Digestive Health
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Researchers are coming to understand the intricate community of bacteria and other microbes that reside in the human GI tract. These microbes, called gut flora or microbiota, assist with our digestion. Increasing evidence suggests that gut microbes can affect our health in other ways also.

What is gut health?

Whether it's killer heartburn, stomach aches, diarrhea, gas, bloating, constipation, nausea, or vomiting, gastrointestinal woes may wreak havoc on your life. Many conditions, such as GERD, Crohn's disease, heartburn, and ulcerative colitis, can affect digestion and what to do about them.

Gut health is simply a term that refers to the balance of microorganisms that reside in our digestive tract. Having a healthy gut and keeping the ideal balance of these microorganisms is critical for physical and mental health, immunity, and many other functions needed for good health.

Many microbes are beneficial for good health, while others can be detrimental, particularly when they multiply.

It is no secret that the digestive system and gastrointestinal tract is important to human health. It delivers the food you eat from your mouth to the stomach, where it is converted into nutrients for energy. The waste is collected and discarded out from the body. If you do not adequately nourish yourself, you do not live a healthy life. It's not complicated.

However, some fiber-rich foods, known as high FODMAP foods, can be tough to digest. Examples include specific fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and wheat and rye products. If you have IBS, your physician may recommend a diet low in FODMAPS.

Recently, scientists have found that the GI System has an even more significant, more complicated task than previously appreciated. It has been linked to numerous facets of health that have apparently nothing to do with the digestive system, from immunity to emotional stress to chronic diseases, including cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

Scientists now know that the GI tract has trillions of microorganisms. These bacteria, yeasts, and viruses number around 100 trillion and are referred to as the gut microbiome. They not only help us process food, but that also help our bodies maintain homeostasis and total well-being. The key may lie in the microbiome -the makeup of bacteria and other microorganisms in the stomach and intestines, or, informally, the gut.

Researchers are coming to understand the intricate community of bacteria and other microbes that reside in the human GI tract. These microbes, called gut flora or microbiota, assist with our digestion. Increasing evidence suggests that gut microbes can affect our health in other ways also.

Research on the microbiome remains in its infancy. But studies have found that specific environments, foods, and behaviors can affect gut health for better or worse. This is why that matters and everything you can do to improve yours.


See: Yoga For Digestion & Gut Health

Why is gut health important?

Everybody's microbiome is different and unique, but there are a few generalities about what is healthy and what is not. In healthy people, there's a diverse array of organisms. The majority of the microorganisms are bacteria, but there are viruses, fungi, and other microbes too. In an unhealthy person, there is not as much diversity, and there appears to be a growth of bacteria we correlate with disease.

Scientists do not know for sure which comes first, meaning if bacteria affect disease risk or if the existing disease affects gut bacteria. They still lack particular proof of how this link works, but they know it's there.

The good bacteria fight inflammation, while the harmful bacteria promote it. After the gut functions as it should, both of these types keep each other in check. But if the delicate balance becomes skewed, inflammatory bacteria can take over - and they could produce metabolites that pass through the intestine lining and into the bloodstream, spreading the inflammation into other areas of the body.

Specific kinds of bacteria in the gut can lead to additional conditions also. Studies in both animals and people have linked some germs to lower immune function, others to a higher risk of allergies and asthma, and others to chronic ailments such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, and some cancers.

See: How to heal leaky gut naturally

How can you improve gut health?

It is possible to enhance healthy gut microbiomes and improve general health.

1. Avoid taking antibiotics if not absolutely needed

Antibiotics may be necessary to fight bacterial infections, but overuse is a substantial public health concern that may cause antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics can also be damaging to the gut microbiota and immunity, with some study reporting that six weeks after their use, the intestine still lacks many species of beneficial bacteria.

Physicians in the US prescribe around 30 percent of antibiotics unnecessarily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC recommends that individuals discuss antibiotics and other options with their physician before use.

2. Eat less sugar and sweeteners

Eating Lots of sugar or artificial sweeteners may cause gut dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of gut microbes.

The standard Western diet high in fat and sugar negatively impacts the gut microbiome. Then, this may influence the mind and your behavior. The artificial sweetener (Aspartame) is known to increase the amount of some bacterial strains which are linked with a metabolic disorder.

 Metabolic syndrome is a group of medical conditions that tend to occur together, increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes type 2, and stroke. These include high blood pressure, high blood glucose, extra body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels.  Research has also suggested that human use of artificial sweeteners can negatively affect blood glucose levels because of their effects on gut flora. It follows that artificial sweeteners can increase blood glucose despite not really being sugar.

3. Reduce stress

Sleep deprivation can negatively impact gut health. Managing high-stress levels is vital for many aspects of health. Gut health is one of them. In humans, various stressors can negatively impact gut health, such as emotional stress, lack of sleep, disruption of the circadian rhythm, and even extreme heat, cold, or sound.

Some stress management techniques include yoga, swimming, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and massage relaxation. Eating a healthy diet, managing stress levels, exercising, and getting good sleep may also reduce the anxiety of your level.

4. Take probiotics and fermented foods

Kimchi: It's a famous Korean side dish, and is made of salted and fermented vegetables, including cabbage and radish. It not only adds a tasty zing to your meal but may help improve gut health.

Some people decide to take probiotic supplements to boost the beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, in the gut. Some research has indicated that taking probiotics can support a healthy gut microbiome, and it might prevent gut inflammation and other intestinal issues. Consuming fermented foods regularly that are a natural source of probiotics may deliver a healthy gut. Include kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, fermented vegetables, & kefir in your diet.

5. Eat prebiotic fiber

Probiotics feed nondigestible carbohydrates called prebiotics. This procedure promotes beneficial bacteria to multiply in the gut. You might wish to include more of these prebiotic-rich foods in your diet for a healthy gut such as whole grains, bananas, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, chicory, and onions.

6. Exercise regularly

Regularly exercising leads to good heart health and weight loss or weight maintenance. Studies have also suggested that it might even improve gut health, which can, in turn, help control obesity.

Exercising may increase gut bacteria species diversity. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week, together with muscle-strengthening actions on two or more days per week.

7. Get enough sleep

Obtaining enough good-quality sleep may improve mood, cognition, and gut health. Irregular sleep habits and disturbed sleep may have adverse outcomes for gut flora, which might increase the risk of inflammatory problems. Developing good sleep habits is possible by a set routine such as going to bed and getting up at precisely the exact same time every day. Adults should get about 8 hours of sleep each night.

8. Use different cleaning products

Toxins in some cleaning products can also affect gut health. Individuals who used disinfectant cleaning products are twice as likely to have higher levels of gut microbes associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

9. Avoid smoking

Smoking is well known for its adverse impact on the health of your heart and lungs. You may not realize that it also affects gut health and dramatically increases cancer risk. Smoking affects the intestinal flora by raising potentially harmful germs and decreasing the effectiveness of the good ones. This may increase the risk of digestive conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

10. Eat a vegetarian diet

By eating a vegetarian diet, someone may improve their gut health. Studies have shown a significant difference between the gut microbiomes of vegetarians and those of people who consume meat. A vegetarian diet can improve gut health because of the high amounts of prebiotic fiber it contains.

11. Some studies have been done to find how regular consumption of particular foods such as mangoes, cherries, cranberries, broccoli, walnuts, and leafy greens seem to benefit the gut. But rather than narrowing your choices to these items, it is more important to look at what they and other foods have in common. They're high in fiber and nutrients and low in saturated fats and processed ingredients.

See: Probiotics benefits for digestive health

Science & Research

In those trillions of gut bacteria are about 1,000 distinct species, represented by some 5,000 different bacterial strains. Everybody's gut microbiota is unique, but there are particular mixtures and collections of bacteria that are found in healthy people. The main things which affect your personal microbial mixture are age, diet, environment, genes, and drugs (especially exposure to antibiotics, which can deplete gut bacteria). Your gut microbiota plays many roles. It metabolizes nutrients from food and specific medicines, serves as a protective barrier against intestinal infections, and produces vitamin K, which can help make blood-clotting proteins.

However, the gut microbiota can do much more. Most research has involved just preliminary animal studies; however, initial findings suggest gut bacteria could be the key to preventing or treating some ailments. Since the gut microbiota is so complicated, it's hard to pinpoint specific bacteria as the most helpful.

 Here's a summary of the latest findings:

a) Immune system. In a November 5, 2015 study published online by Science, University of Chicago, researchers found that introducing a specific bacterial strain to the digestive tracts of mice with melanoma prompted their immune systems to attack tumor cells. The gains were similar to treatment with anti-cancer medications called checkpoint inhibitors.

b) Rheumatoid arthritis. Two studies in the Mayo Clinic suggest gut bacteria may predict susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as well as provide potential therapy. An April 21, 2016 study published online by Genome Medicine looked for a biomarker of the disease. Researchers could isolate certain bacteria which are high in RA patients, but low in healthy people. Another June 23, 2016 study published online, by Arthritis & Rheumatology, found that mice who were given the bacterium Prevotella histicola had fewer severe symptoms and inflammatory conditions associated with RA.

c) Cancer Care. A study published online on April 13, 2016, by PLOS ONE provided some evidence that a specific strain of this bacterium Lactobacillus johnsonii may protect against some cancers. Researchers gave mice a mutation that's associated with a high incidence of leukemia, lymphomas, and other cancers. When treated with the bacterium, the mice developed lymphoma only half as fast compared with a control group.

d) Heart disease. Research from the February 2016 Journal of Applied Microbiology discovered that the bacterial strain Akkermansia muciniphila could avoid inflammation that contributes to fatty plaque buildup in arteries. Scientists believe that the effect was because of protein that blocks communication between cells from the inner lining of the gut. Because of this, fewer toxins from a poor diet could pass into the blood, which in turn decreased inflammation.

See: Immune boosting foods

Summary

Keeping a healthy gut contributes to better overall health and immune function. By making appropriate lifestyle and dietary changes, individuals can change the diversity and quantity of microbes in their gut for the better. Positive changes someone can make include a fiber-rich vegetarian diet, probiotics, and avoiding the casual use of antibiotics and disinfectants. Other lifestyle changes a person can make include relaxing, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.


See: Rheumatoid Arthritis And Gut Bacteria

References

1. Hemarajata, P., & Versalovic, J. (2013). Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: Mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3539293/

2. Suez, J., et al. (2014). Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota [Abstract]. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25231862

3. Tun, M. H., et al. (2018). Postnatal exposure to household disinfectants, infant gut microbiota and subsequent risk of overweight in children. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6141245/

4. Valdes, A. M., et al. (2018). Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2179

5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-gut-bacteria-improve-your-health

6. David, L. A., et al. (2014). Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3957428/

7. De la Cuesta-Zuluaga, J., et al. (2018). Gut microbiota is associated with obesity and cardiometabolic disease in a population in the midst of Westernization. nature.com/articles/s41598-018-29687-x

8. Are you getting enough sleep? (2019). cdc.gov/features/sleep/index.html

9. Be antibiotics aware: Smart use, best care. (2018). cdc.gov/features/antibioticuse/index.html

10. Clarke, S. F., et al. (2014). Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity. gut.bmj.com/content/63/12/1913.long

11. Dudek-Wicher, R. K., et al. (2018). The influence of antibiotics and dietary components on gut microbiota. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6040098/

12. Galley, J. D., et al. (2014). Exposure to a social stressor disrupts the community structure of the colonic mucosa-associated microbiota. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4105248/

13. Karl, J. P., et al. (2018). Effects of psychological, environmental and physical stressors on the gut microbiota. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6143810/

14. Kim, M. S., et al. (2013). Strict vegetarian diet improves the risk factors associated with metabolic diseases by modulating gut microbiota and reducing intestinal inflammation [Abstract]. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24115628

15. Palleja, A., et al. (2018). Recovery of gut microbiota of healthy adults following antibiotic exposure. nature.com/articles/s41564-018-0257-9

16. Palmnäs, M. S. A., et al. (2014). Low-dose aspartame consumption differentially affects gut microbiota-host metabolic interactions in the diet-induced obese rat. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4197030/

17. Petriz, B. A., et al. (2014). Exercise induction of gut microbiota modifications in obese, non-obese and hypertensive rats. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082611/

18. Piercy, K. L., et al. (2018). The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans [Abstract]. jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2712935

See: Astragalus root or huang qi to boost immunity

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