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Why is Gut Health Important?

The gut refers to the gastrointestinal (GI) system. This includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, colon, and rectum.  When we talk about gut health, we are referring to the bacteria in the microbiome. What is microbiome? It is a collection of all microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other genes, that naturally live on our bodies and inside of us. Think of the microbiome as the environment in the large intestine. There are trillions of bacteria that live there!

The microbiome has both good and bad bacteria known as gut flora. Good bacteria feeds on fiber in our diets. The bad bacteria feed on simple sugars and processed foods. Our body takes in all these microorganisms, digests them and then produces other compounds that our body can use. Some of these bacteria are harmful to our health, while others are beneficial, but they both need to be there.

The health of your GI systems is determined by the levels and types of bacteria in your digestive/intestinal tract. When you eat, your GI tract digests food, and breaks it down to the most basic parts. The valuable nutrients are absorbed through the wall of the GI tract so that they can be transported into the bloodstream. In order for this to happen efficiently, the gut uses nerves, bacteria, and hormones.

There are over 70 million Americans who have digestive diseases including gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Additionally, an unhealthy gut can show up as chronic pain, depression, anxiety, weight loss, migraines, diabetes, insomnia, inflammation, and fatigue.

Gut health can have a significant impact on overall health; therefore, it is important to keep the gut healthy? Some ways to improve gut health include eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables because they are a good source of fiber which is the main fuel for good bacteria. Eat more nuts, seeds, and legumes because they are also a great source of fiber. Barley, brown, rice, bulgur, millet, oats, quinoa, whole wheat breads and cereals are whole grains that are another great source of fiber.

Some foods that help to reduce gut inflammation and stimulate the gut’s natural immune systems are prebiotics such as almonds, apples, bananas, broccoli, flax seeds, garlic, and onions. Also, probiotics fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, and yogurt boost the population of good gut bacteria.

Try making some small changes in your diet. Think about what you are eating every day. Consider keep a food journal to identify areas of dietary change.