The Human Gut is the home of trillions of microbes. In fact, the number of microbes in the gut outnumbers human cells by two to three times. A whole ecosystem developing in a symbiotic relationship with our body cannot be underestimated when addressing health issues. In recent years, this research field has gained notorious attention, due to the connections made between Gut Health and metabolic and inflammatory disorders, cancer, mental health, as well as infant health and Longevity.
According to studies performed over the past few decades, there is an important link between the diversity of Gut Microbiome and the immune system, mental health, endocrine system, and cardiovascular system. Therefore, maintaining a diverse and healthy Microbiome is essential to achieve optimal Health & Wellness.
A healthy Gut Microbiome is crucial to maintain the intestinal barrier integrity and avoid “leak” of toxins and undesirable antigens (in what is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome). Beneficial probiotics such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, have the ability to promote the expression of tight junction cell proteins and prevent the colonization of the mucosa layer, and thus keeping the intestinal barrier impermeable to those substances.
Another research field that has gained strength in the last decade is Neurogastroenterology, which studies the relationship between Gut and Brain in what is called the Gut-Brain Axis. There is an entire neural network called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) that functions as a “second brain” integrating complex functions independently but in permanent communication with the brain. This bidirectional communication between the brain and the ENS, allows linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions.
Common causes of Unhealthy Gut
There are many aspects of modern life that can affect your Microbiome, such as stress, diet, quality of sleep, antibiotics and other medications that can alter your inner ecosystem. Being aware and acting over these causes when possible, is a good measure to prevent health problems.
Mental and physical stress is one of the main causes of Unhealthy Gut. The mental stress has a proven impact on Gut Health as a result of interactions within the ENS and affects the environment in which the Microbiome develops. On the other hand, we are constantly exposed to food and medications that irritate our Gut. Some examples of these are:
Foods that cause inflammation in susceptible people (such as dairy in lactose intolerants)
NSAIDs: Non-Steroid Anti Inflammatory Drugs inhibit the production of mucus by the GI cells, specially in the stomach. The mucus comprehends a physical barrier that covers the GI tract and it is essential for Gut Health and appropriate microbiome development. Compulsory use of NSAIDs can lead to damage of the GI tract lining and microbiome disbalances.
PPIs: Although Proton-pump inhibitors play a key role in the treatment of heartburn & GERD, and H. Pylori treatment, compulsory usage has been demonstrated to reduce mucus viscosity, bacterial load and bacterial translocation. Risk-benefit of PPI usage should be measured before removing.
Excessive Vitamin A intake
Selective Probiotic taking: selective probiotics, in opposition to broad spectrum probiotics, can produce selective bacterial overgrowth and lead to dysbiosis.
Symptoms and conditions associated with an Unhealthy Gut
Frequent discomfort with Gas, Bloating, Constipation or Diarrhea (or a cyclic combination of both) and Heartburn can be symptoms of disbalances in Gut Microbiome that might be affecting its function.
People that feel tired more often than not, can have imbalances in their Gut. Studies have shown that people with Chronic Fatigue also had Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
While some food intolerances can be the cause of Unhealthy Gut, they can also be a consequence of it. People can struggle to digest certain foods for as long as the imbalances in Gut health remains.
Unintentional weight loss or gain
An Unhealthy Gut can have a hard time absorbing nutrients, storing fat and regulating blood sugar. This can be reflected in weight loss or gain, and can lead to some serious deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.
Frequent mood changes
As stated before, the Gut and the brain are deeply intertwined. An Unhealthy Gut can lead to inflammation in the nervous system and a disbalance in neuromodulators leading to mood changes, Anxiety and Depression.
According to several studies, there is a relationship between disbalances in Gut Microbiota, leading to Leaky Gut Syndrome and, furthermore, the development of autoimmune diseases like Lupus, Autoimmune Thyroid diseases, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Multiple Sclerosis.
Following a similar path than the autoimmune diseases, some skin reactions like acne, eczema and psoriasis, are often linked to an Unhealthy Gut, and food intolerances.
As you can see, maintaining a diverse and healthy Gut Microbiome is essential for optimal health, as it is linked to the immune system, mental health, endocrine system, and cardiovascular system. Factors such as stress, diet, sleep quality, and medications can negatively impact gut health, highlighting the importance of addressing these causes. Recognizing these factors, and the symptoms associated with an Unhealthy Gut is crucial for early intervention and management. We encourage you to consult with a Healthcare Professional for a personalized approach if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
At METSI Care, we have developed a comprehensive Gut Health Protocol that can provide valuable insights and aid in developing targeted treatment plans. With our help, patients can take proactive steps towards improving their overall well-being, and prevent major illness.
Keep an eye on our next article on Gut Health, where we will discuss how Probiotics, Prebiotics and other supplements can help you reach optimal Gut Health.