Gut Feeling: A Few Interesting Facts About Bacteria and Gut Health
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk in the health spheres regarding the connection between the health of your gut and overall health. The term ‘gut’ refers to your entire digestive tract, from where food goes in to where it eventually comes out. The health and balance of your digestive tract may be a determining factor in virtually every disease! Here are some interesting facts about your gut microbiome that you may not know:
- The most basic functions of gut bacteria is to help with digestion: they line the intestines, produce certain vitamins, such as Vitamin K, Biotin, and Folate, and they interact closely with the immune and nervous systems
- Your body is made of ten trillion cells, but has 100 trillion bacteria! So, the bacteria in your body outnumber your body’s cells by 10 to 1!
- A healthy microbiome plays a role in reducing inflammation, and therefore reducing incidence of inflammatory diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimers, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and many others
- Your intestines house the most bacteria of anywhere in your body, but they are also found all over your body, including your skin.
- Before babies are born, they are free from any bacteria. When they pass through the birth canal, that is their first dose of friendly probiotics. For this reason, it is very important for mothers to enhance their levels of friendly bacteria before giving birth.
- For ideal health, the ratio of good bacteria vs. bad bacteria is around 85:15.
- Taking antibiotics, although it kills off the bad bacteria which are causing an infection, it also kills beneficial bacterial in your gut. It is very important to always take a probiotic supplement during and after taking antibiotics.
- Prebiotics are the insoluble plant fiber that cannot be digested. Prebiotics help the good bacteria in your gut to grow, and help with your digestion
- Prebiotics and good gut bacteria have been shown to have a direct effect on a person’s mental health. By consuming more prebiotics (insoluble plant fiber), the incidence of depression, anxiety, and stress is lowered. That’s because the level of cortisol, the stress hormone, is lower when prebiotics are taken for a period of time. The cause of this change is not known for sure, but may be related to the connection between the vagus nerve and the digestive tract, or possibly related to the immune system and the brain.
- Stomach acid, or gastric acid, is composed of potassium chloride, sodium chloride and hydrochloric acid. The pH scale, which measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is, ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Stomach acid is around 1-3 on the pH scale, which is equal to battery acid! It can actually eat through a piece of wood. So how does it not eat a hole right through your belly? The answer is that your stomach is lined with specialized cells which produce a mixture of bicarbonate and mucus. If you’ve ever had heartburn, some may know that if you mix baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate) with water and drink it down, the relief you feel is almost instantaneous. That’s because the baking soda is 9 on the pH scale, so it’s relatively alkaline. When alkaline and acid substances mix together, they neutralize each other. The mucus also helps to soothe and lubricate the stomach lining. The acid, along with digestive enzymes, are what break down your food so it can be absorbed in the intestines.
- The majority of the cells of your immune system can be found in the gut, so gut health plays a key role in whether you catch a cold or flu.
There are so many more amazing facts about the human digestive system! So when you have a gut feeling about something, your gut is talking directly with your brain!