In recent times, the interest in taking care of the intestine has spread, to the point of becoming a priority within the different branches of functional medicine.
It is not only about the importance of the intestines for digestive or gastrointestinal health, but a healthy intestinal flora is related to many of our body’s functions and even our mood.
This is because the gut contains between 100 and 200 million neurons and billions of bacteria in the digestive tract, which together make up the enteric nervous system.
Thanks to this enteric nervous system, the gut and the brain work together to control emotions, stress, anxiety or depression.
Importance of a healthy gut
Having a healthy gut is important to achieve well-being without gastrointestinal discomfort, but also to maintain proper physical and mental health, avoiding other symptoms and diseases related to the intestinal microbiota or flora.
A healthy intestine is one with a great variety of bacteria, that is, the intestinal microbiota, beneficial for our organism.
This microbiota is unique to each person, and fulfills or participates in various functions:
- They strengthen the immune system.
- They help to reduce obesity.
- They alleviate inflammation in chronic diseases.
- It takes part in the uptake and storage of energy.
- Participates in metabolic functions.
- Improves symptoms of depression.
Nutrition for a healthy gut
The gut microbiota responds to many factors that affect metabolism, such as diet, medication or stress.
Therefore, experts agree on these 3 keys to a healthy gut:
- Avoid elements that can cause intestinal inflammation.
- Take care of the intestinal flora.
- Regulate the acidity of the stomach.
The bacteria that live in our intestines are unique to each individual, almost like a fingerprint, as they are influenced by their genetics, diet or lifestyle.
The gut and the feel-good hormone
Proper intestinal health influences the general health of our organism and also our moods. This is because up to 90 % of serotonin, also called the “happiness hormone”, is produced and stored in the gut.
Among the 6 effects of this hormone in your body and mind are
- It participates in digestion.
- Absorbs nutrients and facilitates their delivery to the muscles.
- It controls moods.
- Regulates body temperature.
- Influences sexual desire.
- Reduces level of aggressiveness.
- Regulates sleep.
In turn, serotonin deficiency can cause intestinal problems, such as chronic constipation, as well as emotional discomfort.
Understanding the importance of the intestinal microbiota and, therefore, taking care of the intestine and our intestinal health is equivalent to taking care of the health of our whole organism, from the immune system to mental well-being, making sure we absorb all the nutrients we need and eliminating toxins.
Dr. Mansi Shah
Functional Wellness Network