*This article was originally featured on Yoga Today.
There are about 100 trillion bacteria in our bodies, and most of them are in our intestines.
Recent science is actually unveiling that we may be more bacteria than we are human cells. Crazy, I know. These billions of bacteria impact the entire body and make up the gut “microbiome”, the environment of microbes that live in the human body. While these microbes inhabit all parts of our body that are exposed to the environment, such as the skin, mouth, nasal passages and vagina, most reside in the gut.
The gut and the microbiome are the center of our health.
Many different conditions, whether they affect skin or joints, stem from gut health. The gut stems far beyond our stomach. When our digestive system isn’t working properly, it affects every single system in our bodies from cardiovascular to immune. We are one big interconnected system. Up to 90 percent of all diseases can be traced in some way back to the gut and health of the microbiome. Seventy percent of the immune system and 95 percent of serotonin in the body is located in the gut, showing the direct connection between the health of our gut microbiomes and the health of our immune and nervous systems.
Beneficial bacteria in your digestive system have the capability of affecting your body’s digestion, vitamin and mineral absorbency, hormone regulation, vitamin production, immune response, and ability to eliminate toxins, not to mention your overall mental health. With a dysfunctional gut, we are unable to process, breakdown and assimilate food properly. We have to be able to do this to survive. The gut is now being referenced as a “second brain” which can affect mood, energy levels, libido, and creative output. Our gut bacteria produce different metabolites, some of which are peptides (little protein groups). These neurotransmitters get through the gut and affect our moods, brains, and hormone balance.
When I recommend my gut healing protocol to clients, many of them respond with, “but my stomach doesn’t hurt." However, problems in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract can cause much more than just stomach pain and a bloated belly. You don’t have to have typical digestive issues to have an unhealthy microbiome. Microbiome issues (whether that is increased intestinal permeability, an overgrowth of yeast, or not enough good bacteria) can actually be the root cause of many underlying chronic health problems.
Research has shown poor gut health is linked to hormonal imbalances, allergies, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, diabetes, liver disease, obesity, autism, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, eczema and rosacea, and more.
Our gut health can have huge effects on weight loss and weight gain. Studies have shown that the microbes in our gut actually affect how many calories we absorb from food, further justifying the fact that weight loss does not come down to calories in vs calories out. Some bacteria promote inflammation, as a response to stress, and other bacteria create sugar cravings — a weight management nightmare. Multiple studies also show that when you rebalance your microbiome, you can actually boost your metabolism and shed fat.
Fortunately, we help shape our own microbiomes.
The foods we eat, how we sleep, the amount of bacteria were exposed to daily, the amount of toxin/chemical exposure and our stress levels establish the state of our microbiota. Diet plays a huge factor in a healthy microbiome, which is one of the main reasons why I focus on proper nutrition first and foremost with all of my clients. Think about it. We eat every single day, multiple times a day. This is a huge area of opportunity for immediate impact. One of the keys to maintaining a healthy microbiome is a high-fiber, unprocessed and low-sugar diet that includes lots of vegetables, healthy fats, and high-quality proteins. Supplements, stress management, avoidance of antibiotics/medications, and lifestyle factors can, of course, make an impact as well, depending on your specific condition.
The human microbiome is absolutely fascinating and there is a lot to learn. Stay tuned for more gut health information coming soon to the blog!
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