals to the brain. Surprisingly, approximately 90% of the “happy hormone” serotonin is synthesized in the gut, not the brain as commonly assumed. Research has also shown a correlation between anxiety, depression, and digestive problems, indicating that people with healthy digestion generally experience fewer mental health issues.

Treating your gut microbiome as a dear and supportive friend, for whom you are willing to do anything, is crucial for overall health and well-being.

anettvetik
Anett Vetik
MSc, Elsavie

To maintain gut health, daily care is essential. Given that an average person consumes 2-3 kg of food per day, totaling almost a ton per year, it is evident that the daily diet significantly impacts the stomach. Repairing or reversing damage to the gut is challenging, so it is crucial to maintain a balanced and healthy diet. A useful guideline is the 80/20 principle, where 80% of the diet consists of plant-based and nutritious foods, while the remaining 20% can include indulgences such as sweets, alcohol, over-processed, and fatty foods.

Additionally, excessive use of drugs and antibiotics can disrupt the gut microbiome by destroying beneficial bacteria. Therefore, it is advisable to use them judiciously and only when necessary. Engaging in physical activity, sports, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, getting sufficient sleep, and managing stress levels positively affect the gut microbiome.

In summary, treating your gut microbiome as a dear and supportive friend, for whom you are willing to do anything, is crucial for overall health and well-being.

What gut symptoms should I notice to determine if something is wrong?

As discussed previously, the gut microbiome affects our entire health. It cannot be the case that the microbiome is out of order, but it does not show up anywhere in the rest of the person’s health.

The first symptoms are, of course, abdominal symptoms:

  • pain,
  • cramps,
  • bloating,
  • gas,
  • constipation,
  • diarrhea
  • blood and mucus in the stool,
  • irregular visits to the toilet,
  • nausea and vomiting.

These are the first signs that something is wrong with our digestion.

However, people often become accustomed to these problems and consider them a normal part of life, neglecting to address them. This, in turn, can lead to more severe complications such as inflammation, weakened immune system with frequent illness, fatigue after eating or waking up, weakness, sleep disturbances, skin rashes, allergies, heart problems, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels.

Initially, these symptoms may not appear directly related to gut bacteria, but an imbalanced gut microbiome can contribute to the development of various health issues over time. Therefore, if you experience persistent health problems and medical tests come back negative, it is advisable to investigate and evaluate your gut health more closely.

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