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Do you pay attention to your gut health? If you're like me, you've suffered some gut-related conditions such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, heartburn, nausea, and vomiting.
The thing is, these health conditions do not occur out of the blue. They are mostly related to the health of your gut. From the moment you eat your favorite meal, several organs, the esophagus, stomach, and intestine, work together to digest the food and release nutrients accordingly.
But it doesn't end there.
Over 100 trillion bacteria live in your gut. They carry out all activities and form a stable ecosystem there. These bacteria influence food digestion. They also control the general well-being of the body.
See your gut as your second brain and the gut microbiome as a cluster of neurons. But instead of controlling your thoughts, these bacteria control appetite, weight gain, weight loss, and overall digestive health.
In this article, you will learn:
- What is gut health?
- What are the benefits of gut health?
- The best test for your gut health
- The best ways to maintain a healthy gut
- How to know if you need a gut health test
- Types of gut health tests and information on how to use them
What is Gut Health?
As mentioned earlier, trillions of bacteria form an efficient ecosystem in the gut. These bacteria are known as the "gut microbiome,” "gut microbiota," or "gut microflora.” They consist of both the "good bacteria" and the 'bad bacteria.”
The good bacteria don't just make your gut healthy; they also keep the bad bacteria in check. A healthy gut is one with an optimal balance of these good bacteria. It means the good bacteria are at a reasonable level in the gut, ensuring efficient food digestion and absorption.
A healthy gut doesn't just have an equal balance of bacteria. It also has a healthy number of immune cells. Immune cells help fight bacteria and other harmful microorganisms in the body. The gut is also not left out.
You may ask, why don't immune cells destroy good bacteria?
Like a war flag that allows allies to recognize each other, the good bacteria coat themselves in sugars recognizable by the immune cells. This action ensures the immune cells spare the good bacteria when the immune system invades foreign bodies in the gut.
A healthy gut also has good communication with the brain and the entire nervous system. It may also affect your mood. This occurs due to the relationship between your brain and your gut.
As we know, food digestion is an essential process in our body. If our meals are poorly digested and poorly absorbed, health issues emerge. While considering your general health, you should also make the health of your gut a priority.
We will discuss the benefits of a healthy gut. But before that, let's look at the roles gut microbiomes play in ensuring a healthy gut.
We reviewed the top 5 microbiome test kits for testing your gut health. Read Now.
Role of Gut Microbiomes
- They break down fibers: The gut bacteria help to break down fibers. When these fibers break down, they produce short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids are linked to many nutritional benefits.
- They promote immune health: Some studies have found the relationship between a healthy gut microbiome and a healthy immune system. A good gut microbiome promotes the disease-fighting ability of the immune cells.
- Promotes brain health: Modulation of the gut microbiota may help regulate brain-related conditions such as anxiety, pain, mood, cognition, and pain.
These are a few ways the gut microbiota can affect bodily functions. Now let's look at the benefits of having a balanced gut microbiota.
Benefits of Good Gut Health
Good gut health brings a lot of benefits to the human body. Here are some of them:
1. May benefit brain health
It may come as a surprise, but good gut health may benefit the health of your brain. Good brain health is the key to a stable mood, good memory, stress, and anxiety management.
Research shows that the state of your gut microbiome can influence these brain activities. An important neurotransmitter called serotonin is produced mainly in the gut. Serotonin is a hormone responsible for mood stability, well-being, and happiness.
Serotonin is produced in the gut but released in the brain. The state of your gut microbiome is suspected to be responsible for the level and amount of serotonin produced.
If your gut bacteria influence the production of serotonin, it may determine your daily mood and happiness. This process may occur in combination with other external factors such as work stress.
The gut microbiome also influences the biological processes of serotonin.
2. May help manage type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Gut microbiomes can help control your blood sugar which can help in diabetes management. In a study conducted on children's stools, the short fatty acid chains produced by gut microbiome activities on food protected the children from the early onset of type 1 diabetes.
Another human and animal study confirmed different alterations in the intestinal microbiome may be responsible for biological processes that result in the onset of type 1 diabetes.
This recent research shows that your gut microbiome can play a huge role in managing type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
3. May promote heart health
The level of gut bacteria in the body can influence cardiovascular health. Scientists suggest a link between the activities of the gut microbiome on food and cardiovascular diseases.
Research showed that the gut bacteria in our body produce a metabolite called trimethylamine N-oxide(TMAO). This biological process occurs when they act on food molecules Choline and L-Carnitine. These molecules are present in foods such as fish, beef, and poultry.
TMAO is known to harm people suffering from heart diseases by producing cholesterol-inducing chemicals. Nevertheless, some gut microbiomes can influence cardiovascular health positively. A good example is Lactobacilli.
Lactobacilli taken in the form of probiotics can help reduce cholesterol. Abnormal cholesterol levels act as one of the risk factors for heart diseases.
Scientists are also looking at the treatment possibility of grapeseed oil in cholesterol-related forms of cardiovascular diseases.
The Best Test for your Gut Health
Gut testing (also referred to as gut flora testing or microbiome testing) is becoming increasingly popular. Gut tests are the only way you can accurately predict your gut health.
Since the importance of the gut microbiome on overall health has been established, most health enthusiasts are now seeking gut health tests to determine the state of their gut health.
If you suspect your gut health is abnormal, you should also consider efficient gut testing. There are many efficient gut test procedures and kits available in the market. However, only gut testing kits are recommended at this point.
You don't need to visit a doctor or any other healthcare provider to use them. However, they would need your sample for stool sample analysis. Like blood pressure and sugar level test kits, you can use them with ease in the comfort of your home.
There are different types of gut health testing kits. We rate them in terms of:
- The most recommended
- The cheapest
- Most private
- Support for fungal growth
The Viome gut intelligence test is the most popular and the most recommended kit out there.
It's easy to use. You can do the sample collection yourself. You will get personalized meal plans and supplement recommendations from health experts at Viome.
The process involves placing a smear of your stool sample on the kit. After that, you send the gut test kit back to one of the Viome labs for stool analysis. When the stool analysis is done, they send the results to your Viome app.
The Biohm gut test kit is a good and budget-friendly option. It's almost half the price of Viome.
This test kit allows you to mail your stool sample for analysis after purchasing the test kit. The sample collection is not as messy as you think. Since the sample collection is in your control, it won't feel awkward.
After mailing your sample, the health practitioner sends you a report of your gut microbiome. The processing time for your stool sample usually ranges from 4-6 weeks. The level of gut microbiome is rated on a grade format from 0-10 from your stool sample.
The Most Private
If you care about your privacy, the Viome gut intelligence health test kit is perfect for you. This is because the details of your stool sample and the results of your tests are sent via your app or phone. You get to see your gut microbiome result privately.
Support for Fungal Growth
Some gut test kits can also tell you the state of fungal growth in your gut. The Biohm gut test kit also supports fungal growth analysis of the gut microbiome.
The Best Ways to Maintain a Healthy Gut
As we've learned, your gut health is essential to your overall well-being. A healthy gut promotes a healthy lifestyle.
There are two ways you can maintain a healthy gut:
- Lifestyle changes
- Diet choices
Lifestyle changes involve how you can improve your lifestyle, hence maintaining the health of your gut.
Diet choices are essential to gut health. Diet recommendations can help you choose foods to eat and those to avoid to maintain a healthy gut.
1. Get enough sleep
Sleep is generally important in every health journey. Research has linked getting adequate sleep with the diversity of gut microbiomes. Sleep helps the body to reorganize itself and other biological processes.
Getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night will help your gut reestablish and rejuvenate its biological process.
2. Consider probiotics
Probiotics are simply the "good bacteria" that can help balance your entire gut microflora. A probiotic lactobacillus helps to strengthen the integrity of the intestinal barrier between good and bad bacteria.
It also helps to decrease the translocation between the bad bacteria across your intestine. This process can prevent several gastrointestinal tract infections like Irritable bowel syndrome( IBS) and Inflammatory bowel disease(IBD).
You can get most probiotics from yogurts, pickled onions, and sauerkraut.
3. Drink enough water
Water is a good source of healthy living. Drinking enough water will help maintain fluid balance in your body. It can also hydrate several intestinal linings in your gut, promoting the movement of nutrients and ions.
If the fluid balance in your body is at an optimal level, your gut health will improve. Drinking at least eight glasses of water daily is an efficient way to maintain a healthy gut.
4. Avoid stress
Elevated stress levels are bad for overall body health. There is a relationship between stress and the activities of the gut microbiome. Stress can be associated with a lot of disease conditions. It can affect your overall health through its effect on gut bacteria.
Stress signals autonomic response from the gut. This process means there's a significant association between your gastrointestinal tract and your brain.
Stressors can cause a shift in the diversity of the gut microbiome in different areas of the gut. This can lead to an irregular distribution of good bacteria in the gut, resulting in different gut-related diseases.
Stress can also cause a "leaky gut.” Having a leaky gut involves bacteria leaking into the circulatory system and triggering an inflammatory response. A troubled marriage or relationship, final exams, toxic work environments are known sources of stress. They can affect your gut health.
Apart from genetics, your diet is the most powerful determinant of your gut health. What you eat determines the population and distribution of your gut microbiome. It determines which gut bacteria will survive and which will be more prominent in the gut ecosystem.
Your gut bacteria can determine your food choices and cravings. This action depends on what you eat and how your gut microbiome adapts.
Healthy foods such as probiotics, fibers, and unsaturated fats are great for your gut health. They are a good diet that your gut bacteria can tolerate. Others such as saturated fats, refined and artificial sugars are the worst foods for your guts.
How Do You Know If You Need A Gut Test?
Constipation, diarrhea, bloating, acid reflux, and other gastrointestinal conditions are usually the first signs of a dysfunctional gut. You can use these signs as empirical tests, i.e., tests you discovered by experience instead of diagnostic or clinical tests.
After suspecting an unhealthy gut through these conditions, you can request a diagnostic gut testing procedure through your healthcare provider.
Food indigestion and meal tolerance are the other indicators. The best and the most reliable way to know if you need a gut test is to see your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will run some tests to determine if your gut is in good condition or not.
Your gut microbiome influences a lot of biological processes in your body. They influence the activities of organs such as the heart and the brain. They also help control blood sugar levels and type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
You can improve your gut health through practices such as getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and taking probiotics. If you're still unsure of your gut health, you can consult your physician or healthcare provider to get more information.
The Ultimate Guide for a Healthy Gut. Read our 2021 Guide.