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Is Your Gut Really the Root of Good Health?

You’ve heard the popular adage listen to your gut. It turns out that following this sage advice brings terrific benefits to your overall health and may even reduce your risk of physical and cognitive decline.

Most people associate the gut strictly with digesting food, absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste. But incredible new research reveals that an intestinal pouch filled with trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi holds the key to having clarity of mind, strong immunity, healthier heart and weight, and even driving motivation and behavior.

Bacteria’s Home Base

The gut microbiome plays a pivotal role within a sophisticated network of communication between the gut and nervous system. The gut microbiome is a colony of living microbiota that reside in the large intestine (colon) just after the small intestine.* And these bacteria hold sway over your health.

Weighing in at 2-5 pounds, the gut microbiome has the heft of an organ, earning the name “the forgotten organ”. Up to 1,000 species of bacteria – some friends (probiotics), others foes (pathogens) – co-exist here, though not always peacefully.

The higher and more diverse levels of probiotics you have to keep order in the colony, the healthier you are and more energetic you feel. So, keeping balance between good and evil bacteria means everything to your good health.

Your “Second Brain”

You know that strong gut feeling you sometimes get in certain situations when your mind tries to send you an urgent, albeit cryptic, message? It feels like a knot in your belly, but the sensation is actually crosstalk between your brain, stomach and intestines, called the brain-gut axis.

According to emerging research, this interplay may influence the central nervous system (CNS), which controls brain function, as well as the enteric nervous system (ENS), hidden within the walls of the GI tract.** In fact, the ENS is often referred to as the second brain for its profound influence and ability to act independently.**

Emotions, thinking abilities, mood, social behavior, and personality – all are reported to have a connection to chemical substances or signaling related to the gut’s microbiota, for better or worse. For example, some beneficial strains of bacteria can produce the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, while some harmful strains produce toxins associated with age-related cognitive and nerve impairments.*    

Immunity Starts in the Gut

Up to 80% of immune cells call your GI tract home, making your gut your first line of defense against dark invaders seeking to sabotage your health.* There’s a symbiotic relationship between gut bugs and your immune response: gut bugs give immune cells cues, while the immune system helps keep the gut ecosystem balanced.

And the greater diversity of bacteria there is, the more capable your natural defenses are at responding to pathogenic attacks.* An unbalanced ratio of good and bad bacteria can trigger inflammation rooted in many conditions that target cellular function, as well as some autoimmune ailments.*

In fact, preclinical research indicates that shifts in bacteria composition may trigger a hostile autoimmune response that produces and tricks antibodies into targeting and destroying healthy tissue.*

Cardiovascular and Metabolic Aid

As we have long known, low-grade inflammation is a hallmark of many serious health conditions, including cardiovascular, metabolic and autoimmune issues. Gut bacteria can either activate or suppress inflammation as needed to keep your body in balance. And changes in gut bacteria, whether through poor diet or excessive use of antibiotics, can negatively impact these systems.*

You may not link your heart to your gut, but the relationship is a strong one. Changes in certain types of bad bacteria may make it harder for you to maintain good HDL cholesterol levels and healthy blood pressure.*

Additionally, early but exciting research suggests that changes in bacteria may lead to metabolic issues affecting weight and blood sugar stability.*

Improved Digestion and Elimination

It seems like old news, but your ability to absorb nutrients and eliminate toxins is deeply important to your short- and long-term health. The food you eat brings in protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, all of which work to rebuild and renew every inch of you. And when it comes to fortifying the diversity of gut microbiota, plant fiber wins the prize. 

While insoluble fiber is the roughage that helps clean the intestines, soluble fiber consists of prebiotics that are fermented by and feasted upon by good bacteria. In other words, probiotics eat prebiotics.

But bacterial diversity requires dietary diversity in the form of fiber-rich plant-based and fermented foods… not exactly fan favorites in the American diet.

A few prime sources of prebiotics include barley, garlic, onions, artichoke, bananas, sauerkraut, kimchi, and everyone’s favorite, yogurt. Natural yogurt, and especially kefir, are also high in potent live strains of probiotics that help boost levels of good bacteria.

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