How to improve your gut health
Gut microbes help us out with digestion and derive their energy through the same digestive process that provides us with our energy.
The gut refers to the gastrointestinal tract, which begins at the end of the oral cavity and ends at the rectum
The human body and the microbes present in its gut share symbiotic relationship
They help us out with digestion and derive their energy through the same digestive process that provides us with our energy
You might associate gut feelings with the stomach but the gut actually expands much further than that. The gut refers to the gastrointestinal tract, which begins at the end of the oral cavity and ends at the rectum.
The human body and the microbes present in its gut share symbiotic relationship. They help us out with digestion and derive their energy through the same digestive process that provides us with our energy.
Human gut microbiota is very diverse. It consists of 1012 microorganisms - spanning at least 1000 bacterial species. If you were to isolate and measure all the microbes from a human gut (which researchers have done) - it would weigh about 2 kgs.
Interestingly, about one-third of the microbe species is common among humans across the world, despite different food choices. The other two-thirds are unique to each one of us.
Now called gut microbiota, all of the microbial population living inside the gut was earlier known as “gut flora”. Microbiota refers to a group of microorganisms that lives in a specific environment, such as on the skin (skin microbiota), in the mouth (oral microbiota) or the vagina (vaginal microbiota).
Our gut has two main functions - nutrition and defence. Under defence, it protects us against pathogens or infectious microorganisms. When it comes to nutrition, it digests and absorbs nutrients and removes the waste in the form of stool. But there are different steps in the digestion of different types of food. Among them, there are some digestive functions the gut cannot perform on its own. This is where gut microbes come in.
Functions performed by gut microbes:
- Digests foods like plant polysaccharides (a type of carbohydrate found in grains and fruits like apples, oranges etc).
- Synthesizes some essential micronutrients such as vitamins B and K.
- Controls growth of “bad” bacteria that cause harm not only to the gut lining but also your gut health.
- Acts as a barrier by interacting with the immune cells of the host and preventing the growth of pathogens.
- Optimises the overall process of digestion by ensuring maximum absorption of nutrients and good bowel movement.
Steps for better gut health
A great way to better gut health is by taking care of the gut microbes. The microorganisms are a part of your body, strange as it may seem. Gut bacteria have become an organ, though an “acquired” one. Since a mother gives birth to a sterile baby (free of any microbe inside-out), the bacteria slowly make the gut their home and live with us until we die.
To help these microorganisms that benefit you a great deal, you can do a few things to keep your gut healthy: as long as the gut lining and tissues beneath remain in healthy condition, the gut microbes will also be healthy.
- Chew your food thoroughly and eat slowly: this ensures better digestion and favourable environment for the bacteria to work.
- Stay hydrated: water plays a supporting role in digestion. Adequate water is required for good digestion and healthy gut bacteria.
- Consume prebiotic and probiotics: these are natural supplements. Prebiotics are foods that promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut such as banana, onion, garlic, asparagus and many more. Whereas probiotics are a supplement containing good live bacteria such as curd.
- Eliminate foods you can't tolerate: if eating certain foods such as dairy, eggs or wheat causes a change in digestion, eliminate it from your diet. Your gut bacteria or gut lining may be allergic to it.
- Adopt a good diet: eat healthy for a healthy gut - your food should include more green veggies, fruits, whole grains and quality proteins; and less sugar, processed foods and excess fats.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. To learn about other ways of improving digestion, please click here.
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