April 17, 2024

Healthy Clean Dental

Maintain Your Dental Health

The Role of Gut Health in Overall Well-Being and Disease Prevention

4 min read

Shot of smiling young woman eating yogurt while sitting on stool in the kitchen at home.

Your gut serves more purposes than simply digesting food and absorbing nutrients – it also acts as a disease fighter and communication center between your immune and nervous systems.

Optimized gut health can be achieved through cultivating a variety of microbes that promote beneficial bacteria. Shifting to more plant-based foods, eating fermented food products and taking probiotic supplements are effective ways to keep the balance within your gut intact and promote overall wellness.

1. Imbalance of the microbiota

An ideal gut environment consists of diverse and abundant microbiota. Good bacteria inhabiting our gut work symbiotically with us to digest food and distribute nutrients throughout our bodies – as well as produce vitamins, prevent bad bacteria growth, train our immune systems and even ferment unused food waste products!

Diets rich in fiber and plant-based foods promote a balanced microbiota. Probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and whole-food yogurt with live cultures may further benefit your gut health.

2. Inflammation

Inflammation is our body’s natural way to defend against tissue damage caused by bacteria or viruses, swelling blood vessels and sending white blood cells rushing towards injured sites.

However, when this balance is upset by factors like eating too many processed and sugar-rich foods, lack of physical activity, stress or using antibiotics for an extended period, chronic inflammation can occur and lead to digestive issues like IBS or even IBD.

3. Obesity

Gut health refers to both an upper and lower GI tract that are functioning optimally, as well as a functional GI barrier which not only serves mechanical purposes, but is a critical epithelial defence and metabolic zone that offers protection from external and internal threats.

By adding probiotics to your diet by eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi or kombucha regularly, probiotics can help to balance out the bacteria in your digestive tract and promote gut health. Lifestyle factors that support gut health include avoiding tobacco products such as cigarettes or alcohol and managing stress effectively.

4. Irritable bowel syndrome

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a functional bowel disorder not linked to structural or biochemical abnormalities and affects 11 percent of the population. Symptoms include abdominal pain and changes in bowel movement patterns.

Scientists speculate that IBS symptoms are related to hypersensitive nerves in your gut communicating with your brain. Certain foods, including dairy products, cruciferous vegetables and beans may trigger IBS symptoms; stress may make the situation even worse.

5. Food intolerances

Food intolerances are adverse reactions that impact digestive, skin, or respiratory systems, in which symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhoea, bloating, gas, etc may arise. They differ from food allergies in that their cause does not involve the immune system; symptoms associated with food intolerances include abdominal cramping, diarrhoea, bloating and gas.

Dietitians can assist with maintaining gut health with diets that include food from different groups. By helping identify potential food intolerances and offering dietetic advice, dietitians may help identify food related intolerances that could require special consideration.

6. Skin conditions

The gut wall acts as a protective shield from viruses, fungi and harmful bacteria; however, when this barrier becomes permeable (known as leaky gut syndrome) it allows viruses, fungi and harmful bacteria into your bloodstream, potentially making you sick.

There’s good news: you can support your gut health by eating a diet full of fibre-rich foods, limiting alcohol intake, sleeping adequately and managing stress levels effectively. Exercise, socialization and meditative techniques such as yoga may also prove helpful in keeping it working optimally.

7. Autoimmune diseases

The GI tract does more than break down food and provide essential nutrients to our bodies; it also affects mood, immune function and risk for chronic conditions.

Your immune system’s purpose is to guard you against viruses, fungi and bacteria that could make you ill; but in cases of an autoimmune disease, its defense mechanisms often mistake your own cells as foreign invaders and attack them instead of protecting you from illness.

Autoimmune diseases can often be treated using medications that reduce inflammation, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids. If organ damage exists, surgery may also be required.

8. Sleep issues

Researchers are discovering more and more evidence linking our gut microbes with mental health issues, often being referred to as our second brain.

Sleep, chewing food correctly, avoiding processed foods and eating wholefoods are essential components of maintaining gut health. Probiotic supplements may also provide some assistance. But for optimal results it’s best to get nutrients directly from wholefood sources, where their synergistic benefits cannot be reproduced in supplement form.

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