Most of us have heard the term “gut health” and know that keeping it in good standing is desirable and advantageous to our overall well-being. But what does it truly mean to have a healthy gut? Michele Helfgott, MD, PPG – Integrative Medicine, helps answer this question while discussing the importance of a balanced gut microbiome and the steps we can take to improve it.
What is gut health?
Believe it or not, your gut microbiome is the foundation of your health. Good gut health occurs when you have a balance between the good (helpful) and bad (potentially harmful) bacteria and yeast in your digestive system. In fact, 80% of your immune system is in the gut, and the majority of your body’s serotonin is, too. This means if your gut isn’t healthy, then your immune system and hormones won’t function, and you will get sick. Unfortunately, this is also how autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s Disease begin.
Why is gut health so important for our overall health and well-being?
As previously mentioned, your gut is the foundation of everything. It aids in the digestion of the foods you eat, absorbs nutrients, and uses it to fuel and maintain your body. So, if your gut is imbalanced and your immune system isn’t working properly, your serotonin and hormones won’t either, making it more challenging to stay healthy. Your gut is also where your body gets rid of metabolic waste and toxins. However, if you have an unhealthy gut, your body will struggle to rid itself of those toxins. If this occurs, it can cause many issues, including chronic fatigue, chronic illnesses and inflammation throughout the body. That’s why people experience symptoms such as brain fog, diarrhea, constipation, gas, joint pain, etc. You may not realize it, but the brain is the second gut; therefore, if your gut isn’t working, your brain is struggling too.
What factors affect the health of our gut?
While several factors can contribute to poor gut health, some of the most common can include:
- Stress: This increases intestinal permeability (leaky gut), tipping the scales toward an imbalance of more bad than good bacteria in the gut.
- Poor nutrition: Most people eat processed food and sugar, which can harm the beneficial bacteria in your gut and contribute to or cause inflammation throughout the body.
- Long-term use of antibiotics and antacids – They all decrease B12 within the gut, which is essential in cell production, brain function and energy. They also kill the good bacteria that live in your gut. However, it’s important to note that there is a time and a place for these medications, but it’s best to consult with your physician before using them.
What are the signs of an unhealthy gut?
An unhealthy gut can appear as gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea, but it can present itself in many other forms as well. Autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS), where your immune system is attacking different parts of the body, can also be a sign of an unhealthy gut. Brain fog, headaches, poor concentration and memory, fatigue, chronic pain, trouble sleeping and issues with cravings or bad moods are also symptoms and critical indicators of a poor microbiome.
What steps can someone take to get a healthy gut or improve it?
Fortunately, many patients find they can balance their microbiome and heal their gut by managing their stress levels, practicing mindfulness, eating healthy, getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night and exercising. However, a subset of patients may need more than just those things, but it’s essential to start with those items first.
Remember, healing your gut will take time, dedication and consistency. Your microbiome didn’t get unhealthy overnight, so you aren’t going to fix it overnight either. Eating healthy and managing your stress will go a long way in getting you on the road to recovery and optimal gut health.
At PPG – Integrative Medicine, we explore a vast assortment of health concerns, including thyroid, hormones, autoimmune, blood sugar, sleep, nutrition, stress management, mindfulness and more. We also understand that changing your lifestyle can be overwhelming. Our goal is to provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to overcome any obstacles on your journey to a healthier you.
To schedule an appointment, please call our office at 260-672-6590. For more information about the services we offer, please fill out our request form, and one of our care team members will contact you with more details.