Gut health: what does it really mean?

Gut health: what does it really mean?

Scientists have discovered that the trillions of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract don’t just process food. These bacteria help our body to maintain its equilibrium and achieve well-being. But what does it mean to have good gut health? What does it feel like and what can we do to improve gut health?

What is the gut microbiome?

The “gut microbiome” refers to the trillions of bacteria and other micro-organisms in our digestive system. Each individual has a unique microbiome, with the diversity and abundance of gut flora within this influencing our general health. Often, a reduced diversity and profusion in gut flora can be seen in people with certain conditions such as IBS. Everything we eat and drink influences our delicate internal gut ecosystem. How we manage stress, exercise, medications we use and even our genetics can have an impact. Some key areas affected by our gut health include:-

  • Immunity – the gut microbiome plays a role in regulating the immune system. Alterations in gut bacteria can lead to autoimmune disorders and raised levels of inflammation.
  • Brain health – the gut microbiome can affect brain function. Gut cells and the microbiome produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA which influence mood.
  • Nutrient absorption – the gut microbiome is crucial for the digestion and utilisation of nutrients. Macronutrients and micronutrients, like key B vitamins, are important producers of energy, while they also play a role in regulating metabolism and mood.