Why gut bacteria is important to your overall health
There are over 1,000 species of bacteria in the human gut. Each of these has a specific role in ensuring the body operates efficiently and effectively.
This collection of bacteria that exist in one’s gut is often referred to as human gut microbiomes (though microbiomes can refer to other forms of microorganisms such as viruses, or fungi).
This collection of microbiomes are found in the cecum of the large intestine, a small pocket where these microbiomes exist most. And about 40 trillion cells of bacteria ensure the human body stays healthy and prevents many diseases from occurring.
Think of it as an entirely separate organ, about 2kg in weight that’s absolutely necessary to help the body function.
Benefits of Gut Bacteria
From the 1,000 different species of bacteria, there are roughly 5,000 distinct strains. These strains of bacteria help the human body:
- Metabolize nutrients from food and medications
- Protects one against intestinal infections
- Produces essential Vitamin K used in making proteins that aid in blood clotting
- Help in preventing and treating a myriad of diseases
Without a healthy amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut, it’s possible one may suffer from chronic conditions in their digestive system such as:
When it comes to alleviating the above conditions, and helping prevent diseases, here are a few that gut bacteria have been proven to help treat or prevent:
1. Help Fight Cancer
A certain strain of bacteria found in the gut called Lactobacillus Johnsonii has been shown through studies to protect against the development of certain forms of cancer.
A higher prevalence of this bacteria in individuals versus others that had a lower prevalence showed that the higher incidence positively correlated with reducing the risk of leukemia, and other forms of cancer.
2. Prevent Heart Disease
A strain of gut bacteria called Akkermansia Muciniphila was shown to prevent inflammation in the gut and development of any fat plaque buildup in arteries. Studies conducted showed a healthy lining of this bacteria in the gut also helped remove toxins from the body.
3. Boost Immune System
Healthy gut bacteria have also been proven to boost one’s immune system. Studies by the University of Chicago were able to show in mice that those with a specific abundance of bacteria strains in their gut correlated to better immune system responses to illnesses and even tumor cells.
4. Rheumatoid Arthritis
The health of gut bacteria has been linked to the risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Studies where able to show that a healthy prevalence of certain strains of bacteria the gut lining can reduce the risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis, and researchers pointed to controlled studies were strains of bacteria such as Prevotella histicola resulted in less severe cases of Rheumatoid Arthritis developing.
5. Heart Health
Gut bacteria helps the synthesis and promotion of healthy cholesterol (known as HDL) and fats. They also help in removing other toxins that contribute to heart disease such as TMAO (Trimethylamine N-Oxide).
6. Brain Health
Healthy gut bacteria also help in boosting the production of various neurotransmitters in the brain. Serotonin, for example, is primarily made in the gut, and gut microbiomes can help boost the production of such a neurotransmitter for the body.
Studies have also shown that specific strains of bacteria have been tied to better nerve health and to reduce the risk of mental health conditions such as depression.
Boosting ‘good’ bacteria in the gut
Given the benefits of gut bacteria to one’s overall health, there are many ways one can ensure there’s a healthy amount of beneficial gut bacteria:
Abusing the use of antibiotics can do significant damage in killing all the 'good' bacteria in the gut.
Though antibiotics are necessary for serious ailments, for other conditions such as the common cold, it isn't always necessary and the use of these antibiotics has a side effect of depleting the gut of beneficial bacteria.
2. Fermented Foods are Friends
Fermented foods provide the nutrients necessary for bacteria growth in the gut.
It provides compounds such as fiber and carbohydrates that all encourage an optimal environment for bacteria growth in the gut.
Fermented foods also provide probiotics to the gut improving the mix and selection of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
In addition to fermented foods, is the broader umbrella of prebiotic foods such as fruits and legumes which provide fiber necessary for gut bacteria growth.
Related: Parasite Cleanse Benefits
3. Probiotic supplements
As mentioned above, probiotic supplements are one of the best ways to ensure gut bacteria flourish.
They’re live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial to the body and ensure the right strains and types of bacteria exist in the gut.
These probiotic bacteria work together to:
- Ensure the digestive system works smoothly
- Reduces inflammation
- Limits the growth of pathogenic bacteria that contribute to gut conditions such as diarrhea or IBS
- Strengthens intestinal lining
These probiotics can be bought from a variety of stores and are formulated to deliver certain benefits or help alleviate conditions such as IBS. Probiotics, however, require consistency and if stopped will result in the benefits delivered going away.
4. Food rich in Polyphenols
Polyphenols compounds help promote healthy bacteria growth in the gut and promote additional nutrients that fight infections. These compounds can be found in red wine, dark chocolate, olive oil, red wine, and whole grains.
There are millions of bacteria in your gut, both bad and good. However, by incorporating the right eating habits and lifestyle, it’s possible to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut that in turn can provide a variety of health benefits.
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