Why should I care about my gut health?

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Hippocrates said “all disease starts in the gut” and thousands of years later we’ve started to listen. Gut health is the foundation of all health due to the way it interacts with all parts of the body. I’ll explain.

Firstly, the gut is the highway where all nutrients we eat can be absorbed into the body. Imagine watering a plant but all the water runs straight off the plant onto the concrete around the plant. It would be pointless. In order to the nurture the plant, we need the water to run into the soil to provide water which will aid growth and repair of the plant. Our bodies are exactly, the same. Having good gut health means that we have the perfect soil to absorb the nutrients that come through. Absorbing these nutrients past the gut and into the cells around will play a part in every part of health as that is the fuel for the cells to find energy, repair, and grow.

Secondly, the gut indirectly plays a role in every biochemical process in every cell in the body, on the basis that the gut is the superhighway fuelling our cells, this seems obvious. Menstrual cycle, sleep, focus, concentration, energy levels, emotions, skin, immunity, hormones, muscles, bones, tissues, stress… I could go on, but you get the idea. Every cell and every bodily process is indirectly affected by our gut health, because if our gut health is poor, we will not optimally absorb nutrients and our cells will be lacking vital nutrition.

Thirdly, the gut plays a major part on our mental and emotional health through a mechanism called the Gut-Brain-Microbiome Axis. Simply put, the brain, the gut and our microbiome (all the bacteria that live in the gut) interact and communicate together through hormones and neural pathways leading to the release of hormones. Particularly important are hormones like serotonin (our happy hormone), melatonin (sleep control), cortisol (stress control), and hormones which control hunger and satiety. The better variety of good bacteria in the gut, the better our health will be. In theory, we should be happier, sleep better, have better stress control and be able to manage hunger and how full we are better (caveat here that we don’t live in petri dishes, and happiness will not necessarily go up just because our guts are healthier although it’s certainly one place to start).

Lastly, immunity. 70% of the body’s immune cells are found in the gut in something called the GALT (gut associated lymphoid tissue). Not to get too technical but providing a happy environment for these immune cells to live in, better nutrients to fuel them will boost our body’s immune system and allow us to fight disease quickly and effectively. Something crucial to remember here is that the immune system is not just the odd cough and cold, it is our ability to fight any disease or illness from flu to cancer (again, the gut is not the only thing when it comes to illness but it is a key building block).

The gut plays a role in so much, not just the above. However, these for me are some key points which usually have a pretty strong resonance in most of our lives. Next month, I’ll be talking about how we can tell if we’re in good gut health and how we can improve it. If you can’t wait until then, you can always get in touch @thebodynatural on Instagram or rachel@thebodynatural.co.ukon email.

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