Our 30-foot-long gastrointestinal tract, more simply known as the “gut,” could have a major impact on more than just our digestion.
The gut is home to trillions of microbes that are interacting with other parts of your body. In recent years, scientists have been researching just how influential the gut really is for determining well-being and found that the state of the digestive system is responsible for the health of areas of the body from your skin to your kidneys.
We partnered with KeVita to share six of the most surprising ways your gut could affect your overall health. To explain the science, we called Dr. Vincent M. Pedre, an internist and author of Happy Gut.
If you’re having issues with your skin you may want to check your gut. Research has found that like many of your organs, your skin may have a negative response to an unbalanced gut. Often you’ll experience inflammation in the form of hives or rashes.
“Rashes like eczema and hives are immune reactions that are triggered by imbalances in gut health,” said Dr. Pedre. “Often, food reactions are the source of these triggers, and when you remove the inciting foods from the diet and heal the gut lining, these rashes disappear.”
You may not think that your gut has anything to do with your brain, but the two are constantly communicating through the brain-gut axis. This bidirectional pathway connects the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain to intestinal functions.
“Surprisingly, many neurotransmitters that are actually produced in the gut by the gut microflora, make it all the way to the brain where they affect brain function,” said Dr. Pedre. “When the permeability of the gut barrier is increased, consequently the blood brain barrier becomes more permeable, reducing its effectiveness in protecting the brain from toxins in the circulation, or even the body’s normal inflammatory signals. In short, in order to have a healthy, happy brain, you have to have a happy gut, too.”
“Our immune system surveys everything that is coming through the gut barrier,” said Dr. Pedre. “When the barrier becomes ‘leaky’ toxins and partially digested proteins get through and trigger an immune response.”
The majority of our immune system, around 70 percent, lives in the length of our gut, which is why so many of the issues we experience within our bodies are often related to digestive problems and food sensitivities. According to Dr. Pedre this can lead to conditions like allergies, asthma, migraines, and autoimmune diseases among others.
“Patients with IBS often have clear food triggers that aggravate their symptoms,” Dr. Pedre explained. “These food triggers have activated a local immune response, which in turn affects the healthy function of the gut lining, disturbing its ability to absorb nutrients and produce enzymes and important chemical signals needed for healthy digestion.”
“Both the kidneys and the colon help regulate salt and water balance in the body. The kidneys also play a secondary role of excreting water-soluble toxins that may have been absorbed through the gut or as a result of the metabolism of the gut microbiota,” said Dr. Pedre.
If the lining of the gut becomes damaged, which can sometimes be caused by antibiotics, it can be especially dangerous to the kidneys.
“The dysbiosis [imbalance] leads to an increase in the amount of toxins absorbed from the gut, increased immune response, and as a result systemic inflammation, which can affect the health of the kidneys and lead to chronic kidney disease,” he continued.
Much like the kidneys, the liver is responsible for detoxification in our bodies. Everything that passes through our gut will eventually make it out of the liver too.
“Almost all substances, including hormones, pesticides, toxins, medications, and metabolites get processed in the liver for excretion into the gut lumen through bile,” said Dr. Pedre. “Much of what is absorbed in the gut goes directly to the liver in what is called first-pass circulation, where it is metabolized if necessary.”
We already know that our size is affected by what we eat, but so is our gut bacteria. Certain nutrients have the ability to improve our gut health, which could potentially help regulate your weight.
“Studies have revealed that our weight seems to be controlled by the balance of two phyla of bacteria—Firmicutes and Bacteriodetes,” shared Dr. Pedre.
“The predominance of these bacteria in the gut microbiome is simply controlled by the foods you eat. And it appears that a certain phytonutrient, known as polyphenols, found abundantly in cloves, star anise, raw cacao, green tea and flaxseed meal, plays a significant role in increasing the ratio of Bacteriodetes to Firmicutes, which helps regulate a healthy weight.”
Total health begins in the gut. KeVita’s fermented beverages provide a delicious way to revitalize from within, using quality ingredients like probiotics and live cultures so that you can feel your best, both inside and out.
The information in this report is the opinion of the author(s) and in no way reflects the policies or positions of KeVita. This is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or nutrition advice.