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What is gut health, and why is it important?

Gut health is a phrase that is getting more and more attention. To better understand how inextricably linked microbiomes are for our holistic health, Wellness Daily spoke with a leading scientist about some of the basics on this topic.

What is gut health, and why is it important?

Gut health refers to the proper functioning of your gut. The gut is responsible for several critical functions in our body – besides digestion, it is also home to the majority of our immune tissue, it produces several hormones that affect our nervous system, and has direct communication with our brain. Thus, the health of your gut can have an influence throughout the entire body. 

The gut also houses the densest population of microorganisms in our body, often referred to as the gut microbiome. There is a complex interplay at work between our gut and the gut microbiome where a healthy gut microbiome is necessary for a proper functioning gut and overall health.  

What are the benefits of better management of your gut health?

The benefits of good gut health include effective digestion, a proper functioning immune system, a reduced risk of illnesses that have been linked to the gut, and overall wellbeing.

What are the dangers of not looking after your gut?

Besides the commonly thought of gut ailments, such as inflammatory bowel diseases, irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer, it is suspected an unhealthy gut also influences a broad variety of physical and mental conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and even autoimmune diseases. 

One of the most common problems of an unhealthy gut is a disrupted gut lining that allows bacteria and other bacterial by-products to slip through. This can lead to gut inflammation and the spread of unhealthy bacterial by-products throughout the body.

What are your top tips for management of gut health? Why are each of these tips so important?

Make sure your diet includes a sufficient amount of fibre, including different types of fibre. These can be obtained by eating a wide variety of different fruits, vegetables and grains. A diverse diet high in fibre will encourage a greater microbial diversity which has been linked to good health. Additionally, fibre is the main fuel source of the microorganisms that live in your gut, and when they break down fibre, they produce beneficial metabolites important for a well-functioning gut.

Learn more about your personal gut microbiome and how the foods you eat can influence this very important part of your body. Advanced sequencing technology, called metagenomics, has become more accessible and provides an in-depth view of the microorganisms in your gut and what they might be doing.

For example, you can learn about your microbial diversity level and the potential of your gut microbiome to produce metabolites linked to health, such as short chain fatty acids. This information can provide a platform for making more informed decisions about why certain foods should be included in your diet to promote a healthy gut microbiome.

Alena Pribyl is a senior scientist at Microba.

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