A Gut Reaction: How the Gut Affects Your Health
Your gut is one of the largest organs in your body- it is about the size of half a badminton court! It’s responsible for breaking down and digesting everything you eat and turning it into energy, immune-boosting cells and waste.
Bacteria (microbiome) are housed within your internal plumbing or gut. The gut microbiome’s purpose is to help you break down the food and liquids you ingest daily.
Your gut doesn’t work on its own, however. It works in tandem with all other organs and body parts to help you run at top efficiency.
In this article, we’ll uncover how the gut touches the heart, mind and bones and what you can do to set your gut and overall health up for success.
The Gut and Your Heart
Scientists are still uncovering the extent of the gut-heart connection, but research shows they may be connected in more ways than we thought.
Studies have shown the following:
- Eating a diet that contains probiotics may help reduce cholesterol levels. Lowering your cholesterol levels can reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Having an abundance of different types of bacteria can be beneficial to your blood vessel health. Your blood vessels include all the arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules and veins that keep blood moving throughout your body. Eating a diet high in probiotic fiber can help your body obtain different types of bacteria.
- Animal-based foods (like red meat and eggs) can cause your gut microbiota to create a chemical called trimethylamine-N-oxide or TMAO. This chemical has been linked to heart disease.
The Gut and Your Mind
If you’ve ever had to run to the restroom before a flight or felt queasy at the thought of standing in front of a crowd, you may have been a victim of the mind-gut connection.
When your mind is stressed, your brain sends stress messages to the gut and vice-versa. Managing your mental health on top of eating a gut-healthy diet can help your mind and body rest easy.
Check-in with your mental health. Take our Mental Health Risk assessment here.
The Gut and Your Bones
You are what your gut microbiome eats. Eating food that fuels your microbiome fuels the rest of your body’s organs, including your bones.
One study shows that probiotic supplements could slow bone loss in older women with low bone mineral density. The probiotics feed healthy bacteria, which in turn feed healthy bone cells.
Foods that Fuel a Healthy Gut
Eating food filled with prebiotic and probiotic fiber is music to your gut microbiome’s ears. This fiber allows your gut microbiome to flourish, so it’s ready to digest any vitamins, break down toxic food compounds and invigorate the immune system.
Top tip: To allow your body to adjust to increased fiber intake, gradually introduce more fiber into your diet and remember to drink plenty of water.
- Fruits + Vegetables
- A diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is excellent for your gut microbiome. Foods that contain exceptionally high levels of prebiotics include onions, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes and seaweed.
- Whole Grains
- Whole grains like wheat, oats and barley are sources of prebiotic fiber. Prebiotic fiber fuels good microbiota.
- Nuts like almonds, pistachios, walnuts and hazelnuts are a good source of prebiotic fiber. This prebiotic fiber feeds good microbiota, benefiting you.
- Fermented Foods
- Foods like kefir, pickled vegetables, kombucha tea, miso and sauerkraut contain probiotics. Probiotics contain live microbiota that can help your microbiome.