How Healthy Is Your Gut?

brain health healthy eating healthy living mindful movement real food resilience sleep stress-free sugarfree Jan 22, 2023

Would it surprise you to know that you have more bacteria in your body than human cells?

Estimates give the number as between 1.3 to 10 times more bacteria.  Having a range like that may seem confusing, but that is just the way it is. We are in the frontier days when it comes to knowledge about the bacteria in our body and what it does for us.

Most people are afraid of bacteria, not knowing that the majority of it is called “good bacteria,” playing many beneficial roles in and on our body to keep us healthy.

There are, of course, bad bacteria, but 85 percent of the bacteria in a healthy body is the favourable kind. They keep the bad guys in check and, in turn, the bad guys give the good bacteria a workout. It is important that we have a diverse group of good and bad bacteria in and on our body, because the more diversity there is, the healthier we will be.

In recent years, many health issues have been linked to the quality and quantity of good bacteria in our systems and the function of the “gut” – these include heart disease, obesity, cancer, osteoporosis, allergies, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, depression, anxiety, brain function and all conditions related to the brain and nervous system, acne, liver disease and of course, all digestive and intestinal conditions.

Thousands of annual research studies have been investigating the How and Why all these conditions are linked to gut health. While there is plenty more to learn in years to come, one thing is certain: our good gut bacteria play a huge role in regulating many functions in the body. When we do not have enough, we do not function properly and health issues develop.

So, the question is not when you should do gut health work, but since it's so important, why you aren’t always doing gut health work?

The following information has been designed to help you understand how to support and maintain a healthy gut, and it all starts with food. Learning about the key foods that will support your efforts is the best place to start.

Understanding Good Gut Health

There are two categories of beneficial bacteria – residential and transient:

Residential Bacteria:

This is the bacteria that is native to you. It is affected by what you eat, your environment, stress, drugs (especially antibiotics), excess alcohol, too much or too little exercise, x-rays, surgeries, air travel and genetics. Other factors include whether you were breastfed or delivered by caesarean section as a baby.

Even the conditions of your mother’s gut while pregnant and breastfeeding affects how well you developed your residential bacteria as an infant. Health issues that you have today could be linked to what happened when you were a baby.

One of the key elements to gut health is promoting and maintaining residential bacteria, both the quantity and the diversity of the strains.

Transient Bacteria:

Beneficial bacteria found in probiotics and fermented foods are considered transient. What does this mean? Our residential bacteria will colonize in our body which is how and why they can maintain our health. Transient bacteria cannot colonize because they do not stay in our body. However, they can perform many of the same functions as our residential bacteria while they are present. Much of the research we have regarding the function of gut bacteria comes from studies looking at probiotic strains with the goal of creating supplements.

And where are the bacteria found?  They're everywhere!  Protective Bacteria are found in the mouth, nose, skin, stomach (a small amount), small intestines, large intestines (colon), bladder, and vaginal canal.

Main Functions of Good Gut Bacteria

  • Helps with digestion of all foods – having food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances are directly caused by a lack of good bacteria. Don’t blame the food – fix the gut.
  • Helps eliminate waste materials, preventing both constipation and diarrhea.
  • Works synergistically with fiber and phytochemicals in foods to ensure proper absorption of nutrients.
  • Protects the intestinal gut lining and defends against bad bacteria and other pathogens.
  • Regulates inflammation.
  • Helps with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Helps regulate weight and prevent obesity.
  • Boosts immune system function.
  • Communicates directly with the brain as part of the brain-gut connection and produces important neurotransmitters.
  • Helps regulate blood sugar, insulin levels, blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Supports the function of the liver and kidneys.
  • Prevents infections throughout the body.
  • Potentiates phytochemicals in foods to be more powerful or deactivates any potentially harmful chemicals found in food.
  • Helps detox out heavy metals and other toxins before they enter the body, saving the liver some work.

What is Dysbiosis?

When there are insufficient good gut bacteria, pathogens that exist naturally in us such as E. coli and salmonella have the opportunity to proliferate. The body tries to fight this and many of the symptoms that we consider to be an “illness” such as sneezing, vomiting, fever and diarrhea are all attempts by the immune system to get the pathogens out of the body.  So it’s not always a good idea to try and reduce these beneficial symptoms, rather, let your body and immune system do their job!  Having sufficient good bacteria can prevent proliferation.

To be healthy, 85% of all organisms in and on our body, should be good bacteria. Issues develop as the levels of our good bacteria drop. Dysbiosis occurs when we do not have the ideal level of good bacteria, allowing bad bacteria and other pathogens to cause us symptoms and issues.

How does Dysbiosis develop?

Modern lifestyle and food choices may not be as healthy as we think.  Some of those that may cause more harm than good include:

  • Too much processed, refined foods and junk food
  • Lack of diversity in the diet
  • Stress
  • Too much, or too little, exercise
  • Overuse of antibiotics, and for reasons that are inappropriate
  • Lack of sleep
  • Other stressors such as X-rays, airline travel, exposure to radiation, medications such as corticosteroids and chemotherapy drugs, surgeries, alcohol, too much time spent indoors and chemical cleaning products all can have a negative effect.

So what can you do about it?

Recommended Home Practice

You can’t fix something if you don’t know what’s wrong!

  • Plan to spend a few moments each day noting your regular practices, and consider if they are really healthy for you and your body.  What do you eat?  What kind of movement?  How do you manage stress?  How restful is your sleep?
  • And notice, too, the state of your digestive system!  Are you “regular?” (And what does that mean, anyway?)  You were likely conditioned as children NOT to talk about these things, but it’s time we started to - your body and your health depend on it!
  • No need to change anything yet (unless you want to) this first week is all about Awareness!

For more info on this and other natural health topics:

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