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Is the Key to Better Health in Your Intestines?

Is the Key to Better Health in Your Intestines?

Research reveals the health risks associated with an unhealthy gut biome.

The power of the gut biome to influence your health is as astounding as the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. This teeming world of an estimated 100 trillion microbes that occupies your inner space went unexplored for millennia. Only recently have scientists begun to probe just how much your gut affects your everyday wellbeing and how you can help keep it in shape—or restore it if it is damaged. Many small bacteria for your gut; one huge breakthrough in understanding health and wellness.

When all the various types of bacteria in your biome are in balance, they protect your health by interacting with the lining of your intestines and your immune system to protect you from disease-carrying pathogens, produce essential nutrients (they synthesize vitamin K), digest cellulose, promote gut nerve function and help regulate glucose.

But their smooth functioning can be disrupted by antibiotics, medications, illness, a chronic stress response, aging, poor nutrition and lifestyle (excess drinking, poor sleep habits, recreational drug use, lack of physical activity).

This can cause certain gut bacteria to produce inflammation that increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, memory loss, cancer and even mental illnesses like depression. It can also increase your risk for allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease and symptoms of social dysfunction in children.

What we know: Research reveals a well-balanced biome can help promote good health and recovery in amazing ways—and reveals the health risks associated with a biome in distress.

  1. There may be a link between an unhealthy gut biome and infection following knee replacement surgery, according to a lab study published in the journal Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. Only one percent of folks getting a knee or hip replacement develop a post-surgical infection. So, why do they succumb to this rare complication? It seems those with a compromised immune system because of an off-balance biome are most vulnerable.
  2. Parkinson’s disease may happen when the gut biome cannot protect the body from a triggering infection. And other forms of neurological damage, such as multiple sclerosis, may also be caused by a viral infection that invades through the gut.
  3. An unbalanced gut microbiome may contribute to anxiety and other mental disorders through something called the “gut-brain axis.” In one meta-study published in BMJ, researchers found anxiety was eased (around half the time) by taking probiotics and reduced more frequently by making overall upgrades to nutritional habits that encourage a healthy gut biome.
  4. An overgrowth of various gut bacteria is associated with high blood pressure. The imbalance causes neuro-inflammation and affects the sympathetic nervous system, which impacts blood pressure, according to studies published in Frontiers in Physiology and Microbiome.

So, how do you protect and promote a healthier gut biome?

Ways to keep your gut healthy

  1. Only take antibiotics when necessary. The CDC says 33 percent of prescriptions are unneeded. Never take them if they haven’t been prescribed by your doctor.
  2. Adopt a gut-loving diet. Eat fermented and cultured foods like low- or nonfat yogurt, kefir, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and natto. Also, be sure to eat high-fiber prebiotic foods like 100 percent whole grains, asparagus, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, bananas and other fruit as well as flax and chia seeds. Avoid high fat diets and red meat.
  3. Ask your doc about taking a probiotic. If you have small or large intestine bacterial overgrowth, talk to your doctor about which type of probiotic is right for you.
  4. Ditch artificial sweeteners. Research shows artificial sugars may alter gut bacteria in ways that promote metabolic diseases.
  5. Adopt stress management techniques. Activities such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing can help you to reduce stress. Aim to get seven to eight hours of restful sleep nightly.
  6. Get plenty of physical activity and exercise. Try to get 10,000 steps or equivalent daily, two strength-building sessions weekly for 30 minutes and at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobics weekly. Regular exercise improves the balance of gut bacteria and helps fight obesity.
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