The Importance of Our Gut

The Importance of Our Gut

Have you ever thought about what people mean when they say "gut health"? Well, when it comes down to it, they're referring to our gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

This system receives and processes the nutrients from the food we eat. But did you know that our gut is also home to our microbiome, a collection of microorganisms that includes bacteria, fungi, and viruses¹?

The gut and microbiome have a symbiotic relationship, meaning they've evolved to work together for our health. The microbes in our gut play a crucial role in maintaining a balance between good and bad bacteria, and in turn, we benefit from the services they provide.

You can think of your gut microbiome as a tiny neighborhood in your gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics, the good bacteria, help keep things running smoothly and aid digestion by breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and fighting harmful bacteria².

There are some troublemakers in the neighborhood — researchers call them pathogens. This type of 'bad bacteria' seeks to overtake the good bacteria and can negatively impact the immune system and increase infection risk.

They can also produce toxic by-products that damage gut lining, which can lead to inflammation³. An overgrowth of this bacteria can lead to digestive problems such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhea⁴. An imbalanced gut can even affect our moods — thanks to exciting scientific advancements, we now know that the gut plays a key role in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects our mood and overall well-being. In fact, research estimate that 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the intestines¹!

Clearly, maintaining a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria is important for our overall health and well-being. Yet, many of us have unbalanced or unhealthy gut microbiomes, often due to the Standard American Diet (SAD). The SAD typically consists of highly processed foods that are high in sugar, fat, and salt — all of which can promote an overgrowth of bad bacteria and a decrease in good bacteria⁵.

It's certainly good news that we've become more aware of the gut's significant role in our physical and mental health over the past few decades. However, there is still much we don't know about the gut and its impact on our health.

For example, the gut microbiome is complex and constantly changing, making it difficult to fully understand its role in our health. We also don't fully understand the impact of different diets, antibiotics, and other factors on our gut microbiome and overall health. Research is ongoing, and we are constantly learning more about the gut and its role in our lives.

In the meantime, how can you improve your gut health? We'll be covering more details in a separate post, but in the meantime, focus on eating a balanced diet with lots of vegetables, probiotics, prebiotics, and other gut-friendly foods into your routine. Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is crucial for our overall health and well-being, so make sure to take extra good care of that vast (friendly) network of microbes living in your gut!

Here are some foods you can incorporate into your diet for better gut health⁷:

  • Fermented foods (e.g. kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha)
  • Polyphenol-rich foods (e.g. apple, blueberries, ginger, turmeric)
  • Foods typical of a Mediterranean diet (e.g. whole grains, olive oil, nuts, seeds)

While you're at it, it's best to avoid (or at least limit) these foods:

  • Real and artificial sweeteners
  • High amounts of animal protein, especially red and processed meats
  • Refined grains (e.g. white bread)
  1. Rinninella, E., Raoul, P., Cintoni, M., Franceschi, F., Miggiano, G. A. D., Gasbarrini, A., & Mele, M. C. (2019). What is the Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition? A Changing Ecosystem across Age, Environment, Diet, and Diseases. Microorganisms7(1), 14.
  2. Probiotics: What You Need To Know. (n.d.). NCCIH. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from
  3. Pickard, J. M., Zeng, M. Y., Caruso, R., & Núñez, G. (2017). Gut Microbiota: Role in Pathogen Colonization, Immune Responses and Inflammatory Disease. Immunological Reviews279(1), 70–89.
  4. Vos, W. M. de, Tilg, H., Hul, M. V., & Cani, P. D. (2022). Gut microbiome and health: Mechanistic insights. Gut71(5), 1020–1032.
  5. Grotto, D., & Zied, E. (2010). The Standard American Diet and its relationship to the health status of Americans. Nutrition in Clinical Practice: Official Publication of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition25(6), 603–612.
  6. Terry, N., & Margolis, K. G. (2017). Serotonergic Mechanisms Regulating the GI Tract: Experimental Evidence and Therapeutic Relevance. Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology239, 319–342.
  7. Rinninella, E., Cintoni, M., Raoul, P., Lopetuso, L. R., Scaldaferri, F., Pulcini, G., Miggiano, G. A. D., Gasbarrini, A., & Mele, M. C. (2019). Food Components and Dietary Habits: Keys for a Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition. Nutrients, 11(10), 2393.

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