You may have read or heard the term “gut health” recently, but you may be unsure of what it is or why it’s important. Essentially, the amount of bacteria that populates your digestive tract has an effect on many aspects of your health. When your gut bacteria becomes imbalanced, it can have a negative impact on everything from your mental state to how much fat you store in your body.
Gut Bacteria 101
Our guts contain trillions of microbes made up of bacteria and fungi. It may sound gross, but these microbes are very important and are essential to your health.
Your gut bacteria can become imbalanced for a variety of reasons including poor diet, stress, antibiotics, or other underlying illnesses. Symptoms of gut bacteria imbalance can include:
- Abdominal Pain
- Food intolerances or allergies, especially to dairy, wheat, and gluten
- Chronic Anemia
- Vitamin B Deficiencies
The Mental Connection
New studies show that on top of those other symptoms, unbalanced gut bacteria can also affect your mental health. Scientists call the gut your “second brain” because it contains 100 million neurons. This is more than in the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.
The gut has its own reflexes and senses so it can control behavior independently of the brain. Also, 90% of the fibers in primary visceral nerve, also called the vagus, carries information from the gut to the brain. When gut bacteria is not in balance, it have a negative impact on your mental outlook. In a 2011 study, rats and humans were given probiotics, and scientists saw a significant decrease in levels of anger, distress, hostility, and depression.
The Skinny About Fat
Gut bacteria also affects your ability to sensitivity to insulin, which is directly related to your ability to respond to carbohydrates, specifically how likely they can be turned into fat.
The less gut diversity you have, the more likely you are to store fat and have poor insulin sensitivity. Just as alarming, low gut bacteria diversity can lead to inflammation, which is linked to obesity, heart disease, arthritis, and depression.
If you think you have a gut bacteria imbalance, you can have tests done by your healthcare provider, and you can also start taking a high quality probiotic supplement. Avoid taking antibiotics if you can, and make sure to get enough sleep and reduce stress. Hopefully you will be on your way to happier gut.
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