Do you deal with digestive issues? If so, you don’t just deal with digestive issues. Digestive issues actually affect many systems in the body. On the flip-side, there’s great news! When you improve digestive health, you positively affect all those systems and whole body health!
In fact, the health of your digestive microbiota (bacteria in your digestive tract) affects literally every other part of your body. Brain health. Metabolism and weight management. Immune health. Heart health. Blood sugars. Skin health.
Although it may seem far-reaching, this area of medical research is changing the way we think about foods, bacteria, and human health. Here’s how improving digestive health improves your whole body, and how you can start today.
Amazingingly, the gut microbiota (healthy bacteria) contributes not only to how your body digests nutrients, but how it metabolizes, uses, and burns them. In fact, studies have found that altered gut microbiota has been associated with unhealthy weights and metabolic issues related to them (1).
In fact, one study concluded that the use of a probiotic alone or together with a prebiotic influenced body fat mass in healthy adults with high weight (2).
Another study followed to see if changes in the gut microbiota due to probiotic supplementation improved gut barrier function, metabolism, and obesity-related markers. The researchers found positive correlation in this study (3).
When you improve digestive health, you encourage better metabolism!
The gut microbiota affects tissue physiology, metabolism, and function of both the immune and nervous systems. We found that intrinsic
Altered blood sugars have a huge impact on individual health as well as our health as a society. Can a healthy digestive system help?
In animal studies, scientists investigated how changes in digestive nervous system cells (enteric-associated neurons) in the lower digestive tract affected glucose metabolism. Specifically, they looked at changes in the microbiota associated with the cells. They found that microbiota depletion led to loss of the neuron cells and impaired glucose regulation (6).
While more research is needed, this leads us to believe impaired microbiota hurts glucose metabolism and blood sugars. This has implications for the metabolism, weight, and blood sugar issues that plague more than 50% of American adults.
Improve digestive health and support glucose metabolism and healthy blood sugars!
Before the industrial revolution, humans consumed natural, wild, and pre-agricultural foods. Since then, Western societies have relied on semi-processed and ultra-processed foods as the primary source of nutrition. This change has had a huge impact on the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract and gut health. In fact, The industrialized Western diet and changes in gut microbiota has been shown to have negatively impacted human digestive physiology and immune health (7).
It’s estimated that 80% of your immune system “lives” in your gut. These immune components form the gut mucosal immune system, and consist of lymph nodes, lamina propria, epithelial cells. They make up a protective barrier for the integrity of the intestinal tract.
Studies have found that depressed gut microbiota causes a significant immune system deficiency. On the other hand, healthy, viable microbiota play a vital role in the development and maintenance of a health gut immune system (8).
How can you bolster your immune system? Focus on your gut. When you improve digestive health, you support your immune system!
The degradation of immune health that has followed poor digestive health doesn’t stop with immunity. Impaired immune responses in turn cause exaggerated neuroinflammation. This means inflammation of neurons in the brain.
Neuroinflammation, unfortunately, is linked with brain impairment and dysfunction. In fact, many experts implicate the modern Western diet in the development of many health and brain issues including memory impairments, neurodegenerative issues, and depressed moods.
This propagation of these brain and health impairments are amplified with the consumption of ultra-processed foods and excessive energy intake (9). There is growing evidence that this relationship may be more than just coincidental. In fact, researchers have found that the bidirectional signaling between the brain and gut is vital for maintaining homeostasis and regulation of the central nervous system (CNS) and enteric nervous system (ENS). This communication system between the gut-brain and the brain is called the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis (10).
This means the health of each nervous system is dependent on the other. When you improve digestive health, you support healthy brain function.
Take note, cardiovascular illness is still the leading cause of death and disability in developed countries. In fact, it is responsible for approximately ⅓ of deaths in the United States and ¼ of the deaths in Europe (11). What’s more, we’re experiencing a steady increase in many risk factors for poor heart health, including blood sugar impairments, metabolic issues, and unhealthy weights (12).
Does the human gut microbiota affect heart health?
Microbial sequencing analysis has a lot of information about gut microbiota and heart health issues (13, 14). What’s more, studies also show that changes in gut microbiota affects metabolism, blood sugars, weight, and more (as described above) (15, 16).
When it comes to direct effects on heart health, scientists know that gut microbiota produce numerous metabolites that are absorbed into the circulatory system while biologically active (8, 13). This means that gut bacteria communicates directly with organs through circulatory pathways, enzymes, and more, including the heart (17, 18, 19).
Want to support heart health? When you improve digestive health, you support the health of your heart!
The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis doesn’t just affect physical health or physical brain function, it affects emotional and mental health as well. While the gut-brain and enteric neurons don’t seem capable of thought like the brain in our heads, they do communicate with the “big brain” in ways that affect emotions.
According to a Johns Hopkins Medicine report, “The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes” (20, 21, 22).
In fact, doctors are reporting that they may have thought of the relationship between digestive issues and anxious or depressed moods backwards for years. In other words, we’ve thought that anxious and depressed moods may trigger digestive issues. Now, studies and anecdotal reports are finding that many people with serious digestive issues develop emotional and mental impairments at a higher-than-normal rate. Since 30-40% of our adult population deal with impaired digestion from time to time, this is a huge issue for mental health (23).
What can be done? First, we can start with healthy digestion. When you improve digestion and gut health, you support your mental health.
More and more people seem to be suffering from skin impairments, from eczema to psoriasis. Could our modern, processed diets and the resulting damage to the microbiota and immune system be one cause?
Scientists are now studying the effects of probiotics and prebiotics on skin health. These studies include both topical and ingested formulations.
Here’s what they are finding: Ingested and topical probiotics improve skin and gut microbiota. The skin ecosystem is a complex environment covered with many strains of bacteria. Some are beneficial, some are essentially neutral, and others are harmful or at least potentially harmful. Scientists have found pre- and probiotics can optimize, maintain and restore the microbiota of the skin in different ways. Topical formulations have a direct effect on the skin by enhancing the natural defenses of skin. Ingested probiotics have a positive effect on skin by supporting the immune system and reducing inflammatory responses systemically (throughout the body) (23).
Ready for healthier skin? When you improve digestive health, you support skin health!
It should be obvious. When you improve digestion, you positively affect every other system in your body. It could not be more important. If you need one health aspect to focus on, start here. Make your digestive health a priority today, and support the health of your entire body.