Our gut starts from our mouth and ends in the anus. You must have suffered from an occasional diarrhea, illness or an episode of constipation or a feeling of queasiness or acidity once in a while. We usually associate the existence of our gut with these minor illnesses and tend to ignore the bigger picture. However, most of us are not aware of the fact that there exists a vital connection between our gut and living a healthier and longer life. Let us discuss some of the facts that you should know about your gut but you don’t which could help you live healthier and longer.
1. The types of bacteria present in your intestine are vital to your health. There are about one hundred trillion bacteria of 500 different species present in your body. The ratio in which the good bacteria and bad bacteria are present in your intestine is critical to your overall health status. The ideal ratio is 85:15 for good and bad respectively.
2. The growth of bad bacteria in your gut is controlled by the good bacteria as they compete with them for nutrition and attachment sites in the intestine. Good bacteria also secrete a substance in the intestines that kills the bad bacteria.
3. Antibiotics taken for any bacterial illness can kill both the good and bad bacteria present in your gut, thereby, disturbing the ratio and favoring the growth of bad bacteria.
4. The critical ratio of good to bad bacteria can be disturbed not only by eating highly processed foods but also by sterilized and pasteurized foods.
5. The good bacteria present in your gut helps in the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates such as starches, sugars and fibers. The friendly bacteria convert these complex carbohydrates into more simple form that can be absorbed easily.
6. Majority of the cells of your immune system (80%) are present in your gut. Hence, a healthy gut is critical for a healthy body.
7. Good bacteria in your gut help in the development of immunity in the mucous lining of the intestines. They do so by producing antibodies to pathogenic organisms.
8. Good bacteria present in the gut also have a strong effect on your systemic immunity, thereby increasing overall health status and promoting longevity.
9. The various digestive illnesses that can be caused due to reduced levels of good gut bacteria include inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Leaky gut, and lactose intolerance, H. pylori infection that causes stomach ulcers and intestinal infection.
10. The various systemic illnesses that can be caused due to good and bad gut bacteria imbalance include skin infections, autism, acne, urinary tract infections, genital tract infections in females, diabetes, cancer of bladder, premenstrual syndrome, and gum disease and tooth decay.
11. Taking probiotics supplements help to replenish the good bacteria in your gut. They also help to maintain the critical balance between good and bad bacteria by maintaining the number of good bacteria.
12. Your mouth is also a part of your gut. Maintaining good oral hygiene is also critical in maintaining overall health and promoting longevity. One such hygiene ritual that you should follow is flossing your teeth regularly. Doctors at the Department of Periodontics at Case Western Reserve University suggest that regular flossing decreases the risk of heart disease.
13. Digestion of food begins in your mouth itself. Your teeth break down the food into smaller particles and the saliva contains enzymes that digest bigger food molecules into smaller ones that can be absorbed by the body.
14. The pH of our stomach is highly acidic (pH 4) due to the presence of hydrochloric acid and pepsin. This acidic pH is helpful in killing any harmful pathogens that may have entered the stomach through foods. The stomach is protected from this acid by the presence of a protective mucus lining.
15. As we age, the stomach acid is reduced leading to problems of digestion such as indigestion, heartburn, GERD etc. Hence, contrary to the popular belief, the fact is that such problems of digestion are caused due to a decreased level of stomach acid and not due to its overproduction.
16. You can improve your reduced acid production by taking hydrochloric acid (Betaine HCL) supplements. However, while you are doing so, you should not drink water or other alkaline beverages, which will disturb the acidic environment of stomach.
17. Taking the popular antacids such as proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers (Zantac, Prilosec etc.) may actually worsen your problem as they reduce the production of stomach acid.
18. Vitamin B12 is very important vitamin for your body and its deficiency can lead to various dangerous neurological symptoms such as delusions, paranoia, depression, headaches, balance problems etc. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause symptoms of fatigue and dyspnea of exertion, weight loss, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Digestion and absorption of Vitamin B12 happens only in the very acidic environment of your stomach. Hence, in case you are taking the common antacids, you are not going to get the recommended amounts of Vitamin B12 from your diet. Moreover, taking Vitamin B12 supplements will also not serve any purpose.
19. Your digestive system is fooled by chewing gums. The act of chewing signals the body that your gut is about to get food to digest for which various enzymes and digestive juices are produced and activated. This can actually lead to symptoms of bloating and stomach acid overproduction.
20. There are two types of digestive aids whether natural or manmade: One that helps in increasing the stomach acid, enzymes and good gut bacteria and other that help reduces the stomach acid. Probiotics, Hydrochloric acid and enzymes are the type of digestive aids that help in increasing the acidic environment of the stomach and maintaining an optimum functioning of your digestive tract.
21. Maintaining an acidic environment in the gut is also important in controlling the overgrowth of Candida yeast that requires an alkaline environment to grow. Taking a course of antibiotics or eating an excessive alkaline diet may disturb the pH of your gut, thereby promoting the growth of Candida yeast, which can cause various illnesses including fibromyalgia, vaginitis, migraines, and chronic fatigue.