10 reasons you should care about your digestive system (even if you don’t have gut issues)
If you are struggling with digestive symptoms (such as IBS, bloating or reflux), then reading an article about getting your 'gut' right makes perfect sense. But what if you're reading this and you don't? Should you care?
Yes. Because the state of your gut affects every aspect of your health, from weight loss and immunity to mood and skin health.
Here I reveal ten connections to help explain why an optimal digestive system is important for everyone. One of the main things I talk about is something called dysbiosis - which is where the levels of bacterial in the gut are out of balance. That might mean there are too many ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut or simply insufficient numbers of the protective, ‘good’ bacteria.
If you have a condition linked to too much oestrogen, such as endometriosis or fibroids, you should know that if you have dysbiosis, instead of the body getting rid of old oestrogen, it is likely to keep recirculating oestrogen tagged for detoxification. So poor gut health may mean more oestrogen and worse symptoms.
But this isn't just relevant to those with endometriosis or fibroids. Oestrogen is an obesogen ie. too much oestrogen may make you gain fat, so if you are eager to get in shape, get your gut in shape first so that it can it effectively process oestrogen.
On top of the oestrogen situation, you may absorb 15% more calories from your food if you have an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
There’s also a growing amount of research that suggests your gut bacteria actually influences food cravings and metabolism too.
Listen up if you’re that person who is always ill or gets everything worse than everyone else. About 75% of your immunity is governed by your gut. If your digestive system is healthy, chances are you will be generally healthier, too.
Not happy with the condition of your skin? Eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, acne are just a few skin issues linked to poor gut health. Much of this is down to permeability of the gut wall (sometimes called ‘leaky gut’), where your digestive tract is 'damaged' and things that should not normally pass through are now able to, like bad bacteria, gluten proteins and other undigested food particles, causing widespread inflammation and other health problems.
This is true for hayfever and food intolerance too, for very similar reasons.
The state of your digestive system is important for regulating your mood and for your mental health. The gut is often referred to as the ‘second brain’. That’s because, embedded in your intestinal wall are 500 million neurons that make up your enteric nervous system (ENS). Your ENS plays an important role in the production of 30 different neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are chemicals responsible for regulating mood. At the very extreme end of the spectrum, an imbalance of bacteria in the gut has also been shown to be factor in autism, ADHD and other brain conditions like epilepsy.
If you have any kind of autoimmune disease you will want to support your gut as there is potential that “once you have one autoimmune condition, the door is open to all of the others”. There are over 200 autoimmune conditions but some of the most common include Hashimoto’s disease (under-active thyroid), rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, coeliac disease, type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus, pernicious anemia, and so on. There are a number of potential causes of autoimmune disease, but "leaky gut” or intestinal permeability is considered a front runner.
Bad breath – typically linked to dysbiosis (remember, that’s that imbalance of gut bacteria again) or bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Athlete’s foot or thrush are linked to candida, a potentially pathogenic yeast in the gut.
On the topic of Candida, it brings a list of other possible symptoms too - including mysterious aches and pains, that feeling of being hungover when you’re not, depression, fatigue, anxiety and brain fog as well as a host of tummy issues.
If you have baby-making on your mind, you need to know that the little person you grow will inherit your gut immunity. If you have a healthy and balanced gut environment, then they will too.
As the mother, you are the gate-keeper to your child’s health. That’s because in pregnancy you set your baby’s inflammatory 'set point'. If your gut flora is out of balance, there may be a 15% increased risk of gestational diabetes and also a higher risk for group B strep.
So, even if you have no digestive symptoms, here are 10 reasons not to wait until you see 'smoke'.
A happy gut = a healthy body.