How Your Gut Health Affects Your Whole Body
There are tens of trillions of bacteria in your gut. In fact, there are more bacteria within your digestive tract than there are cells in your body. Some of this bacteria are necessary for good health, while others can be harmful to your body and mind. This collection of bacteria, often referred to as the gut microbiome, affects just about every aspect of your health in some way.
How Your Gut Affects Your Health
Of course, what happens in your gut affects conditions related to your digestive system. If your microbiome is off, you may experience symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation. Or you may have chronic conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, malabsorption or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), among others.
But there has been extensive research done over the past few decades indicating that gut health affects far more than what goes on in your digestive tract. In fact, it may have an impact on almost everything from your heart to your mental well-being. Gut health has been linked to conditions such as:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Endocrine disorders
- Cardiovascular disease
- Mental health disorders
- Immune function
Signs of Poor Gut Health
You may have an occasional bout with a digestive disorder, such as a stomach bug or a reaction to something you ate. But if your gut microbiome is off, signs and symptoms will be more chronic, or they may come and go.
Some signs that your gut health isn’t optimal include:
- Heartburn/acid reflux
- Abdominal pain
- Unintentional weight changes
- Food intolerances
- Skin irritation
Tips for Improving Gut Health
In addition to your gut health affecting nearly every aspect of your physical and mental health, it is also affected by many things you do. Improving your gut health may start with changing what you eat, but there are also other things you do that can have an impact on your microbiome. Here are some ways you may be able to improve your gut health:
- Eat a variety of healthy foods
- Stay hydrated
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce stress
- Get enough quality sleep
- Limit use of antibiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics may help improve your gut health. Include fermented foods in your diet, such as yogurt, kimchi, kefir and miso, to boost the number of good bacteria in your gut. Eat more whole plant-based foods that have lots of fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts. It’s also a good idea to limit sugar and artificial sweeteners.
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Date Last Reviewed: November 18, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD