Most of us don’t think too much about our gut. Yes, it digests our food, but most of the time it doesn’t seem to be very flattering, right? Perhaps it’s time to reconsider our attitude. Recent research has shown that the gut has many surprising functions that are critical to almost every aspect of our health and wellbeing.
The unseen star of the show is our microbiome, a 4-5 pound community of bacteria, fungi, and yeast. With 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells in the body, each of us is more like an ecosystem. Here are just a few facts on how this ecosystem helps you stay healthy:
Regulating immune function: Beneficial gut bacteria “calm down” immune cells, which is critical for long term health. An imbalanced microbiome (dysbiosis) can result in chronic inflammation – a constantly triggered immune system! This plays a major role in chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, leaky gut, allergies, and many more.
Metabolism: An imbalanced microbiome is linked to overweight and obesity. Particularly responsible is an overgrowth in Firmicutes while reducing the fiber consuming bacteroidetes. Not only do Firmicutes promotes the onset of chronic inflammation, which cues the body to hold on to excess weight; our body’s ancient protective mechanism in the state of emergency.
Neurotransmitters: Many of the brain chemicals needed to feel calm, energized, focused and optimistic are in fact made by gut bacteria, including up to 90% of our serotonin! Mental ailments and mood disorders can therefore hardly be treated without taking the gut into consideration.
Hormone balance: Critical for producing and regulating our hormones, the microbiome has profound effects on our mood, sleep, stress response and appetite. Imbalanced microbes mean imbalanced hunger hormones, which lead to overpowering food cravings and weight gain. A poorly functioning microbiome is often behind the rampant estrogen dominance seen today, which can cause many problems from infertility to low libido and PMS.
It is incredible but true: the microbiome is a key player when it comes to our health – and supporting the “good guys” is critical for long term disease prevention.