Ever heard the expression “go with your gut?” There’s a reason we’ve created an entire mantra around the way you feel in your belly.
“When your gut is healthy and in balance, you are able to efficiently and effectively rid your bodies of toxins and impurities that weaken the immune system,” writes Lisa Ricahrds, Nutritionist at The Candida Diet. “Good gut bacteria not only regulates digestion, but serves many important processes in the mind and body, allowing you to fight off stress and illnesses more effectively.”
While it may seem like taking care of your gut only serves your belly health, your gut actually regulates a lot more of your overall wellness. Optimizing your gut health and digestion can actually go a long way in improving your quality of life.
Curious about gut health and what it can do for you? We reached out to the experts for a few surprising ways caring for your belly can boost your overall well-being.
According to the experts, this is what good gut health can do for you:
1. Reduce stress and anxiety
Many people don’t realize that the digestive tract is a network of neurons (similar to brain neurons). In fact, most of the neurotransmitters that we talk about – like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA – are produced in the gut, not the brain.
Fun fact: there's evidence that the neurons in the gut can perceive sensory input from our five senses and react to it before our brain does! That's where the expressions "second brain," "go with your gut,” "gut feeling,” and "intuition" come from. When you feel like you’re getting a hunch from your core, it’s the neurons in the gut that are perceiving a threat before the conscious mind has time to clue in.
Ready to get a little science-y? The gut is connected to the brain along a nerve that goes right up the spinal cord called the vagus nerve. Through this pathway, neurons in the gut can communicate with the brain, meaning, your mental state and gut go hand in hand.
If you have a lot of anxiety or stress, it can be bad for your gut, in terms of its functioning. Then likewise, if you're dealing with gut issues or using medication that causes irritation or inflammation, it can send bad signals up to your brain and contribute to stress and anxiety.
The gut and the brain are really one unit. You can't have the health of one at the expense of the other.
Patricia Bohl, Certified Nutritionist, Eat More Healthy Food
Most of your immune cells live in your gut, which means, your gut is the gateway to controlling the kind of inflammation that affects autoimmunity.
When your gut is inflamed and distressed, it causes your immune system to go haywire.
Autoimmunity occurs when your immune cells mistake their own cells and tissues for foreign invaders and attack them. Inflammation is often the driving force behind immune cell dysfunction. However, when you control gut inflammation, you can control many of the symptoms of autoimmunity.
Nutritionist Heather Hanks
Looking to boost your skin health and appearance? A healthy gut supports a balanced and diverse microbiome. When your microbiome is balanced, the good bacteria in your gut flourishes. This helps prevent the rise of acne-causing bacteria and yeasts in the gut.
One surprising health benefit for a healthy gut is less acne. Many experience fewer or no acne breakouts when improving their gut health.
Abby Hersam, Holistic Health Practitioner
4. Promote fertility
A healthy gut may improve fertility!
In one of the very first studies to examine the link between the gut microbiome and fertility, Japanese researchers found that women who suffered from infertility also had lower amounts of healthy bifidobacteria in their guts. This suggests that dietary and lifestyle strategies that support a diverse and healthy gut population may increase your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy.
Monica Reinagel, Licensed Nutritionist, Nutrition Over Easy
According to research on gut microbiota and athletic performance from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, athletes tend to have more robust and diverse gut bacteria than their sedentary counterparts.
Researchers are still studying why gut microbiota influences athletic performance, but one explanation may be that athletes have a higher protein intake. Higher protein intake has been linked to higher microbial diversity, which is generally considered beneficial for gut health. Another reason for the link between gut health and athletic performance is that exercise may directly impact the type and amount of bacteria in the gut. Body composition and physical activity are associated with several positive gut bacteria strains.
As with other health benefits associated with gut health, the relationship with gut health and athletic performance goes both ways. Exercise can beneficially affect gut health, and gut health can beneficially affect athletic performance.
Holly Klamer, MS, RDN, My Crohn's and Colitis Team
6. Support deeper, more restful sleep
Looking for an all-natural solution for better sleep? According to research, intestinal health has a lot to do with sleep quality. Studies suggest that certain microbes in the gut can affect the production of some hormones, including serotonin, which have a direct impact on our sleep and wake cycles.
Additionally, research suggests that circadian genes (the ones that are responsible for our natural internal clock) and gut microorganisms can interact with each other.
Therefore, it’s safe to assume that adjusting your diet and taking better care of your intestinal health may also positively contribute to your quality of sleep.
Alex Savy, Certified Sleep Science Coach, Sleeping Ocean
As a quick recap, gut health can assist with stress, inflammation, skin health and appearance, fertility, athletic performance, and sleep. That’s a lot of good things!
One way you can work towards better gut health is by introducing more belly-friendly ingredients, like apple cider vinegar and probiotics, into your wellness routine. KOR’s Gut Check combines 'all-mighty' apple cider vinegar (with the mother!) with 1 billion CFU probiotics to aid in your digestive journey.
Go with your gut with KOR!