Gut bacteria impacts everything from our metabolism to digestion, mental function and immune system. It’s estimated that our gut actually contains 100 trillion bacteria – 10 times as many bacteria as cells in the human body! These bacteria help to extract energy from the food we eat to build the strength of our immune system to protect against infection and disease.
As Hippocrates, the founding father of modern medicine, said “all disease begins in the gut”. This post covers three key things our gut health can impact.
- Weight Loss
A change in our gut bacteria can actually cause us to overeat. Studies have shown that the bacterial makeup of obese and lean people is different. When studying the gut health of mice (because, believe it or not, mice and humans have a very similar gut make up) the gut bacteria of lean mice was swapped with the gut bacteria of obese mice. The results showed that the obese mice, with the lean mice’s gut bacteria, lost weight and the lean mice gained weight. It turned out that this was because the bacteria of the gut in obese individuals actually increases the amount of energy (aka calories) extracted from food.
Our gut bacteria make up 84% of our immune system. When our exposure to toxins (such as antibiotics, xenoestrogens and probiotic-poor foods) increases, the balance between the good and bad bacteria in our gets out of wack. As the good bacteria are depleted and the bad bacteria take over, inflammation occurs in our gut and cause damage. This is significant because our gut is the first line of defence between us and toxins. Healthy gut bacteria improves our immunity through a number of ways:
- They strengthen the “netting” of our gut wall (read more about the make up of our guts here) and help to physical protect us from potential toxins.
- They compete for both space and food with the bad bacteria in our gut. As we mentioned earlier, our gut is home to a sensitive balance of good and bad bacteria. If our healthy gut bacteria is already consuming all the resources (aka space and food) available, there’s nothing left to feed the bad bacteria.
- They regulate our body’s inflammatory immune response. As you are probably already aware, inflammation is complicated! Good gut bacteria help to regulate our inflammatory response without over-reacting.
- Brain Function
The health of our gut plays a role in how well our brain functions. Studies have shown that when more probiotic-rich foods (such as ferments, you can make your own here) are consumed, the cognitive development and sensory processing functions of our brains exhibit positive responses.