7 Key Factors in Digestive Health
Did you know that when we were just barely conceived and consisted of only a few cells our nervous system began to evolve from our gut? That’s right, our brain and spinal cord were once part of our “enteric nervous system” i.e. the cells that make up our gut lining. Isn’t that cool! Our brain is made from our gut!
Your gut is not only highly connected to your brain and can influence your mood, decisions, and desires, but it also plays a central role in the health of your immune system, the appearance of your skin, and delivery of nutrients to every single cell in your body. If your gut is off, it’s often reflected in these other systems in forms of disease, disorders, or discomfort.
Let’s dive into 7 particular areas where your gut is intertwined in other aspects of your health.
You have more serotonin, the “happy brain chemical”, in your gut than in your brain
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that, in the right amounts, produces a relaxed and positive mood. It also regulates appetite and sleep. Interestingly, 90% of serotonin is made in your gastrointestinal tract, whereas only small amounts are made in your brain.
Low serotonin levels have been linked to increased incidences of depression, and too much or too little serotonin can cause constipation or diarrhea.
There are 10x more microorganisms than cells in your body…and they can control your decisions and mood!
Research shows that people with altered gut flora tend to develop anxiety and/or depression, and that people with anxiety and/or depression have altered gut microflora. In related research, studies in mice that don’t have gut flora have shown that they have an exaggerated response to stress and suboptimal memory function.
Some gut bacteria prefer fat and some prefer sugar. There are theories that your gut microflora can cause you to crave sugar, eat too much, make you feel bad, and alter your taste buds. Makes you wonder, “who’s in charge here?”
If your gut isn’t digesting properly, you’re losing vital nutrients for EVERY cell in your body
If your food is coming out of you with a slight resemblance to the way that it went in, then you’re missing out on a lot of important nutrients that feed your cells, repair your cells, give you energy, and keep you healthy. Your digestive system breaks down your food into tiny molecules and delivers the nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, etc) to EVERY cell in your body for them to function. If your gut can’t digest properly, then your cells become deficient in important nutrients, leading to symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, nerve problems, and skin issues.
3. Immune Cells
The majority of your immune cells hang out in your gut
Your gastrointestinal tract houses something called the GALT and MALT – your gut- or mucosal-associated lymphatic tissue. The GALT and MALT are concentrated sites of immune tissue and microorganisms found in areas such as your mouth, nose, stomach, and intestines. They are damaged by antibiotics, and nourished by probiotics, prebiotics, and the proper nutrients. When they are damaged, people are predisposed to infections, leaky gut, celiac disease, food allergies, and associated lymphomas.
4. Leaky Gut
A leaky gut can cause autoimmune disorders
A leaky gut is theorized to be one of the causes of many autoimmune disorders, such as Ulcerative Colitis, Crohns, Multiple Sclerosis, and Lupus. A leaky gut occurs when the small intestine becomes damaged and inflamed, allowing foreign particles from your intestinal contents to cross into the blood, which stimulates an unwanted immune response.
5. Glowing Skin
Your skin is often a reflection of your gut health
Your skin requires all sorts of nutrients to glow. Selenium, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E are important in anti-aging and for avoiding acne. These nutrients get extracted from food in your gut. If your gut isn’t working properly, it can’t extract the nutrients, and the cells of your skin become less resilient and prone to inflammation.
6. Boss Bacteria
Gut bacteria are the boss of your hormones
The bacteria in your gut help to eliminate inactive estrogen from your body in a bowel movement. Having the wrong bacteria in your gut can cause estrogen to reactivate and recirculate through your body. The recirculating estrogen is bad as it can negatively affect your menstrual cycle, and contributes to an increased risk for fibroids, endometrial cancer, and breast cancer.
Furthermore, probiotic supplementation has been shown to improve the transformation of serotonin (happy hormone) into melatonin (sleep hormone), to control leptin (our “feeling full” hormone), and to reduce cortisol (our stress hormone). The right type of probiotics can make a big difference in digestive health.
The many influences that the gut has over the rest of our health are why I start every treatment plan by ensuring optimal digestive function. Not only will it improve many aspects of health at once, it also verifies that the supplements that I recommend for your primary concerns will be properly absorbed and delivered.
Bloating, heartburn, gas, diarrhea, and/or constipation can be managed with the correct supplementation, nutritional interventions, and lifestyle changes. Getting to the root cause at the same time as managing symptoms is how we would tackle your case. If you’re looking to optimize your energy and to stop worrying about where the closest bathroom is, then get in touch with me by phone (902-429-1427) or book online here. I look forward to working with you!
Dr Megan Bernard ND
'Helping You Live Better'