Your body is full of bacteria which is called the microbiome. The microbiome begins to affect your body from within the womb as well as the first moment you are born, as your gut is inoculated with bacteria from the birth canal. Your microbiome then begins to diversify, and we now know that greater diversity in the gut is considered really good for health.
Trillions of bacteria throughout the body, and particularly on the skin and in the intestines, all work together to help regulate our body so that it functions optimally; our immune system, heart, weight, moods, and even how we sleep.
Gut health helps protect us against autoimmune disease
Autoimmunity is activated when the immune system becomes dysregulated. It becomes confused and starts attacking your own tissues.
This is heightened by a leaky gut, because molecules which would not normally enter the blood stream in a healthy gut, cross through the leaky gut and this triggers the immune response.
Gut health is of significant importance to those with an autoimmune condition, or family history of autoimmunity, in conditions such as Crohn’s disease, Colitis, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Lupus.
Gut health protects our brain and our mood
Anxiety and depression have been linked to higher numbers of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. If we eat poorly, over time our gut bacteria changes significantly.
Studies have shown that regulating our gut microbiota can have a hugely beneficial impact on our mood, such as reducing anxiety symptoms. Microbial metabolites can interact with our brain, but also, many neuroactive compounds are actually produced in the human gut.
The impact of our gut health on our brain makes sense, as our gut and brain are ‘talking’ to each other all the time. This is why when we are stressed, we often get recurring digestive symptoms.
Gut health protects our skin
Have you noticed that if you eat poorly, it’s reflected in your skin? This happens because our liver can’t cope with detoxing the junk we are eating, but also because our bacteria is impacted in our gut and on our skin when we eat things like processed foods, high starch foods, and sugar.
Poor gut health can impact symptoms of eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, and acne.
If you eat whole foods, 5-7 serves of vegetables for antioxidants and fibre, and ensure you stay hydrated, then your gut bacteria is more likely to be in balance. However, sometimes we unknowingly have harmful pathogenic bacteria in our gut which we need help to eradicate or minimise. Your naturopath can run tests to see if there are pathogenic bacteria living in your gut.
Gut health can affect nutrient absorption
A healthy gut lining will absorb more nutrients. Studies show that the bacteria in the gut microbiota play a fundamental role in how well nutrients are absorbed and produced in the intestines. So if your gut is damaged, inflamed, or “leaky”, then you won’t be assimilating nutrients as well as you should, which can lead to deficiencies over time.
Some strains of bacteria are better at creating nutrients and converting fibre to the fuel our bodies need. This is one reason why we like to see diversity in gut bacteria.
Depending on the strains of bacteria you have in your gut, you can extract a different number of calories from food you intake. New research links specific gut bacteria to weight gain. Your naturopath can run lab tests to determine which species of bacteria live in your gut, and the health implications of these strains.
Gut health protects our digestive system
Healthy intestines means healthy toilet habits. The gut microbiota helps to push food along the intestines assisting with regular bowel movements.
Certain strains of bacteria are linked to constipation and others to diarrhea, so if a patient is suffering from ongoing digestive issues, then it’s important for us to see what lives within the gut, and help to revert the balance by introducing more beneficial bacteria.
Gut health protects our immune system
There is a lot of interaction between the body’s immune system and bacteria in the gut, with approximately 70% of our immune function occurring from within the gut itself.
A healthy gut lining creates a physical barrier to keep pathogenic bacteria out of the bloodstream.
Healthy gut bacteria also help to fight dangerous bacteria by creating an environment within the gut which is unfavourable to infectious microorganisms, yeasts, nasty bacteria, and fungi.
Healthy gut microbes are able to boost the function of the entire immune system by increasing white blood cells needed to fight dangerous bacteria and viruses.
We also know that bacteria are involved in disease, and research has shown there to be changes in gut bacteria alongside diagnosis of diseases, such as IBD, colitis, and cancer.
Yvette is a qualified Melbourne-based Naturopath and Nutritionist, MINDD Practitioner, member of the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia, and Complementary Medicine Association. Yvette specialises in the treatment of conditions commonly affecting women and children, with a key interest in children’s digestive and neurological conditions, as well as women’s hormonal concerns, digestive issues, fatigue, anxiety, and skin concerns. Yvette consults in South Yarra, Melbourne, as well as Australia-wide via skype/zoom/phone.