When ranking parts of the body that serve important roles, the heart and the brain definitely get most of the attention. But residents of Flintridge and elsewhere, including those receiving 24-hour care, should consider learning more about their gut and making sure it’s fully appreciated.
Yes, the gut, which is the general term for literally trillions of bacteria living in your digestive system. The team at Accredited Home Care are definitely pro-gut and are always happy to educate clients and their families about how the system works, how important it is to have a thriving gut, and the potentially unpleasant things that can happen if gut health is damaged.
Scientists refer to everyone’s colony of bacteria living in their stomach and intestines as a microbiome, which is actually a similar term for groups of interdependent organisms living in different climate zones like deserts or forests.
Food Revolution Network says that the more than 500 species and 30-50 types of single-celled biological materials living in your gut are able to perform a variety of important tasks on a small-sized scale, everything from digesting food to creating nutrients to signaling the brain to trigger neurotransmitters that affect your mood. They also can affect your appetite, your response to different stimuli, and your overall immune system.
We all have bacteria all over our body, such as in our skin or nose, but the stomach and intestines have a significant amount. In most cases, they are harmless and can actually help your body.
When things go bad
A poor gut microbiome or one that isn’t working as it’s supposed to can cause a variety of negative health conditions, everything from general digestive problems to specific diseases. In some cases, the bacteria can stop working collectively and start targeting other bacteria, resulting in auto-immune conditions or other dangerous infections.
Genes, age, environment, and diet can also reduce overall gut health.
One disease related to poor health that medical professionals are seeing more of is something called gastroparesis. The Cleveland Clinic said it’s due to someone’s stomach not emptying all the way and pushing waste into the intestine and ultimately out of the body.
While this doesn’t cause dangerous or noticeable blockages, it can cause heartburn, nausea, bloating, poor appetite or stomach pain. Gastroparesis can be even worse in people with diabetes because it could affect blood pressure levels.
Because the condition was previously uncommon, doctors didn’t always look for it and often misdiagnosed it and tried to treat the symptoms only, like heartburn or upset stomach, rather than looking for a central cause.
The quantities of bacteria or their efficiency can be diminished by a variety of causes, including high amounts of antibiotics or even medical treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation.
A poor gut can contribute to other problems taking place throughout the body, including fatigue, strong pain, higher sensitivity, even a weaker immune system overall.
How to help
Improving your gut health can be challenging, since you may not realize what’s happening until other health problems begin to surface.
Worse, certain bacteria often present in the gut can help certain conditions or prevent other conditions from taking place with their presence, everything from arthritis to types of cancer. The presence of certain bacteria can also be an indicator that a medical condition exists, and the lack of certain bacteria could also be a clue that something isn’t working as it’s supposed to.
Luckily efforts to improve the entire gut population can take care of individual types.
These can include:
- Eating certain foods. Fermented foods are often recommended, including certain types of yogurts, pickles, miso, sauerkraut, and kefir. All of these are designed to naturally boost your gut symptoms and quantities. Higher-fiber food can also help with overall digestive processes.
- Probiotics. A variety of supplements are available that are designed to boost gut health along with reducing pain from digestive problems.
- Antibiotics. Though these do have the possibility of hurting some material in the gut, they can often help knock out specific infections if used in a precise method.
- Fecal transplants. A newer method is believed to help reduce certain gut-related diseases and infections that prove resistant to other methods. Learn more from your health provider.
Much of the science about the digestive system and the healthy role of the gut is fairly new and there’s still much to be learned. But there are a variety of opportunities to learn more, especially if you or someone you know is suffering from something affecting the gut.
For instance, August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month, when people are encouraged to learn more about this condition and options if you have been diagnosed with it. Not only could sufferers benefit from learning more about what’s going on with their bodies but providers can learn more. G-PACT, or Gastroparesis Patient Association for Cures and Treatments, which has been organizing the event for 20 years, also encourages people to continue to contribute to help fund research so a cure could be found someday.
The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders also observes Gastroparesis Awareness Month and offers other resources for people diagnosed with, living with or seeking treatment for the condition.