Gut Check: How Optimizing Your Digestive Health Can Boost Overall Wellness

We’ll talk about how the gut influences overall health, and what you can do to address any imbalances that may may be present from checking your gut.

Gut Check: How Optimizing Your Digestive Health Can Boost Overall Wellness
Rory Batt MSc

Rory Batt MSc

Nutritionist

Reading time:

8

min

Table of Contents

The gut is the seat of health. It’s where health begins, as it’s the very first point of interaction between the outside and inside worlds. If you think about it, it makes total sense that this is one of the most fundamental aspects to great health. 

How everyone's gut ecosystem is formed is a key determinant of their experience of health, as it influences how an individual processes foods for their body to interact with. 

It also influences how well protected individuals are from invaders such as viruses and bacteria, which also has a great impact on health. 

We’re going to take a dip into the world of gut health, and explore the key details of what it is and how it can be influenced by the world around us, and its impact on the rest of the body and overall health. 

How Gut Health Can Affect Mental Health 

If you think about it, it’s no mystery that the gut can affect mental health, since the body is all interconnected and a single entity. 

It’s sort of obvious that this is the case if you think about it, as it goes for the body as a whole. If you had injured your hand because you had shut it in a door, and it was chronically painful it would be having an impact on your mental health. 

The same is true when it comes to gut health. Whether it’s been food poisoning or years of eating a bad diet, a gut can get injured too. 

To a certain degree, someone's state of mental health can be influenced by their gut health. Obviously there are emotional and psychological reasons as to why someone may be struggling with their mental health, and these are most often the most significant.

But, gut health can still play a role. The reason there is a strong connection is all to do with how the gut affects the brain, forming the famous gut-brain connection. 

The Gut-Brain Connection

The brain relies on the gut to make the chemicals that it uses to communicate key functions such as mood, memory, sleep and executive function. So when people have a disrupted gut, this can also disrupt these functions. 

Feel good chemicals like serotonin can be made by certain bacteria in the gut, from foods we eat. Sometimes bacteria can become imbalanced, and fail to produce a healthy balance of feel good brain chemicals which leaves the brain lacking, affecting mood. 

This is how the gut influences the brain, via the nervous system which acts as a highway between them, using neurotransmitters like serotonin to communicate. 

There’s also the effect of the arrangement of certain gut bacteria to one another that influences levels of inflammation in the gut. When there’s a lot of inflammation going on in the gut, perhaps due to an infection or a bad diet, this can lead to inflammation in the brain, and disrupt the way it communicates leading to bad moods. 

When the gut ecosystem is out of balance, there are several mechanisms which are responsible, and they can all be linked to depression and anxiety.

For example, when the gut microbiota (gut bugs) are out of balance, this is known as dysbiosis. 

There have been several studies that have highlighted a link between gut dysbiosis, depression and anxiety.

One study published in the journal "Brain, Behavior, and Immunity" found that individuals with depression had a different composition of gut bacteria compared to those without depression. 

Another study published in the "Journal of Psychiatric Research" found that individuals with anxiety disorders had higher levels of certain types of bacteria in the gut, including Firmicutes and Proteobacteria.

A study published in the "Journal of Clinical Psychiatry" looked at the effects of probiotics on individuals with major depressive disorder and found that those who received probiotics had significant reductions in depression symptoms compared to those who received a placebo.

This is just one way in which the gut can affect mood, due to the interruption in brain chemical production and levels of inflammation. 

Gut Health and The Immune System

The vast majority, over 70% of the immune system is found in the gut. It’s where the outside world meets the inside world, so it makes sense to have all the defenses there like an army defending a castle wall. 

A lot of immune cells are found in the lining of the intestinal tract, and make up something called mucosal immunity. This is the first line of defense against invaders. 

Because the immune system is mainly in the gut, overall gut health can have a major impact on how individuals not only fight off invaders, but also how their bodies recognise themselves. 

Fighting off disease is the main role of the immune system, and gut health plays a huge role. Food and infections are two major influences on the activity of the immune system in the gut, and can affect the body's overall state of health. 

The gut microbiome (gut bugs) plays a huge role in how the immune system behaves, and any imbalances here can affect whether the immune system response to infections and even certain foods is healthy, or even excessive and damaging (through inflammation). 

Gut imbalances can impact the body's ability to fight off disease in a lot of ways, which can significantly impact someone's health. 

The gut microbiome plays a critical role in regulating the immune system. An imbalance in gut bacteria (dysbiosis) can lead to an overactive immune response, which can increase the risk of infection and chronic diseases.

An unhealthy gut can lead to chronic inflammation in the body, which can contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

When the gut lining is damaged, it can become more permeable, allowing bacteria and other toxins to leak into the bloodstream. This can trigger an immune response and contribute to the development of chronic diseases.

An unhealthy gut can affect the body's ability to absorb nutrients properly, which can lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals that are important for overall health and disease prevention.

The gut microbiome plays a key role in modulating the metabolism, and imbalances in the gut can lead to metabolic disorders like obesity, diabetes, and even cancer.

The gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is responsible for the immune surveillance of gut contents, it plays a role in the development of gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT)-dependent immune responses. If GALT is not working properly, it can also lead to chronic diseases.

Gut Health and Skin Health

You wouldn’t have thought it, but gut health can actually affect the appearance and health of the skin. 

Since the gut is the seat of health, it can have a wide reaching impact on all areas of the body, especially the skin. 

The common thread between the skin and the gut is the immune system, and it’s all about how gut health affects immune function. 

The gut immune system, specifically the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), is responsible for immune surveillance of gut contents and is able to produce a wide variety of immune cells, such as T cells, B cells and dendritic cells, which are able to migrate to the skin. These immune cells play a critical role in maintaining skin health by preventing infection and inflammation.

An imbalance in gut bacteria (dysbiosis) can lead to inflammation and an overactive immune response in the gut, which can also affect the skin. This can contribute to the development of skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne.

A dysfunction of the gut immune system can lead to an increased risk of skin infections and allergies, and also to the development of chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.

So, whilst many approaches to combating skin conditions via the outside in, using mostly topical products, using diet for an inside out approach can actually have tremendous benefits for skin health due to the positive interaction between the immune system. 

How To Fix A Gut Imbalance

Taking a look at your diet and how it may be affecting your gut health is one of the first things you can do to address skin, mood and immune issues. Maybe its one food, or a group of foods that are responsible. You can try removing common foods like Gluten, Dairy and FODMAP’s as a start, and see how your symptoms are affected. 

After that, you may choose to do an elimination diet, which is a more in depth and extensive approach to really getting to the root of any gut imbalances that may be behind skin, mood and immune issues. 

Also, you can do tests to check whether your gut ecosystem is out of balance, where an underlying infection may be responsible for gut imbalance and immune issues. 

We’ve made it easy to start you off on your journey to better gut health, as we’ve curated a selection of gut friendly foods to help support better skin and immune health, as well as moods. 

Check out some of our meals for gut health. They’ve been especially selected to cater for gut imbalances such as for FODMAP’s, Gluten, Dairy and carbohydrates. 

Head on over to our store and find out which meals may be the best fit for you. 

Summary

Gut health is a crucial aspect of overall health and well-being. The gut is the first point of interaction between the outside and inside worlds and it is where health begins. The gut ecosystem is a key determinant of an individual's experience of health, as it influences wide effects of health like mental, immune and skin health. 

Addressing underlying imbalances through diet and treating infections can help to restore good gut health, and benefit the skin, immune system and mood.

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