It may surprise you to know that keeping your intestines healthy is key to your overall health. It surprised me. Fixing my gut is essentially what led to my incredible health turnaround. I believe it is your digestive system where health is either created or lost.
There are 5 things you should know about your gut and how to keep it healthy:
1. Absorption. Your digestive system is designed to break down and absorb nutrients from food. Stomach acid is critical to the process of absorption. If it doesn’t break down your food properly, your intestines will not be able to absorb the nutrients your body needs. Keep this in mind the next time you reach for antacids. Remember that you are blocking stomach acid when you take these, and – as a result – you will not absorb much of the food you eat while taking them. They should not be a long-term solution to any problem.
2. Mind Games. There is a strong connection between your mind (brain) and your intestines. Researchers are still trying to get a grasp on understanding this relationship, but they have found that the intestines actually contain neurons (brain cells) – almost as many as in the spinal cord. The intestines may be the only place in the body outside of the nervous system that you can find brain cells. Also, about 95% of your body’s serotonin (brain chemical related to mood) is found in the intestines, so there is a strong connection between your intestinal health and mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
3. Immunity. There is also a strong connection between the immune system and the intestines. About 2/3 of your immune system resides in your gut. This is because the immune system is supposed to protect your body against harmful outsiders, and one of the most common ways you get harmful intruders inside your body is by eating them. So your immune system is very active in your digestive system so it can immediately attack any harmful things you may have eaten. Because of this there is also a strong connection between your intestinal health and your immune system behaving as it should (staying regulated).
4. Leaks. A common but often overlooked condition is intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut.” It happens when your intestinal walls allow things to pass through them when it shouldn’t. Often these things are proteins and other nutrients that aren’t completely digested. When this happens, an un-digested or under-digested protein looks like a foreign invader to your immune system. The immune system responds by attacking the under-digested food, which can travel from the area of your digestive system to other areas of your body (like joints or in the brain), taking the resulting inflammation with it. Symptoms of leaky gut include auto-immune diseases and inflammation anywhere in the body.
5. Good Bacteria. Your digestive system is home to a lot of “good guys” that are critical to your digestive system working properly and your overall health. These good guys are good bacteria, and we often don’t have enough. They can easily be killed off by antibiotics or the “bad guys” – the bad bacteria, yeast, and other harmful microorganisms that feed off sugars. Getting more good guys and less bad guys will help tremendously with digestion, absorption, preventing leaky gut and preventing inflammation. Taking good probiotics and limiting your sugar intake will help keep the bacteria in balance.