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Why Good Health Starts With Gut Health

// Lauren M. Martin, MS, CNS and Corey Schuler, RN, CNS, LN, DC

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Why Good Health Starts With Gut Health

With growing interest in the human digestive tract, many individuals are curious about overall gut health. The gastrointestinal tract starts at the mouth and continues all the way through the colon. Throughout the gastrointestinal tract are bacteria, fungi, and archaea, also known as the gut microbiota, which play a major role in digestive and total body health.1,2 (When the term microbiome is used, the genomic information is included as well.) Microbiota have been associated with metabolic effects. For example, mice genetically susceptible to efficient energy storage have been shown to have significantly different microbiota than mice without that same susceptibility. 3,4 Human studies also showed similar findings in regards to gut microbiota alterations affecting host metabolism.5 We are still early in understanding this phenomenon. How effectively the body uses glucose for fuel may be affected by microbiota as well.6 In addition to gastrointestinal health and metabolic function, microbiota affect immune health.7

The gut microbiota plays an essential role in metabolism, nutrition, and immune function.1, 2The gut microbiome evolves throughout life and is influenced by many different factors such as the environment, food habits, intestinal pH, microbial interactions, environmental temperature, stress, peristalsis, host secretions and immune response, and drug therapy, just to name a few.1 Both external and internal factors listed above play an important role in maintaining or disrupting gut health.

The gut microbiota plays an essential role in metabolism, nutrition, and immune function.1, 2 In a healthy state, the gut microbiota takes on a variety of functions that humans are unable to do on their own.1 When the microbiota homeostasis is disturbed, a cascade of changes can occur to balance the body.2 Balancing gut microbiota is a part of many health care strategies.1

Below are a few tips to jumpstart the journey to a healthier gut:

  • Supplement with Digestive Enzymes: Digestive enzymes degrade macronutrients into absorbable components. Supporting digestion can help relieve gas, bloating, or occasional indigestion.* When choosing an enzyme, do your due diligence. Different enzymes support the digestion of different types of foods. The right combination of enzymes is based on targeting the digestion of specific macronutrients. Many enzyme formulas contain a broad activity while others more specifically address fat, protein, or carbohydrate digestion.* Enzymes active at a broad range of pH activity may also be considered.
  • Stay Hydrated: Staying hydrated allows the body to flush out normally occurring intermediate metabolites of foods and keep waste moving throughout the digestive tract. Dehydration increases occasional constipation and bloating.8 To make it simple, consume approximately half your body weight in ounces of water each day or 2-3 liters of water daily. This is not a perfect formula and may not be right for those who carry excess weight or have questionable kidney function.
  • Promote Detoxification and Elimination: Exposure to foreign chemicals is everywhere. Consume organic and minimally processed food to help reduce exposure to chemicals from the diet. Nutritional factors such as calcium d-glucarate, milk thistle, and dandelion can play a role in supporting healthy detoxification pathways in the body.*
  • Exercise: Exercise has been found to enhance the diversity of the gut microbiota. Incorporating physical activity into your daily life improves fitness, as well as contributes to microbiota balance.11
Gastrointestinal Restoration Program

 

Lauren M. Martin, MS, CNS and Corey Schuler, RN, CNS, LN, DC

Lauren Martin is a Certified Nutrition Specialist who earned a Master of Science in Human Nutrition from Columbia University. She co-founded Martin Family Style, a lifestyle, food and nutrition blog. Lauren is the lead author of the blog's nutrition section. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition from Oklahoma State University.

Corey Schuler is the Director of Clinical Affairs for Integrative Therapeutics. He is a certified nutrition specialist, licensed nutritionist, and chiropractic physician board-certified in clinical nutrition. He has earned degrees in nursing and phytotherapeutics.

1. Bull, M, Plummer NT. Part 1: The human gut microbiome in health and disease. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Dec; 13(6): 17–22.
2. Barengolts E. Gut microbiota, prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics in management of obesity and prediabetes. Endocr Pract. 2016;22(10):1224–1234. doi:10.4158/EP151157.RA
3. Ley RE, Bäckhed F, Turnbaugh P, et al. Obesity alters gut microbial ecology. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005;102(31):11070–5.
4. Turnbaugh PJ, Ley RE, Mahowald MA, et al. An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature. 2006;444(7122):1027–31.
5. Tremaroli V, Bäckhed F. Functional interactions between the gut microbiota and host metabolism. Nature. 2012;489(7415):242–9.
6. Qin J, Li Y, Cai Z, et al. A metagenome-wide association study of gut microbiota in type 2 diabetes. Nature. 2012;490(7418):55–60.
7. Björkstén B, Sepp E, Julge K, Voor T, Mikelsaar M. Allergy development and the intestinal microflora during the first year of life. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001;108(4):516–20.
8. Arnaud M. Mild dehydration: a risk factor of constipation? European journal of clinical nutrition. 2003;57:S88-S95.
9. Clarke SF, Murphy EF, O'Sullivan O, et al. Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity. Gut. Dec 2014;63(12):1913-20.
10. Chierico FD, Vernocchi P, Dallapiccola B, Putignani L. Mediterranean diet and health: Food effects on gut microbiota and disease control. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2014;15(7):11678-99.
11. Sohail MU, Yassine HM, Sohail A, Al Thani AA. Impact of Physical Exercise on Gut Microbiome, Inflammation, and the Pathobiology of Metabolic Disorders. Rev Diabet Stud. 2019;15:35–48. doi:10.1900/RDS.2019.15.35
 

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