What Is Gut Health?
The gastrointestinal tract is vital to human health: It transports meals from the mouth into the stomach, converts them into absorbable nutrients and stored energy, and shuttles waste from the body. If you do not nourish yourself properly, you do not live. But in the past few decades, scientists have found that the GI system has a much larger, more complicated task than previously appreciated. It has been linked to numerous health facets that have nothing to do with digestion, from resistance to psychological stress to chronic diseases, such as cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
The GI tract has trillions of bacteria that do not just help us process food, but that also help our bodies maintain total well-being. The key, experts say, may lie in the microbiome--the makeup of bacteria and other microorganisms in the gut and intestines, or, informally, the gut.
Studies have discovered 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. Research on the microbiome remains in its infancy.
Why is gut health important?
Everybody's microbiome is exceptional, but some generalities are about what is healthy and what is not. In healthy people, there's a diverse array of organisms. (Most of these organisms are bacteria, but there are viruses, fungi, and other germs.) In an unhealthy person, there's not as much diversity, and there appears to be a growth of germs we correlate with disease." Scientists do not know which comes first--if bacteria affect disease risk or if the existing disease affects gut bacteria.
Some bacteria struggle with inflammation, while others promote it. After the gut works as it should, both of these types keep each other in check. But if the delicate balance becomes burst, inflammatory bacteria can take over--and they could produce metabolites that pass through the intestine lining and into the bloodstream, spreading the redness into other areas of the body. Specific kinds of bacteria in the gut may result in other conditions also. Studies in both animals and people have linked some germs to lower immune function. Other studies have found links to a higher risk of asthma, allergies, and to chronic ailments such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Gut health has been associated with stress and anxiety and to neurological conditions like dementia and schizophrenia. The makeup of gut bacteria also fluctuates between lean and obese men and women, suggesting that it might play a role in causing obesity in the first location.
What influences gut health?
The food that you eat plays a part in your gut's bacterial makeup, but so do lots of different factors, including the nature of your arrival. Breastfeeding has also been shown to boost beneficial gut bacteria. The environment you grow up in things also. More exposure to bacteria and germs, within reason, can strengthen our microbiome. Emotional stress may also affect gut bacteria. Researchers refer to the"gut-brain axis," a pathway whereby signals from the intestine can affect neurotransmitters in the brain and vice versa. Research is still early, but an individual's microbiome and mental state seem to have the ability to influence each other to some extent.
There's also drug use, such as over-the-counter painkillers and medications used to treat acid reflux, diabetes, and psychiatric conditions, have been connected to microbiome changes. But the best-known gut-altering medications are antibiotics: though they are prescribed to kill dangerous bacteria, they can also wipe out bacteria of all types.
Can you tell if you have gut health problems?
After the microbiome is thrown out of balance for any reason, it is often easy to tell. Bloating, gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, or nausea are pretty direct indicators that something in the gut is not functioning as it should. The imbalances often fix themselves after a brief time, but they may need a medical diagnosis and therapy if they become chronic. Gastroenterologists can test for certain conditions linked to the microbiome, like an overgrowth of certain bacteria. More and more, doctors are discovering gut bacteria irregularities that don't cause immediate symptoms--not gastrointestinal ones.
Functional medicine & the gut microbiome
The unbelievable complexity of the gut and its importance to our general health is a topic of growing research in the health care community. Numerous studies in the last two decades have shown links between bowel health and mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin ailments, and cancer. Previously, our digestive system was considered a relatively "easy" body system, comprised basically of a long tubing for our food to pass through, be consumed, and then excreted. The expression"gut microbiome" refers specifically to the microorganisms living in your intestines. An individual has about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria in their digestive tract. When some microorganisms are detrimental to our health, many are incredibly beneficial and even essential to a healthy body. Having a vast array of these good bacteria in your gut can improve your immune system function, improve symptoms of depression, help fight obesity, and provide numerous other benefits.
Signs of an unhealthy gut
Many facets of contemporary life, such as high-stress levels, too little sleep, ingestion of processed and high-sugar foods, and taking antibiotics, may damage our gut microbiome. This, in turn, may influence other facets of our health, like the brain, skin, weight, hormone levels, heart, immune system, ability to absorb nutrients, as well as the growth of cancer.
There are a variety of common signs of ways an unhealthy gut might manifest itself:
- Autoimmune conditions: Medical researchers are always finding new evidence of the effect of the intestine on the immune system. It is believed that an unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and change the correct functioning of the immune system. This may result in autoimmune diseases, in which the body attacks itself instead of damaging invaders.
- Food intolerances: Food intolerances would be caused by difficulty digesting certain foods (that is different from a food allergy caused by an immune system response to particular foods). It is believed that food intolerances may be due to the low quality of bacteria in the gut. This may result in difficulty digesting the cause foods and unpleasant symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea. There's some evidence that food allergies might also be related to your gut health.
- High-sugar diet: A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can reduce the number of good bacteria in your gut. This imbalance may cause increased sugar cravings, which can harm your gut still farther. High levels of refined sugars, especially high-fructose corn syrup, have been connected to increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation may be the precursor to numerous ailments and even cancers.
- Sleep disturbances: An unhealthy gut can affect sleep disturbances like insomnia or inadequate sleep and cause chronic fatigue. Most of the serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced by your body in the gut. So gut damage can adversely affect your ability to sleep well. Some sleep disturbances also have been linked to the risk for fibromyalgia.
- Upset stomach: Stomach disturbances like bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn may all be signs of an unhealthy gut. A balanced gut will have an easier time processing food and removing waste.
- Sudden weight changes
Losing or gaining weight without making changes to your diet or exercise habits might be a symptom of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can hurt your body's ability to absorb nutrients, store fat, or regulate blood sugar. Weight loss may be due to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), while weight reduction may be brought on by insulin resistance or the impulse to overeat because of decreased nutrient absorption.
- Skin irritation
Skin conditions like eczema might be associated with a damaged gut. Due to food allergies or poor diet, inflammation in the gut can cause raised"leaking" of particular proteins out to the body, which may subsequently irritate skin and cause conditions like eczema.
Ayurvedic view of gut health
Ayurveda views our digestive system and its capacity to metabolize different foods (Agni in Sanskrit) is an integral factor necessary for tissue nourishment and repair and encouraging a correctly developed immunity function. The procedure for Agni/digestive fire acting upon food causing the formation of nutrients/by goods and following building up of body cells is called "dhatu parinama." This tissue-building practice helps us understand the end product of proper digestion isn't nourished tissues alone but powerful resistance to illness and quicker tissue repair. Therefore any chronic illness with related digestive symptoms can't be effectively treated without damaging the digestive system.
Gut-Brain link: Recent studies to comprehend the nervous system, which regulates our digestive functions and its connection and influence on the mind and emotions, have led to a whole new human anatomy branch known as the enteric nervous system. An imbalance caused by Air & Space components' level will have an impact on thought, emotions, sleep, joints and bones, and the nervous system. This may be due to a combination of factors such as stress, poor diet, weak digestion, and disturbed sleep. Accumulation of Vata imbalance within an elongated period can lead to a very sensitive gut with symptoms similar to a common digestive disorder known as irritable bowel syndrome.
The remedy for Irritable bowel in Ayurveda entails a holistic approach addressing the Vata Imbalance. This includes an easy to digest diet chiefly including just cooked meals and warming spices. Spices like asafoetida and Ajwain are suggested to be used in cooking or tea to avoid bloatedness and improve digestion. Additionally, it will include addressing the true causative factors behind the stress and sleep difficulties like breathing exercises and meditation. Topical application of castor oil and hot fomentation over the stomach can be an effective treatment to calm the sensitive enteric nervous system.
Acupuncture and Gut Health
Before the notion of needles, which makes you run away in panic, or just skip this guide, consider this: an acupuncture needle is solely about the thick hair diameter, so acupuncture isn't painful. Many countries, such as Canada and the US, once banned acupuncture's ancient practice, a significant treatment component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Now many traditional Western health professionals accept acupuncture as a valid treatment option for several ailments.
Curious about what happens during acupuncture treatment for a gastrointestinal (GI) disease? Bear in mind that TCM treats the entire body, and acupuncture is simply part of a comprehensive disease management plan. This means that there isn't any particular treatment plan for each ailment but instead, the professional designs an individualized program for each individual. Remember, too, that you ought not to stop any medication you're taking unless you notify your doctor and confirm it with your acupuncturist or physician of TCM.
Even if a problem manifests in the abdominal region, your treatment plan could include acupuncture points elsewhere on the body, like the legs or arms. By way of example, a female patient may come in with symptoms of gas and bloating. After assessing her using TCM diagnostic criteria, the practitioner could select acupuncture points between her thumb and index finger on her left hand. Another individual may have the same symptoms, but his remedy could involve acupuncture points onto his back and legs. Treatment could also differ from session to session to the same patient.