Why is Gut Health Important and How can we Improve it
The importance of gut health can be understood from the fact that the gut is called the second brain in the human system. We often go with our gut feeling, surpassing logic. But with an unhealthy gut, there is not much hope there.
The gut cannot make decisions or do things like the brain, but it profoundly impacts our emotions, mood states, etc. Also it is a very important part of our nervous system which works on its own.
Gut health defines the overall well-being of the digestive system and the microorganisms that reside within it. The digestive system and gut microbiome play a critical role in various aspects of health, including digestion and absorption of nutrients, regulating the immune system, and producing certain hormones and neurotransmitters.
The gut microbiome refers to the complex community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. It consists of billions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms, each of which plays a unique role in maintaining the health and function of the gut.
These microorganisms play important roles in digesting food, synthesizing vitamins and other nutrients, supporting the immune system, and protecting against harmful pathogens. They are also thought to have a profound impact on a wide range of other health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, mental health disorders, and certain types of cancer.
The gut microbiome is unique to each individual and is influenced by factors such as diet, genetics, and exposure to antibiotics and other environmental toxins. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the role of the gut microbiome in health and disease, and a number of studies have been conducted to better understand the complex interactions between these microorganisms and the host organism.
A healthy gut is characterized by a diverse population of gut microbiota, a balanced gut environment, and the absence of symptoms such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain.
Research also shows that gut health is linked to overall health and wellness, and that imbalances in the gut microbiome can contribute to various health conditions, including digestive disorders, metabolic diseases, and even mental health conditions.
Why gut is called the second brain?
The gut is often referred to as the “second brain” because it contains its own complex nervous system, known as the enteric nervous system (ENS). This system is made up of millions of neurons and is responsible for regulating the digestive system, including processes such as the release of enzymes and absorption of nutrients.
The ENS can operate independently of the central nervous system (CNS), which is the brain and spinal cord, and can even continue to function after the CNS has been removed from the body. In fact, the ENS communicates with the CNS through the vagus nerve, a large nerve that runs from the brainstem to the abdomen, and the two systems work together to regulate various bodily functions.
Moreover, the gut also produces neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in regulating mood and behavior. In fact, research has shown that the gut-brain connection is a two-way street, meaning that the health of the gut can affect the health of the brain, and vice versa. This is why the gut is often considered the “second brain” and why taking care of the gut through a healthy diet and lifestyle can have a positive impact on overall health and well-being.
Importance of Gut Health
- Digestion and Assimilation of nutrients – A healthy gut ensures proper digestion and absorption of nutrients from food, which are essential for overall health and well-being. Digestion is one of the most important functions in the body. Digestive issues lead to a multitude of health issues.
- Immune System Regulation: The gut microbiome plays a critical role in regulating the immune system and protecting the body from harmful pathogens. People with digestive issues tend to fall ill more often.
- Mental Health: Imbalances in the gut microbiome can affect your mood, behaviour, and mental health. Saying someone has a constipated look maybe just draws a reference from here. And have you noticed how you feel good once you have cleared your bowels properly?
- Chronic Disease Prevention: A healthy gut microbiome has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. The increased amount of eat-outs, fast food culture, have disrupted our eating habits and as a consequence there are increased cases of these chronic diseases around us.
- Inflammation: The gut microbiome helps regulate inflammation throughout the body, and imbalances in the gut microbiome have been linked to chronic inflammation and a range of related health conditions. In ayurveda “vat” or the air element is often related to aches and pains in the body. Gas and bloating is a major cause of headache and other kinds of pains.
- Hormonal Balance: The gut microbiome produces hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate various functions in the body, including digestion, metabolism, and mood.
Gut health is important for overall health and well-being, and maintaining a healthy gut is crucial for preventing chronic diseases, regulating the immune system, and promoting mental and physical wellness.
7 simple steps to keep your gut healthy.
- Eat a balanced diet: A diet rich in fibre, prebiotics, and probiotics can help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, etc in your diet. Try and eat fresh home-cooked meals.
- Avoid processed foods: Processed foods are often high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, and can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria. Anything coming out of a packet should ideally be avoided. Sugar can be a big problem, will talk more about it later.
- Limit alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt the gut microbiome and lead to inflammation. Alcohol is treated as a toxic substance by the body. So the response of the digestive system is to stop all other activities and rid the body of the toxicity
- Reduce stress: Stress can have a negative impact on gut health. Have you felt butterflies in your stomach just before an important event. That is stress or anxiousness reflecting on your gut. Just imagine having that day in and day out, it eventually runs havoc on your gut health. Try to incorporate stress-reducing activities, such as exercise, meditation, or deep breathing, into your daily routine.
- Get enough sleep: Sleep is important for overall health and can also help maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Also, it is important to have regular sleeping and waking timings. As much as eating right is important, proper elimination also is essential to good health. Proper sleep timings ensure regular bowel movement.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise has been shown to benefit gut health by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria and reducing inflammation.
- Avoid antibiotics when possible: Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and should be used only when necessary. Also, when taking antibiotics take some prebiotics to bring back the microbiome balance.
With these simple tips, you can maintain a healthy gut, which is important for overall health and well-being. But, if you experience any digestive symptoms, it’s important to talk to a doctor, as they may be indicative of a more serious underlying condition.
Eating home-cooked simple meals is a strategy that works best in all aspects as far as a healthy gut is concerned. Ever since the Covid lockdown we really reduced ordering food from outside, as a result, I have seen myself fall ill rarely, even for my daughter I find that her immunity has greatly improved. The food we eat has a direct impact on the gut and gut health has a direct impact on our overall health.
Being a yoga coach I cannot miss out the importance of yoga in helping us keeping our digestive health in good condition. There are many asanas that work on the digestive system helping us getting rid of digestion related issues. There is not enough scientific evidence yet to prove the same but if you ask people like myself who have been yoga practitioners for a long time now, we definitely vouch for the amazing changes we have experienced in our life owing to our practice.
I hope this article was helpful for you to understand the importance of gut health. Knowing is the first step to bringing changes and I am quite hopeful that this knowledge will help you pay more attention to your food and other habits that are impacting your gut health.