It's no secret that the gut is important. After all, it's responsible for digesting food and absorbing nutrients. But did you know that your gut also plays a role in immunity and even mood?
Here are five things your gut does for you (most people don't know about number 4!).
What is the "gut"?
First, let's talk about what the gut actually is. The gut is a long, coiled tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. Along the way, it includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine.
The gut is essentially everything that helps you process your food... from the first bite you eat until you poop it out a couple of days later. You may also hear the gut referred to as the "digestive system" or the "gastrointestinal (GI) tract." These all mean pretty much the same thing.
So what does your gut actually do for you?
1. Your gut digests your food.
When you think of your gut, you likely think about its ability to digest your first. This is one of the more obvious items on the list.
The gut is responsible for breaking down the food you eat into smaller pieces that can be absorbed into the bloodstream. This process starts in the mouth with chewing, and then continues down the esophagus and into the stomach.
From there, food enters the small intestine, where most digestion and absorption of nutrients occurs. Finally, the gut ends at the large intestine (or colon), where any remaining water and indigestible material is eliminated as waste.
What this means for you: Eating foods that aid in digestion (think: fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats) is key for gut health. Try to incorporate more of these foods into your regular diet.
2. Your gut absorbs nutrients from your food.
In addition to digesting your food, the gut also absorbs nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These nutrients are then sent to the rest of the body to be used for energy, cell growth, and other important functions.
When you have Celiac disease, your body attacks the lining of your intestine which can prevent the body from absorbing essential nutrients, potentially leading to a nutrient deficiency.
What this means for you: Eat foods that are nutrient-dense to allow your body to take advantage of all of the benefits food can provide. Your gut will take care of the rest!
3. Your gut helps you remove toxins.
Did you know that your gut is actually home to a large number of bacteria? In fact, there are more bacteria in your gut than there are cells in your body!
Most of these bacteria are helpful and play an important role in keeping you healthy. For example, they help break down food, produce vitamins, and protect you from harmful bacteria.
The gut also acts as a barrier to prevent harmful bacteria and toxins from entering the bloodstream. This is why it's so important to keep your gut healthy.
What this means for you: Avoiding processed foods and eating plenty of gut-friendly foods (like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi) can help keep your gut bacteria healthy.
4. Your gut influences your mood.
The gut has been nicknamed the "second brain" because of its ability to influence mood. This is because the gut and brain are connected by a network of nerves.
Think about the last time you got hungry or had an upset stomach. What happened next? You likely got a little grumpy, angry, or experienced any number of moods.
That's because when your gut is unhappy, it can send signals to your brain that influence your mood. Conversely, when your gut is happy and healthy, it can help improve your mood and overall sense of wellbeing.
What this means for you: Eating gut-friendly foods and avoiding processed foods can help keep your gut healthy and your mood stable. You can also use your mood to listen to what your gut is telling you.
5. Your gut helps regulate immunity.
The gut is also involved in immunity. Studies even show 70-80% of your immune system is located in the gut!
This makes sense when you think about it. After all, the gut is constantly being exposed to foreign substances like bacteria and viruses. If these harmful substances were able to enter the bloodstream, they could maake you very sick.
When you take care of your gut, you're also helping to boost your immune system.
What this means for you: One of the best things you can do for your immune system is to support your gut.
So there you have it... Five important things your gut does for you. Now that you know how important gut health is, be sure to take care of your gut by eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and avoiding processed foods. Your gut will thank you for it!