The Gut Health Guide: How to Identify Problems and Improve Your Digestion

The human body is comprised of an intricate collection of nerves, organs and systems that, when thrown off balance, could lead to a series of illnesses and complications. One of these sensitive networks is the gastrointestinal system. Incidentally, this system includes the gut and microbiome, the subject of this gut health guide.

Hundreds of species of good bacteria call the gastrointestinal tract their home. Here, they fight intruding viruses and harmful bacteria on a daily basis. If there is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria, it can result in painful digestive conditions. If you feel a grumbling in your stomach that isn’t from hunger, you may already be sensing the signs of an unhealthy gut.

Overall bodily health relies on the cooperation of the gut and natural microbiomes. Research has suggested that a misalignment may be associated with long-term health problems, such as:

  • Obesity
  • Food allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Mental illness
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Autism
  • Liver disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancer and other autoimmune diseases

The Biological Makeup of the Gut

Many people don’t consider how the foods they consume might affect the internal structure of their organs. A layer of cells called enterocytes lines the intestinal walls and determines which nutrients should be absorbed into the bloodstream. If the “gatekeepers” — or tight proteins within the enterocytes — aren’t working at full capacity, bacteria, toxins and undigested food particles can leak into the body and wreak havoc. When one aspect of the gut is damaged, problems tend to ripple across the rest of the body.

Your diet, medications and stress levels can impact the protein gatekeepers and mucosal lining of your digestive tract. If you lead an unhealthy or unbalanced lifestyle, your gut may be suffering as a result. However, when treated with nutritional mindfulness and stress reduction, it can be restored.

Why Prioritize Your Gut?

Your gut isn’t just a place where food is digested. In fact, the microbiome is so complex that it contains more neurotransmitters than the brain. The hormones and microbes in the gut send messages throughout the body to trigger food digestion, the immune system, the nervous system, toxin defenses and nutrition absorption. These microbes first form in the womb, but the food you eat from childhood into adulthood can influence the types of microbes you develop. As a baby, the bacteria digest breast milk. As you grow, they process fibers while boosting the immune system and determining any food allergies.

Stress can have a detrimental effect on your gut health. If you have high stress levels — whether in your personal or professional life — blood flow to the gut can be impacted, which may lead to reduced gastrointestinal function. By decreasing your stress and increasing the beneficial bacteria in your microbiome, these negative impacts can be kept at bay.

No matter your lifestyle or dietary habits, it is crucial to maintain the balance of good and bad bacteria in the intestinal tract. As food passes through and the body reacts to stress, it’s up to the gut to captain the ship and maintain harmony. Learn more about the impact of the gut on overall health and find out how to identify issues and improve digestion with the accompanying resource.

Guest Author’s Bio

Kara Kash, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian at Factor — a premium weekly meal delivery service that fuses world-class culinary dishes with the latest in nutrition science to produce fully prepared meals that are as delicious as they are nutritious.

This infographic was created by Factor, a keto meal delivery service