Our gut is the place that the outside world interacts with our inside world, all day every day. The health of our gut impacts every single system in the body and must be addressed when looking at any disease or symptom. What happens in the gut sets the stage for health or disease to take root. No matter what other route you are taking to heal, addressing gut function is key.
What directly impacts gut health? Food, lifestyle, mindset, and environment. Wait, holistic health is important for a biochemical reason? Yup!
10 ways the gut directly impacts our health-
1.Many of our genes are turned off or on depending on what comes in from the outside world through our gut and the condition of our gut. New science shows us that we are not our genes but instead what health promoting or disease promoting genes turn on depending what environment they are in (epigenetics and gene expression). 7, 1 Humans do not have that many genes, it is our life experiences and the world around us that dictate so many of our differences.
2. Around 70% of our immune system is in our gut. What we eat directly affects the status, health, and activation of our immune system. Our immune system can be under functioning (as with cancer or when we constantly catch infections) or over functioning (such as in autoimmunity, allergies, and chronic inflammation). We need our immune system to activate, work, and then return back to monitoring. The foods we eat, how we digest them, and the environment of our digestive tract can turn this chronically on or deliver input that leads to downstream immune dysfunction. (Take the thyroid for example you can have high antibodies for 8 years before your thyroid is seriously damaged or you even have symptoms! That gives you almost a decade to turn things around with food before disease sets in!) 8, 4
3. Many of the neurotransmitters we need for brain health are produced in our gut and are essential for our mental health. When the gut is not functioning correctly the brain can be directly impacted through these messengers. That serotonin that helps you to feel good? Most of that is made in the gut! Even gluten, cassein, and sugar can have opiate affects in our brain! 1, 3.
Our gut is even considered our second brain. The vagus nerve directly connects our gut to our brain and there are messages that go both ways on this nerve, keeping the brain in our head constantly informed as to what is going on in our gut (not just vice versa as we once thought). When our gut dysfunctions or is inflammed our brain can dysfunction in result. This is known as our Gut/Brain Axis. 7
4. Almost every nutrient we need to function is broken down, absorbed, or made in our gut. We need our gut functioning properly to get these vital nutrients and precursors. We can be eating a perfect diet and still not be getting these nutrients we need if we are not digesting and absorbing them correctly (stomach acid problems, lack of digestive enzymes, bile issues, villi damage, the wrong microbes, eating foods we are sensitive to, and more). Stress can even cause a digestive system breakdown leading to downstream symptoms and disease. 1,3
5. Our gut is the home to millions of microbes. We have 150 times more bacterial genes than human genes and 10 times more intestinal bacterial cells than human cells. What? Yes! This bacteria communicates directly with our entire body and impacts gene expression, brain function, metabolism, nutrient absorption, immune function, hormone detox, and more. These microbes produce certain nutrients and break down harmful substances. The food we eat and our lifestyle directly affect the quality of our gut bacteria (microbiome and dysbiosis) and in result our overall health. The new research coming out around our microbiome is outrageous and indicitive of 1, 4,5,6
6. We need our gut to absorb the appropriate sized particles but to keep out particles that do not belong in our bloodstream and that our body sees as invaders. The food we eat, our lifestyle, and medications we take all impact this important barrier function of our gut. Leaky gut’ or hyper-permeable membranes are factors involved with autoimmunity, oxidative damage and the source of chronic inflammation that drives most modern chronic disease. Even healthy foods can cause damage when there is a leaky gut. 1, 3, 4, 6
7. We need a properly functioning gut and liver/kidneys to eliminate and get rid of waste. It is important this happens in a timely manner so these substances can be eliminated and not linger in our body, wreaking havoc. Toxins can cause endless downstream problems and the truth is we have exponentially more exposure today to these harmful substances than ever (pesticides, air pollution, plastics, chemicals, etc). This is known as an evolutionary gap, where our body has not had the time to keep up with the extra demand. Ensuring our body has the extra nutrients it needs to detox toxins properly is vital. 7,8,1,3
8. Our gut can be a major cause of chronic inflammation. New research shows that Chronic Inflammation may be a leading factor to all chronic disease. Processed food, oxidized oils, and many others can cause inflammation as does our gut when it is not functioning properly and able to break down food properly. Down regulating inflammation is essential to healing and staying symptom and disease free. We must remove offenders and add foods to support and heal our digestive system. 2, 4, 5
9. Our Mitochondria, or energy makers in our cells, are also impacted by the condition of our gut! What? Our mitochondria need certain nutrients to produce energy and to remain undamaged as free radicals are created when we make energy. We get these nutrients, precursors, and antioxidants from the foods we eat and depend on the integrity of our gut being intact 5, 2
10. Hormones– Blood sugar dysregulation and stress from eating the wrong foods can be the primary cause of many downstream health and hormonal problems, including sleep struggles, energy crashes, cravings, infertility, pms, and many more. With today’s diet is easy to have blood sugar problems and I am not talking about diabetics but instead most Americans because of the foods we choose have some kind of disregulated blood sugar. Getting a handle on blood sugar and other food stressors are key to overall hormone health and set the stage for healing to occur. 1, 2, 3
Both how your gut is functioning and the foods you are eating directly affects every single part of your body. Your brain, your immune system, your detox organs, your hormones, your genes, your mental health, your energy, your sleep, and more. Your gut is the doorway to health or disease. How is yours functioning?
No matter how minor or major the health problem or symptom is that you are dealing with and regardless of using other medical interventions- the gut needs to be addressed.
Helping people optimize the gut from top to bottom, and in result optimize health for today and for decades down the line is my specialty (and dare I say obsession). I am a Functional Nutritionist, a body detective if you will. Let’s see how the food you eat and your environment are impacting your gut and ultimately how you function and feel as a unique individual. I take a true holistic and grass roots approach to wellness and listen to your story.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates. But that is a bunch of blah blah blah if your digestive system is not functioning correctly.
Heal Before Ideal! Which means we must heal the gut before even the most ideal diet can serve us. Plus, since we are all biochemically unique, what is medicine for me might be poison for you. That fast that saved you might be what tanked me. What? For real.
Email or call today for a free 15 minute consult
Janel Ferrin Anderson FNLP DNM NC- Board certified Holistic Nutritionist, Functional Medicine Nutritionist, Doctor of Natural Medicine, Family Herbalist, Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist, endless pursuer of why, and now specializing in advanced individualized diets such as salicylates, oxalates, FODMAPS and more.
Mountain Rebalance- Empower, Support, Investigate, and Integrate
References 1-Nakayama, Andrea. (2018)Full Body Systems. Functional Nutrition Lab. 2-Bland, Jeffery. (2016) The Disease Delusion. Harper Collins. NY NY 3-Bauman, Ed. Friedlander, Jodi. (2016). Therapeutic Nutrition Textbook Part 1. Penngrove, CA. Bauman College. 4-O’Bryan, Tom. (2016) The Autoimmune Fix. New York, NY: Rodale Wellness. 5-Jones, David MD. (2010) Textbook of Functional Medicine. Washington 6- Fasano, Dr. Allesio. (2019) Gluten, Autoimmunity, and Leaky Gut. https://chriskresser.com/pioneering-researcher-alessio-fasano-m-d-on-gluten-autoimmunity-leaky-gut/ 7. Perlmutter, Dr. David. (2019) Autism Spectrum Disorder and Pesticide Exposure. Dr.Perlmutter.com 8. Romm, Dr. Aviva. (2018) Reducing Thyroid Antibodies Naturally. Natural MD Radio episode #73