Guest contribution by Richard Lin, Founder/CEO of Thryve & Sarah I. Daniels, PhD in Public Health from UC Berkeley/Researcher at Veterans Health Administration *Not sponsored and not an advertisement.*
We're so excited to be sharing this guest post by Thryve, a microbiome wellness company that has a gut health program, which provides insights into your gut health through the analysis of your poop. For a chance to win a Thryve Gut Health Program Kit, visit our Instagram page and find the contest post!
As the historical Greek physician, Hippocrates, once stated, “all disease begins in the gut.” There is a heavy emphasis to be placed on “all.” Our gut is home to trillions of microscopic cells known as microbes. The most prominent of these microbes are our stomach bacteria.
Stomach bacteria impacts almost every aspect of our lives, including our skincare, mental health, and weight. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is contingent on a diverse gut teeming with a broad spectrum of bacterial species.
Let’s discuss the importance of keeping your gut bacteria in balance and how to accomplish optimal gut health!
Why Gut Health Matters
Scientists have identified hundreds of bacterial species that may colonize in our gut. Much like us humans, each bacterial species plays a role in their microbial society. Instead of doctors, construction workers, and teachers, stomach bacteria have roles that influence physiological functions.
For the most part, our stomach bacteria cooperate with one another for the betterment of the whole. Each bacterial species perform their specific tasks without infringing on the other. Even bacteria that are considered harmful have a place in our gut.
For example, Escherichia coli (E.coli) improves iron absorption. However, too much of this bacterial species (or any bacteria species for that matter) can be detrimental to beneficial bacteria (probiotics). Inevitably, an overgrowth of bacteria can lead to a number of health-related issues.
What Ruins Gut Bacteria Diversity?
Just as all disease begins in the gut, inflammation is the root of all disease. Chronic inflammation makes it harder for probiotic bacteria to survive. Overtime, inflammation damages the gut lining, which allows toxins and harmful bacteria into the gut.
When your stomach gets overtaken by pathogenic bacteria, it can set off an immune response. That triggers even more inflammation. So, a lack of bacterial diversity in the gut causes a never-ending cycle of inflammation.
One of the most significant contributors to inflammation is dietary choices. Gluten and lactose are two of the most common food allergens. Yet, they’re staples in the typical Western Diet.
Just like us, our stomach bacteria have unique taste profiles. Healthy bacteria eat carbohydrates and fibre found in fruits and vegetables. Pathogenic bacteria thrive on refined sugars.
Eating foods that inflame your system and feed harmful bacteria is a recipe for an unhealthy gut. Shift the balance back to a more diverse gut by changing your diet patterns and consuming probiotics.
Why Should You Fix Your Gut Health?
Gut health is tied to everything that promotes wellness as a whole. When the gut becomes overrun with opportunistic stomach bacteria, it causes inflammation. Inflammation is the precursor to every life-threatening condition.
Therefore, we must maintain balance amongst our stomach bacteria to ensure that one species doesn’t cause an inflammatory response. Here are some of the many ways our gut microbes influence our daily lives.
It seems pretty obvious that if you have poor gut health, it will reflect with excess weight around your gut. Every ingredient you put into your meal can be a recipe for wellness or illness. Eating highly-processed foods, excessive sugar, and food allergens (like gluten) can all cause inflammation.
Inflammation depletes probiotic bacteria in the system. Without beneficial bacteria, harmful bacteria can prosper. These bacteria crave unhealthy foods. When we’re overrun with bad bacteria, we actively want sweets and potato chips.
Healthy stomach bacteria prefer dietary fibre. Our internal organs have trouble breaking these carbs down. So, our probiotic bacteria eat them for fuel to grow. Complex carbohydrates found in greens, whole grains, and fruits are rich in fibre probiotics love.
Our skin is the roof of our microbes’ home. This internal common area is known as the microbiome. We rely on our skin to protect the microbiome from viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens from outside of the body.
Whenever we suffer from chronic inflammation, it begins to destroy all healthy living beings, including skin cells. Think of a house fire. Eventually, the roof is going to cave in. The same happens to our skin in the wake of chronic inflammation.
Inevitably, poor gut health causes our skin to lose elasticity. We can develop wrinkles, redness, and blotchiness. Also, bacterial imbalances have been heavily linked to many skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis.
There’s a reason why our gut is our second brain. It might actually be the first in disguise! Our gut and brain are connected by a series of nerves known as the singular vagus nerve.
At the end of the vagus nerve are tiny, sensitive hairs. These are nerve-endings. When our gut becomes too acidic or we experience a bacterial overgrowth, those sensitive hairs pick up on these changes.
Our vagus nerve sends impulses up the central nervous system. On its way, the vagus nerve can interact with pathways that have access to every major organ!
Your brainstem is the end destination. Here, it collects all the info from your gut and organs and relays the message to the brain. When our gut is feeling depressed and anxious, we are going to feel that way, too!
Our gut is separated from the small intestines by a layer of cells. Chronic inflammation slowly breaks down their vitality. That makes it easier for toxins in our small intestines to leak into our microbiome.
The microbiome can be a potentially toxic environment. That’s why over 80% of our immune cells live in our gut. These overworked cells are on-call at all times to help keep toxins from our waste out of the system.
Having probiotic bacteria in your gut helps keep potential predators in check. When everything remains in balance, your immune system is under less stress. Therefore, it’s free to help keep other areas of your body healthy and strong!
How to Improve Your Gut Health
What’s tricky about gut health is that even beneficial bacteria can become problematic. The goal is to find the right balance.
Here are a few tips to help improve your gut health:
Cutting down on potential allergens (gluten, dairy, soy);
Getting enough sleep sleep patterns;
Eating more complex carbs; and
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-approach to gut health. Different bacteria prefer different dietary options. So, the food choices you make, how that food was grown, and the ingredients cooked with it all impact your microbiome.
Furthermore, other factors like environmental toxins, stress, genetics, and lack of exercise might impact your gut health.
If the changes listed above don’t help, you might want to consider a microbiome testing company, like Thryve. Microbiome testing companies can determine your ratios of stomach bacteria.
Based on those results, they can formulate custom probiotics and tailored meal plans. Unlike generic probiotics, custom probiotics introduce bacteria that your system is actually lacking. Then, you get food recommendations that have scientifically shown to improve the vitality of the bacteria in your supplement.
Every little change you make is a change towards a healthier you. Don’t be overwhelmed by the process. Integrate these changes slowly. Once they become second-nature, add in more. This process is never-ending. We’re always going to be on the quest for optimal wellness as long as we’re alive.
*This post and is not sponsored and not an advertisement.*