Article at a Glance
- A healthy gut microbiome is involved in regulating metabolism and weight management.
- Having a healthy gut can lead to improved skin, reduced stress levels, and balanced energy.
- Improving your microbiome can lead to better sleep and digestion.
The gut serves as the barrier between ingested substances and the bloodstream. It harbors a dynamic network of around 40 trillion bacteria that impact the body in a myriad of ways.
Why is the gut so important? What are some of the benefits of improved gut health we humans would notice earliest? Let’s find out!
The trillions of microbes that reside in the gastrointestinal tract have a wide range of effects on human physiology – including weight management.
The microbiome can affect body weight through a number of mechanisms. The microbiota determine the balance of short-chain fatty acids that are produced in the gut. This can affect feelings of satiety as well as promote either weight gain or loss. The gut bacteria can also affect the level of inflammation in the body, another big factor in weight balance [R].
Busy schedules, deadlines, chasing around your kids – we could all use a little more energy. Fortunately, our gut is an excellent source of it.
Studies on germ-free mice, with no bacteria in their gut, found that their colon cells were in a constant energy-deprived state. They had significantly lower ATP (energy) production, despite food consumption, indicating the importance of the gut microbiome in our energy levels [R]. In fact, as a desperate move to get energy, germ-free colon cells were found to revert to cellular cannibalism or autophagy. In other words, they “eat” their own organelles, to break them down into energy. As you can imagine, over time, this leads to self-destruction. Without gut microbes, we simply couldn’t extract energy from food.
Gut probiotics, thus, help separate and process all the nutrients you eat so you can absorb the supplements you need to increase your energy levels. Some probiotics even produce their own energy-boosting B vitamins [R].
Proper diet, with plenty of dietary fiber, enhances the function of gut microorganisms that influence the nutrient synthesis. It also helps with the assimilation of calcium, magnesium, and iron, which also improves your energy levels [R, R].
The gut microbiome is also directly connected to the brain. The interaction of gut cells with beneficial bacteria emits signals to the brain to keep the blood glucose levels in check. This further maintains your energy levels and your general wellbeing [R].
A microbiome-balancing diet can improve your skin through decreases in systemic inflammation. This can lead to a reduction in certain skin disorders or infections like acne, eczema, atopic dermatitis, dandruff, ichthyosis, psoriasis, and dry skin [R].
Studies have shown that increasing lactobacilli via oral supplements led to a decrease in water loss of the skin [R]. Bacterial supplementation was also shown to improve the barrier function of the skin.
Like the brain, the gut also produces neurotransmitters involved in focus and sleep, including serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin.
So how can improved gut health lead to improved sleep? A study performed on medical students showed that Lactobacillus casei helped improve sleep quality by decreasing stress-induced sleep deprivation. [R].
Another study showed that a diet rich in certain prebiotics (substances that increase the growth of beneficial microbes), when started in early life, can alleviate stress-induced disruption of REM sleep [R].
Reduction in Gastrointestinal Issues
Research has shown that the microbiome can aid in decreasing abdominal discomfort and improving digestive issues.
One study showed that direct contact of the probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus with gut wall cells leads to the activation of opioid and cannabinoid receptors. This results in an altered perception of stomach pain and mimicking the analgesic effects of morphine [R].
In addition, multiple studies have shown that the gut microbiome of those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome is less diverse and less stable than the control population. That would suggest that improving microbiome diversity and stability may improve symptoms in those with IBS [R].
Gut dysbiosis is a leading cause for a wide range of symptoms. Simple dietary alterations can lead to beneficial effects on your well-being. To find personalized advice and care for your gut, take a look through our directory of functional and integrative physicians.
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