Updated: Sep 11, 2019
Gut health is an up and coming field of study in healthy living. It has wide applications for almost every major system in the human body and has given rise to probiotics as a new kind of natural medicine. But why is gut health so important?
The importance of gut health
Microbes have been historically tagged as the enemy of human health, and nobody wants to know how many bacterial strains there are in a delicious dinner plate. Still, the number of microorganisms colonizing the healthy human body can be compared to the worldwide population, and we all need them to keep on living.
There are healthy bacteria in the body and other microorganisms that will cause problems instead, namely pathogenic bacteria. Healthy bacteria colonize the gut and other structures and protect your gastrointestinal system from colonization by pathogenic bacteria. Moreover, they are known to modulate the immune system, and some of them can synthesize vitamin K and folate, making them available for us to absorb.
Thus, gut health is essential for our body functions at various levels, and it has fundamental importance in maintaining our gastrointestinal health.
Connections between the gut and the rest of the body
One of the reasons why gut health is so important is that the intestines are deeply interconnected to other systems in the body. We can name at least three of them:
· The cardiovascular system: The gut has a particular type of blood circulation, called portal circulation. The portal vein is connected to every major part of the gastrointestinal system to absorb nutrients and direct them to the liver for detoxification before entering our general circulation. A healthy microbiota prevents something called leaky gut, which is basically an impairment in the barriers of the gut, and leads to the passage of pathogenic bacteria to the bloodstream.
· The nervous system: The gut is one of the most widely innervated organs, and has many connections with the brain. The gut-brain axis is a special type of communication between the gut and the nervous system, and it is based on hormones and neurotransmitters that modulate brain activity. The gut microbiota is capable of modulating the gut-brain axis, and studies show that differences in bacterial strains in the gut may be capable of modulating your mood, improve symptoms in autistic patients, and much more.
· The immune system: Immune cells are throughout the body, but the most significant concentration of lymphoid tissue is located in a structure called GALT (Gut-associated lymphoid tissue). That is how the gut is capable of changing the way our body reacts against pathogens, modulates inflammation and promotes a healthy immune response.
In a nutshell, the gut is not only meant to absorb nutrients. It is a complete body system that is deeply associated with other parts of your body. Thus, changing your gut microbiota through prebiotics and probiotics is currently a side treatment for many diseases, and it may even become the first choice for certain conditions in the near future.