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What Effects Does Poor Gut Health Have on the Body as a Whole?

Does Gut Health Affect Your Whole Body?

Yes, gut health may impact many systems and functions throughout the body, including the immune system, inflammatory responses, hormone metabolism, and even brain function and mental health. This is why symptoms of poor gut health can include not only obvious digestive problems, but also issues from chronic inflammation to anxiety and depression as well. 

What Is the Microbiome?

The human microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and even parasites, which live on and in the skin, the gut, the nose, and elsewhere. Most of these microbes are thought to be symbiotic, meaning that they are "good gut bacteria" that benefit from coexisting with humans, while humans also benefit from their presence. Symbiotic microbes may also help to keep the microbiome's typically smaller populations of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria in check. 

Why Is the Gut Microbiome Important to Overall Health?

The intestines contain 90 percent of the microorganisms that make up the microbiome, and the gut microbiome is commonly involved in, and necessary for, numerous bodily processes, including digestion. Bacteria in the gut may help to regulate immune system function and inflammatory response, synthesize critical amino acids and vitamins (e.g., B vitamins and vitamin K), and even process and neutralize certain toxins in our food and environment.

Effects of Poor Gut Health on the Body

Gut Health and Immune System Function

Gut health and the immune system's ability to function are integrally linked, with 70 percent of the immune system located in the gut. To be more specific, our gut microbiome may interact with immune cells in our gastrointestinal tract, effectively "educating" the immune system on how to respond appropriately to pathogens and other external threats.

Gut Health and Chronic Inflammation

Just as the immune system and gut health are critically linked, so are gut health and inflammation. This is since we’ve evolved in tandem with many species of bacteria that live in our digestive tract, and our immune system typically relies on these bacteria to regulate and modulate our immune responses. Eating a diverse diet rich in fiber that feeds beneficial microbiota may improve gut health and support the body's ability to recover from chronic inflammation, potentially reducing the risk of developing autoimmune diseases (which commonly arises when the immune system attacks parts of the body). 

Gut Health and Digestive Disorders

Unsurprisingly, an imbalance in our gut bacteria (otherwise known as dysbiosis) may lead to gut issues such as diarrhea, constipation, as well as more serious gastrointestinal disease. Dysbiosis may be associated with conditions such as IBS, colitis, celiac disease, leaky gut syndrome, and colon and rectal cancer. 

Correlation Between Gut Health and Hormone Levels

The Gut Microbiota's Role in Hormone Metabolism

Gut health and hormones are firmly linked, with gut bacteria typically playing a key role in hormone balance for women. The term "estrobolome" commonly refers to the specific microbiota that metabolizes and modulates estrogen, an essential female hormone. Estrogen, in turn, regulates the composition of the microbiome. For this reason, poor gut health may contribute to hormone-related diseases, such as PCOS and endometriosis. 

Gut Microbiome Changes During Menopause

Menopause and gut health are strongly associated since menopause may cause significant changes to the gut microbiome. Research in this area is in its early stages and is relatively limited, but a 2022 study found that post-menopausal women's microbiomes are more similar to those of men than premenopausal women, including lower estrogen levels. Because having higher estrogen levels is correlated with a more diverse microbiome, and microbiome diversity is linked to good health, this shift may negatively impact the body's health as a whole.

Strategies for Improving Gut Health During Menopausal Transition

The best diet for gut health and hormone balance incorporates fermented foods containing probiotics such as lactic acid bacteria. These include fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir, lacto-fermented sauerkraut, and other vegetables (vegetables should be pickled in saltwater, not vinegar, to ensure their probiotic benefits), kimchi, miso, and kombucha.

In addition to consuming plenty of probiotic foods, prebiotics may also improve gut health during menopause. Prebiotics are foods that are rich in fiber and that "feed" the probiotic bacteria in your gut to help increase their population. Examples of common, effective prebiotics are thought to include whole grains, leafy greens, garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, and flaxseed.

Estrogen replacement therapy is a widespread treatment for menopausal symptoms that may benefit your gut microbiome. Although the changes in hormone levels that come with menopause may negatively impact the diversity of the microbiome, estrogen replacement therapy may help to combat this effect.

Correlation Between Gut Health and Brain Health

What's the Gut-Brain Axis?

The link between gut bacteria and mental health is unsurprising, given that roughly 95 percent of the body's serotonin is manufactured by gut bacteria. Serotonin is a crucial neurotransmitter that regulates mood and emotions, sleep, digestion, wound healing, sexual desire, and more. When serotonin levels are too low or too high, this may result in mental and physical health issues. 

Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Dietary Considerations for Brain-Gut Health

Although research on effective interventions to improve mental health via gut health supplements is in its infancy, some tried-and-true interventions are likely to have real benefits. For instance, taking probiotics for gut health may be a practical approach. 

However, it's essential to take the right probiotic. Consider choosing a probiotic that contains species of bacteria with scientific evidence backing up their benefits and, ideally, one that includes prebiotics to feed the good bacteria. A good probiotic supplement should also contain at least one billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per dose to ensure that there’s enough bacteria to produce tangible benefits.

Body Kitchen's Gut Balance

Body Kitchen's Gut Balance is a leading probiotic for gut health since it contains three strains of bacteria with benefits demonstrated in high-quality scientific studies: Bacillus Coagulans, Bacillus clausii, and Bacillus Subtilis.

In addition, the best probiotics contain at least one billion CFUs per dose. Each two-capsule serving of Gut Balance includes a whopping six billion CFUs.

Finally, Gut Balance contains both prebiotics and probiotics, which means that the beneficial bacteria will have an immediate food source once they reach your gut, enabling them to populate your microbiome and shift its balance more effectively. The prebiotics in Gut Balance is a proprietary blend of flavonoid compounds from oranges and grapefruits called MicrobiomeX®. According to one study, supplementing with 500mg of MicrobiomeX® per day increased populations of probiotic bacteria that produce a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate. Butyrate helps lower biomarkers for gut inflammation (such as calprotectin levels) and causes the gut lumen to secrete more antibodies, strengthening the gut barrier. 

Before incorporating a probiotic such as Gut Balance into your daily supplement routine, you should speak with a physician or other medical professional to ensure that it is a safe, beneficial choice for your health. Although probiotics are generally safe for those who are healthy, certain groups (such as immunocompromised people) may be at greater risk of side effects from probiotics.