Posted by Dayne Hudson in Wellness
Estimated reading time: 6mins
Here's something about yourself that sounds like the start of a science fiction film: you are only 76% human.
You're made up of varieties of bacteria in your mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and on your skin. And the combination of your and this "other" bacteria results in 100-times as many genes as the human genome (a "genome" is an organism's complete set of DNA).
And this is called the "extended genome", arriving due to the co-evolution between us and the aforementioned bacteria. It has also been identified as critical for human health.
Moreover, the "extended genome" is often referred to as gut "microbiome", a word you've likely read or heard many times before. And the precise makeup of your microbiome is affected by various factors like your diet, geographic location, and genetics.
And because this bacteria is in your mouth, gastrointestinal tract, etc, it means that when we're referring to your "gut", it's not just your stomach, but your whole digestive system. We're talking about your mouth, teeth, oesophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines. So, there's a lot that can go wrong here from a health point of view.
The reason we're hearing more about gut health today is that scientists, until recently, thought that gut bacteria was just to aid digestion. But how bacteria affects our health and well-being is relatively fresh.
But it turns out gut bacteria breaks down poisonous compounds that would have otherwise found their way into your bloodstream. They also enhance our immune systems and might bolster our health by creating goodies such as short-chain fatty acids; molecules that can help prevent inflammatory diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
And normally, our bodies excrete what they don't need from food. But occasionally, some unwantedness can creep past your colon's defences. But short-chain fatty acids can also positively affect your gut-barrier function, and not allow these unwanted molecules to get into your blood.
Optimal health is achieved by having a healthy amount of gut bacteria, as it helps fight off the bad bacteria. There's constantly a war going on in your gut, whereby the bad bacteria are trying to outnumber the good. Bad bacteria takes over following a poor diet, disease, or antibiotics. Moreover, you might have heard the term "dysbiosis" -- this is an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.
And it's dysbiosis that can lead to inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) and disease (IBD). But here's a very important finding in the age of mental health:
Your gut health influences your mood and brain function.
Not that good gut health wasn't critical enough already, but this is a huge finding. Moreover, a communication system referred to as the "gut-brain axis" plays a key role in the makeup of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which governs happiness and wellbeing. This is why gut health has such a profound impact on mental health; dysbiosis has been found to cause depression, anxiety, and stress.
Ok, so what does ideal gut health look like? Well, scientists still aren't exactly sure.
But the good news is scientists DO know what will improve your gut health: and that's two words you've probably seen everywhere in the last few years:
Prebiotics are obviously critical for keeping up a healthy amount of gut bacteria. Low prebiotic intake = low gut health.
So where do we get prebiotics from? Well, fruit and vegetables strike again! Also, research suggests anything from 4-20 grams of prebiotics a day is beneficial.
To put this into context, a medium-sized banana has about 6 grams of prebiotics, so getting enough shouldn't be an issue. But if it is, we've got you covered with our Bulk Nutrients Proviotic supplement, which contains bacillus subtilis, a type of probiotic.
But get enough fruits and vegetables daily, and you'll be getting enough prebiotics for optimal gut health. With current fibre recommendations being 50 grams a day, you'll be covering yourself well and truly.
Also, keep exercising! Research shows that those who exercise can favourably impact their gut microbiota.
The bottom line is that gut health is still yet to be fully explored, but we must eat enough fruit and vegetables to allow for a positive balance of good gut bacteria. This is not only important for fighting off nasty diseases but is critical for our mental health, too. By aiming to consume the recommended daily fibre intake of 50 grams, we can rest assured we'll get the recommended amount of prebiotics a day: 4-20 grams. This is critical in a time where gut health is becoming more important to our well-being every day.
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