Why Is Gut Health So Important? Ask A Nutritionist. February 15, 2023

Do you know that your gut has a very important role in your overall health? Your gut contains millions of microbes or bacteria that are mostly good for you. The ones in your gut, found in your small and large intestine help to digest food, and can also help with your physical and mental health.

The gut microbiome is all of the microorganisms that live in your digestive tract. They help break down the food you eat into nutrients your body uses everyday. But not all bacteria are good. Some are unhealthy and can lead to illness. The good bacteria work to keep the bad bacteria from growing.

If you have too much of a certain kind of bad bacteria, it can lead to gastrointestinal problems such constipation, diarrhea, bloating and acid reflux. It may also lead to illnesses such as as Crohn disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. Scientists think that too much bad bacteria may be linked to heart disease, kidney disease, obesity and conditions such as anxiety and depression.

You can keep your gut microbiome in balance by what you eat. Probiotics are live microorganisms and found in foods as well as your gut and can keep the bacteria in balance. Probiotics are found in yogurt with live cultures with ingredients including bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. They are also found in aged cheeses, fermented vegetables, like kimchi and sauerkraut, and pickled vegetables like onions and gherkins.

Prebiotics help boost the growth of the helpful bacteria in your gut and are found in foods like bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, and soybeans. Prebiotics can help probiotics live longer.

Lastly, be sure to get plenty of fiber in your diet. Eat more colorful fruits and vegetables, whole wheat breads and cereal, beans, lentils and other legumes.

So to help your gut stay healthy, it’s best to include many of the foods mentioned above in your daily diet. And try to reduce your stress-it can affect your gut health. Your gut and your overall health will thank you!

Joanne M. Gallivan, M.S., R.D.N. is a registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She served as the Director of the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) in the Office of Communication and Public Liaison for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1997-2016.  Previously, Ms. Gallivan has served as project manager for NIDDK’s Weight-Control Information Network (WIN), a national source of information on weight control, obesity, and weight-related nutritional disorders for health professionals and the public; as Contract Manager for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s National Cholesterol Education Program and Obesity Education Initiative, and as Director of the Prince George’s County Health Department Nutrition Division located in Maryland.

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic is a free clinic in Charleston, SC, providing free, ongoing medical care for uninsured adults who Reside or Work across the Barrier Islands and their connecting communities. You can sign up for our monthly e-news updates, or follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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