By Erin Cook
How does the gut microbiome influence human health? Allow us to explain…
Most of us think of our gut as our ‘belly’, but really, our gastrointestinal system includes our entire digestive tract, spanning from the mouth to the stomach, small intestine, pancreas, gallbladder, large intestine, colon and rectum.
Our gut is home to our gut microbiome, which is an ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms and over 1000 different species of gut bacteria that lives inside of every one of us (yes, including you).
If the idea of microorganisms and gut bacteria living inside you makes you feel a little squeamish, you’re not alone. It might sound a little confronting at first but as with all aspects of our health, knowledge is power. Once you start to embrace and tend to your gut microbiome, the benefits can flow over into other aspects of your health and life—here’s why.
The Gut-Health Connection Explained
Studies have shown that the connection between our gut and our health is profound. You are first exposed to microbes when you pass through your mother’s birth canal and from that moment, your gut microbiome begins to have an impact on your body.
Certain gut bacteria and microbes can help bolster your immune system while others are actually associated with disease. When the balance of good and bad bacteria is out of whack, it can contribute to health issues such as weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and more, so it pays to look after your gut microbiome (more on that in a moment).
How Does Gut Health Impact Overall Health?
Research from the University of Tsukuba in Japan suggests that gut bacteria could influence sleep patterns by helping to create important sleep-inducing chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine.
“We found that microbe depletion eliminated serotonin in the gut, and we know that serotonin levels in the brain can affect sleep-wake cycles,” the study’s lead author Prof. Masashi Yanagisawa told Medical News Today. “Thus, changing which microbes are in the gut by altering diet has the potential to help those who have trouble sleeping.”
Do you struggle to drift off? SLEEP Inner Beauty Support Powder is a bio-fermented powder and probiotic supplement designed to bolster gut health while also helping you to unwind and de-stress in preparation for a restful night's sleep.
Peri-menopause & Menopause
For most women, peri-menopause starts in their mid-40s and continues for around eight to 10 years until menopause sets in. The onset of menopause represents the end of a woman’s fertility and can sometimes cause hot flashes, digestive issues, mood swings and poor sleep.
Menopause is a significant hormonal shift and “new research shows that menopause can actually alter the gut microbiome,” The Beauty Chef Nutritionist & Customer Care Manager Latoya Cruz explains.
During this period, the gut microbiome plays an important role in influencing how hormones circulate in your body. The good news? “A healthy gut microbiome may assist with the management of peri-menopause and menopause as an improved gut microbiome can help to support the metabolism of oestrogen,” Cruz continues.
“Ways we can support the gut during this time include eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, consuming fermented foods and probiotics, reducing refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol intake.”
Did you know that our digestive health can also impact our oestrogen levels? “A recent study has shown that a disruption in our microbiome causes a disruption in hormones that can then lead to PMS symptoms,” Cruz shares.
Oestrogen is produced in our ovaries and then circulates via the bloodstream before arriving at the liver. From there, it is sent to our digestive tract for elimination. But your gut microbiota needs to produce an enzyme called Beta-glucuronidase to break down oestrogen into its active form. If your gut microbiome is lacking in diversity, your gut bacteria are unable to produce enough of this enzyme which has a cascading effect.
Long story short: poor gut health could exacerbate uncomfortable pre-menstrual symptoms including cramps, heavier periods, mood swings, and bloating.
Sound familiar? Encourage healthy gut flora and microbial diversity by eating plenty of antioxidant-rich, high-fibre vegetables, probiotic supplements (like GLOW™ Inner Beauty Essential) and lacto-fermented foods.
Stress & Anxiety
When you’re stressed, do you sometimes feel bloated or nauseous? Have you noticed butterflies in your tummy before a big presentation? That’s your gut-brain axis at work.
Our gut and brain are intimately connected, communicating with one another via the gut-brain axis—an incredible network of neurons, chemicals and hormones.
Looking after your gut microbiome could play a part in helping to create more calm and manage the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
“There’s now a significant body of evidence suggesting that a healthy diet—one that is rich in vegetables, fruits, lean meats and healthy fats—can improve our mental health,” explains Dr Wolfgang Marx.
“Growing evidence suggests that the beneficial effect of a healthy diet on our gut microbiota may be at least partly responsible for the effect of a healthy diet on our mental health,” Marx adds. “By feeding our microbiome a healthy diet, it may in turn help to protect our brain and mental health. The microbiome supports brain function through its interactions with inflammation and the immune system, by producing small molecules that talk to the brain, and through a network of communication with the stress-control system. In all of these ways, tiny microbes may be contributing to our mental health and brain function. So it’s important to feed them well!”
In order to grow a full head of lustrous hair, your body needs a balanced diet. Cruz explains, “If your diet is lacking in essential nutrients, such as iron, you may find that your hair becomes brittle and weak and begins to fall out. Other important nutrients such as vitamin D, B12 and zinc can also damage our hair health if our body becomes depleted in these nutrient stores.”
You can encourage hair growth by eating the right foods. For example: protein supplies the body with the essential amino acids required to make keratin—one of the building blocks of the human body and the form of protein that makes up our skin, hair and nails. Encouraging keratin production helps to ensure our hair, skin and nails stay strong. BODY Inner Beauty Support is a probiotic wellness powder and bioavailable plant-based protein that makes it easy to up your intake.
Cruz adds: “Some foods you may want to include in your diet to support hair health are eggs, berries, spinach, lean cuts of meat and chicken, a variety of nuts and seeds, fatty fish, oysters and beans.”
On a more serious note, there are a handful of autoimmune conditions that manifest in the form of hair loss when the body’s immune response is triggered, so if you’re concerned about significant hair loss, check in with your health practitioner for professional advice.