Have you been to Las Vegas with a rambunctious group of friends?
One of your party hardy friends may have told you, "what happens in Vegas STAYS in Vegas"...meaning...we aren't going to tell ANYONE at home what crazy things we did there.
How is your gut health related to Las Vegas? You might think that whatever things you expose your gut to will just stay in the gut. Don't be fooled...what goes on in the gut affects everything else in the body.
“The gut is not like Las Vegas. What happens in the gut does not stay in the gut.”
- Dr. Alessio Fasano, Gastroenterologist
It used to be that gut function was only connected with digestive symptoms such as bloating and constipation. In the last five years, researchers have been reporting fascinating ways the gut can influence the functioning of the entire body. Let's take a look at some of the ways the gut impacts other systems in our bodies and why your gut needs to be in tiptop shape.
Over 80% of body’s immune cells reside in the gut. The microbes living alongside these immune cells are vital to functioning of a robust immune system. On the reverse, an unbalanced abnormal gut microbe composition (a condition known as “dysbiosis” in the land of gut health) has been linked with lowered immunity and autoimmune disease. Many health practitioners attribute this to the rise antibiotic use, cesarean births, poor dietary habits and hyper-sanitation (antibacterial cleaning products and gels) which have resulted in gut compositions which lack the strength and diversity to fight off toxins and viruses in the body. A recent medical review that found the composition of microbiome can influence the effectiveness of vaccines in the body. Vaccines were shown to be less effective in individuals with gut dysbiosis, because the immune system was already preoccupied with dealing with existing gut inflammation.
The gut is also thought to exert powerful effects on metabolism and body weight. It has been found that the bacterial gut compositions of normal weight vs obese people are very different.
In a 2013 study published in Science, transplanted gut bacteria from obese and lean pairs of twins into germ free mice. The results showed mice injected with bacteria from fat twins grew fat; while those injected with bacteria from lean twins stayed lean. Furthermore, another study in Nature demonstrated that mice injected with obese gut microflora actually extract more calories from the exact same food than mice with lean microflora. This research provides not only reasoning for the observed changes in these rats, but potentially reasoning for why humans do not lose even when following a calorie restricted diet. (medium.com) The though is that changing the microbiome may change the way food is metabolized, affecting the occurrence of obesity and development of chronic disease.
It has been recently shown that the mind has influence over the gut and that the gut can effect the brain too. The gut produces many molecules that inevitably end up in the brain, and can effect on your mental state. Did you know that 90% of serotonin, the body’s feel good neurotransmitter, is produced in the gut? It therefore makes sense that a healthy gut environment is vital in for having a healthy mental state. Likewise, it is no surprise that gut dysbiosis is beginning to be associated with many neurological disorders, from Autism to Alzheimer’s.
Still So Much More To Learn
These ideas are still emerging, but the idea that the gut can change the brain, immune response and body weight is too powerful to ignore. We have known for a long time now that plant foods, fiber, probiotics, mindful eating habits, and limiting antibiotics are all good things.
So, the takeaway here is not to "gamble" with your gut health. Having a healthy and balanced gut is crucial to many areas of the body. I would be happy to help you get rebalanced so that you are living your life to the fullest.
Tasha Mixon, Integrative Health Practitioner
Gut Check Integrative Health