Long and Important: How to Take Care of Your Gut Health

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Gastrointestinal diseases can be called a disease of large city residents. The morning stress, long working hours, commuting, and pollution do not contribute to our well-being. According to research “Increasing incidence and prevalence of the inflammatory bowel diseases with time, based on systematic review,“ up to 95% of city dwellers experience trouble with their gut system. The most common bowel diseases are ulcerative colitis (in European countries there are 505 cases of the disease per 100 000 people), Crohn’s disease (322 cases per 100 000 population), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), with 10% to 25% people worldwide dealing with it, according to “Irritable Bowel Syndrome: In Depth” research.

If you are a woman, 40 or older, and you are a big city dweller, you really need to take care of your gut – and not just keep your digestion comfortable.

Between intestines and brain

Perhaps the most fantastic connection in our body is the one between the brain and the gut. Believe it or not, our mood, cognitive abilities, and even some personal qualities (for example, courage) depend on how well the beneficial bacteria that live in our intestines feel and how they perform. Here are just a few examples of this amazing connection.

Fact 1: Your mood is churned in your gut

Up to 90% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for our good mood, is produced in the intestines by special nerve cells. Therefore, the correct selection of diet makes not only the gastrointestinal tract happy but also ourselves.

Fact 2: Your spunk comes from your gut too

There is a funny idiom: my heart was in my mouth. Well, in fact, it goes a bit lower down your bowels. During one curious research, scientists transplanted bacteria from the intestines of more cautious mice to their brave counterparts. They were shocked by the result: soon after the operation, the former brave men began to behave much more carefully. The recent cowards, having received the bacteria from the intestines of their brave fellows, began to respond more actively to challenges and were no longer afraid.

You can find more in the report “Gut bacteria linked to behavior: That anxiety may be in your gut, not in your head.”

Fact 3: Brain speed relies on the gut bacteria

Do you wish to boost your performance at college or productivity at work? Start consuming more products containing probiotics: pickles, sauerkraut, sour milk drinks, and yogurts. The better the environment for the beneficial bacteria in our gut, the faster our brain works.

Fact 4: The healthier the gut, the better your brain is protected

Mitochondria are tiny particles in our cells that “control” your health and decide whether it’s time for the cell to die. It is a mitochondria condition that can predetermine disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, diabetes, and even cancer. The biggest enemy of mitochondria is inflammation. And especially dangerous is the one that arises from the imbalance of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.

Fact 5: Disbalanced gut can trigger depression

If we build our diet, including generous amounts of healthy fats and vitamins, we decrease the depression risk. Foods high in healthy fats, such as cocoa, tea, coffee, and even red wine, help maintain healthy gut flora. At the same time, light carbohydrates and a large amount of sugar, on the contrary, inhibit beneficial bacteria and can increase the likelihood of this dangerous disease.

What diseases start in your bowel?

If the intestines fail to perform their functions, if the balance of beneficial bacteria is disturbed, it takes its toll on almost all systems of our body. Here are just a few of the diseases the development of which modern medicine associates with intestinal dysfunction.

Colon cancer

Patients with familial adenomatous polyposis harbor colonic biofilms containing tumorigenic bacteria,” published in Science Magazine in 2018, concludes that two types of gut bacteria, E. coli and B. Fragilis can damage DNA and, thus, trigger the development of colon cancer. Study authors believe that tests to detect high levels of these bacteria in the gut may help identify people who are especially important to monitor for bowel cancer prevention.

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis causes the body’s immune system to attack the myelin covering of neurons. According to the research, “Gut bacteria from multiple sclerosis patients modulate human T cells and exacerbate symptoms in mouse models.“ Patients with multiple sclerosis twice as often report having certain strains of intestinal bacteria that can cause changes in blood cells, thereby triggering the likelihood of a dangerous autoimmune response.

Rheumatoid arthritis

This autoimmune disease describes a condition where the immune system attacks the joints as well as the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. There is compelling scientific evidence to acknowledge that gut bacteria affect the condition.

Being examined closely, rheumatoid arthritis patients proved to house a particular strain of gut bacteria. Scientists transplanted a healthy strain of bacteria into mice with rheumatoid arthritis, improving their condition. Researchers are not yet ready to conclude how this mechanism works. Still, they are confident that gut bacteria can stimulate the immune system to attack its own body. Sounds spooky, doesn’t it?

You can learn more about these studies here,  “Gut bacteria can cause, predict and prevent rheumatoid arthritis.”

Allergies

One of the most common responses to immune system failures is an allergy, which can manifest in versatile ways: allergy to certain foods, seasonal hay fever, or allergic response to some chemicals. A study called “New perspectives on allergic disease, the human microbiome, infectious disease prevention and the role of targeted hygiene“ confirms the link between antibiotic use and the subsequent imbalance of intestinal bacteria, which can lead to impaired immune tolerance and an increased risk of allergic diseases.

Diabetes

Patients with diabetes have difficulty processing sugar in the blood. You also should keep in mind that the more fiber in the diet, the better the glucose levels. As is shown by a study, “For diabetics, a high-fiber diet feeds gut microbes, lowering blood sugar,” dietary fiber helps nourish intestinal bacteria, which, in turn, have a positive effect on insulin, a hormone that converts the sugar in the blood.

Heart diseases

Dangerous plaque forms on the walls of arteries, narrowing or even blocking them, is one of the causes of heart attack or stroke. The formation of this plaque depends, among other reasons, on the state of our intestines. Research published in The Atlantic explains that some beneficial bacteria in our gut can create chemicals that contribute to reducing harmful plaque. For further information, please click here.

Depression & anxiety

Certain chemicals produced by gut bacteria act as neurotransmitters, transmitting information between neurons in the brain and stimulating the release of substances that can exacerbate anxiety or other mental disorders.The authors of the research with lab rats, “Mental Health May Depend on Creatures in the Gut, “ managed to relieve the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even autism by transplanting healthier bacteria strains.

How to interpret your gut signals?

Of course, it is difficult to turn a blind eye to the constant feeling of discomfort or pain in the intestinal area. However, the trouble is that these symptoms are far from the first signs of emerging health problems. Here are some early or unusual symptoms that may indicate gut health is at risk.

Stomach issues

Such common routine inconveniences like heartburn, nausea, or bloating are all manifestations of interruptions in the work of the gastrointestinal tract. There is also constipation or diarrhea, as well as discomfort after meals, especially those rich in carbohydrates. If you find any of the listed symptoms in yourself regularly, it’s time you consider seeing a doctor.

You have unhealthy foods cravings

This primarily concerns sugar and sweets: most often, sugar cravings result from an imbalance in intestinal bacteria. A consistent desire to eat sweets sometimes appears after a course of antibiotics, when the “good” bacteria die. In this case, eating more foods containing probiotics is essential, which will help normalize the balance of bacteria in the intestines.

Your weight goes up and down

Many people know that functional bowel disorders can lead to upsetting weight gain. Few realize that too much of certain bacteria can cause dramatic weight loss: some of these interfere with fat absorption. If you think it was good news, think again. The constant lack of essential nutrients we consume with healthy fatty foods is sure to affect one’s health negatively.

You experience agitation or depression

As was said before, most of the serotonin (90%) is produced in the gut, and in no way should we underestimate this neurotransmitter, for it affects our mood, social behavior, sleep, appetite, memory, and even libido. So if you notice increased anxiety or depression in yourself, contact your gastroenterologist — he may be able to nail the cause of your problem!

Sleep disorder

Lack of hormone serotonin can lead to sleep disturbances and insomnia. It may sound funny, but if you have trouble sleeping – perhaps it’s time to check your intestines since serotonin is mainly produced there!

Skin conditions

Experienced dermatologists know that if a patient complains about skin problems, it is important first to check the functioning of his gastrointestinal tract. Eczema, skin rashes, acne, and many other conditions can be attributed to the imbalance of gut bacteria. Thus, treatment will not require lengthy and pricey cosmetic procedures or product treatment but a course of probiotics and other drugs that support gut health.

What causes gut problems?

In most cases, the development of gastrointestinal tract diseases can be prevented: heredity determines a very small part of them. Most are triggered by imperfections in our lifestyle where nutrition plays a major role. Here are the most common reasons.

Unhealthy diet

We are what we eat. The role of our eating habits in developing gastrointestinal tract diseases should not be underestimated. A fiber deficiency, a lack of fresh vegetables in the diet, the abuse of fatty foods, fast food, and foods high in trans fats, salt, and empty carbs, increase the risk. Another disservice is developing a habit of skipping meals (especially breakfast) and overeating in the evening. Remember the old saying: old saying: “Breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince; dinner like a pauper.”

Be cautious with fasting and diets, especially “fast” ones. Unless prescribed by or coordinated with your medical practitioner, all this can ruin your gastrointestinal system and lead to developing or worsening certain diseases.

Alcohol abuse

World statistics show that man dies from gastrointestinal tract diseases 38% more often than women, and most experts believe that one of the reasons is that men are more likely to abuse alcohol. Alcoholic beverages negatively affect not only the liver: the intestines, the mucous membranes of the stomach and esophagus, the pancreas, and the kidneys also suffer from regular use.

Infections

Most of us have encountered rotavirus and food poisoning at least once in our lives. Bacteria – such as salmonella, staphylococcus, E. coli, enter the human body, and cause gastrointestinal infections, the symptoms of which are well known to all of us. Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and intoxication are signs of gastrointestinal diseases caused by infections.

Helicobacter pylori

This small bacterium that lives in the stomach and duodenum may lay dormant for years: up to 90% of its “hosts” do not even know that they are infected with this bacterium. But this bacteria causes the formation of gastric and duodenal ulcers.

Stress

How can stress affect gastrointestinal health? The higher the activity of the nervous system, the poorer the blood supply to the digestive system. As a result, it may take longer to digest, and food may not be properly digested. The longer it stays in the stomach, the more it irritates its mucous membrane. So yes, diseases of the stomach or intestines are often stress-related.

You lack some vitamins

Our body is not just a random potpourri of muscle bags and tissues but a complex, sophisticated system where elements influence one another because they are interconnected and interrelated. The gastrointestinal tract is perhaps one of the most dominant of these elements: what, in what quantity, and in what quality we gain from those foods and drinks we consume daily depends on its functioning. 

No matter how old we are and in what state our health is, it is important to take care of your intestines. Eat clean, lead an active lifestyle, cut bad habits, and make sure you get enough vitamins and other vital substances. A little effort and discipline will increase the likelihood of not only blowing out the candles on your Happy 100th birthday cake but also enjoying this cake with a glass of champagne!

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