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The Importance Of Gut Health

By Hybrid Gym LA

What is the digestive system?

The digestive system is a series of connected organs that form a long, twisting tube through your body. Its primary role is to facilitate the breakdown and absorption of the food to extract the nutrients you need, and eliminate all the things you don’t. The whole process starts when you consume a piece of food by taking a bite with your mouth, it passes down the esophagus, into the stomach where it gets broken down, then through the small intestines where the majority of nutrients get absorbed, then onto the large intestines where undigestible foods such as fiber serve to feed our microbiota, and finally, whatever is left at the end of this process is eliminated through the rectum. Assisting in the digestive process are the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder, which all have their specialized roles.

Why is the health of our digestive systems important?

While the digestive tract is primarily thought of as a system built simply to facilitate food processing and the separation of important nutrients from wasteful products, in reality, its role extends much further. The lining of your digestive system, known as your gut barrier, is arguably the most important part of the body to fortify and keep healthy. Your gut lining forms a barrier between what gets inside you and the outside world, protecting you from pathogens trying to enter your system by coordinating your immune response when necessary.[1,2]

How can the integrity of your gut barrier impact your health?

The health of the gut barrier is maintained and modulated by intestinal microorganisms which are responsible for the fortification of the gut lining, helping to control inflammation, and preserving homeostasis within the gut.[3]

The lining of your gut can become compromised when you are under acute stress such as excessive heat, intense exercise, physiological stress, and antibiotic use.[4] Making matters worse, when stress becomes chronic a host of problems arise such as autoimmune conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological complications, and metabolic diseases. Therefore protecting your gut lining is fundamental to your health, not only for proper nutrient absorption which will increase energy, but also to ensure foreign substances and inflammation do not overburden your immune system.[5]

How can you strengthen the health of your gut?

There are several ways to improve the health and strength of your gut. The best place to start is by cleaning up your diet[6], replacing preprocessed and packaged meals with whole, unprocessed foods. Specific nutritional supplements such as probiotics[7], collagen, zinc, and digestive enzymes have all been shown to improve digestive functioning as well as help to strengthen the gut barrier. Additionally, consistent exercise[8] and stress management practices[9] such as massage have also been shown to be beneficial. 

If these interventions seem very general, it’s because they are. There is no need for you to reinvent the wheel to get on the road toward improving your health. The fundamentals work, so start with the basics!