If you’re like many of us today, you’ve likely tried a number of methods in order to improve your overall health. Perhaps you’ve been watching what you eat, exercising more and even taking supplements. The hope in all this effort is that you not only look better but feel good, too.
But one area many people don’t consider when trying to improve their overall health is their gut. The gut has amazing effects on people’s overall health — much more than anyone realizes.
Learn how gut health can affect your physical, mental and sexual health.
The Gut And Your Physical Health
The gastrointestinal tract (gut) is a long tube that runs from the mouth to the anus. When you eat, the gut jumps into action to process what you eat and drink. The mission of the gut is to sustain and maintain the body’s health and wellness. It does this by communicating with the brain to break down food into nutrients, which are then absorbed by the organs, allowing them to function optimally.
The gut has about 500 different kinds of bacteria — good and bad. Tiny viral and fungi organisms (the gut microbiome) thrive there as well. The microbiome has been shown to possibly cause several health conditions, among them:
- Autoimmune disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Prostate cancer
Mental Health Concerns Caused by An Unhealthy Gut
When there is an overabundance of microbiome, mental health issues may arise. This is because the brain and the gut don’t just communicate, but the gut provides what the brain needs to function. When that’s compromised, a person’s mental health can be affected.
People with unhealthy guts often suffer from the following mental health conditions:
- Bipolar disorder
Sexual Side Effects Related To Poor Gut Health
There are aspects of sexual health that are largely dependent on good mental health. Since the gut affects mental health by lowering the level of certain hormones in the body, it can inadvertently affect sexual health. Specifically, poor gut health reduces serotonin production. Serotonin controls and enhances blood flow to the genital region. When there isn’t enough serotonin in the body, the genital region does not receive the blood flow it needs, which then leads to a lower libido.
Many people will blame outside forces for their low sex drive, such as problems at work, feeling sick or even their partner. But they shouldn’t discount the role that poor gut health also plays.
How To Improve Gut Health For A Healthier Life
While there is no way to clear the gut of bad bacteria, there are ways to reduce it.
Increase Fiber Intake
Fiber collects toxins and waste in the gut to move it out of the body. This discourages the overgrowth of the microbiome. The best way to increase fiber is to limit processed foods and eat a wide range of fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables and leafy greens.
Sleep allows your digestive system to rest. Not getting at least 7–8 hours of sleep can cause the gut to not work as efficiently, leading to an increase in bad bacteria.
Staying hydrated is crucial for good gut health. Water helps flush out bad bacteria from the digestive tract and helps all organs in the body function at an optimal level.
Take a Prebiotics or Probiotics
These two supplements are different, but they work together. Prebiotics encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria. Probiotics ARE the good bacteria. Taking these can help tip the ratio of bad vs. good in your favor.
Practice Stress Management
Stress causes major havoc inside of your body. In sensing stress, your body believes there’s a threat, and so the immune system works harder. Over time, it doesn’t work as efficiently. This allows viruses and fungi to reproduce. Lowering stress levels will help your body ward off what can harm it.
Respect Your Gut for Better Overall Health
In short, as you improve your health with a healthier lifestyle, don’t forget about your gut. Taking time to improve your gut health can be a win for your overall health, too.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, NY. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, SamadiMD.com, roboticoncology.com and Facebook.