Gut health is everywhere. From some products Marketed specifically for gut health in videos with the hashtag #guthealth With over 3.7 billion views on TikTok, the term has become a wellness buzzword – but experts say it’s more that.
gut health is not just a trending topic, but an important aspect of health that impacts everything from obesity to cancer rates, says Dr. Aditya Sreenivasan, gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. It can even affect mental health.
“The main reason why this is becoming so common is that there is more and more data (and) understanding that what happens in our gut or the (gastrointestinal) tract is associated with all kinds of outcomes much more important health issues – more than what we typically use to consider gastrointestinal issues like ulcers, gas bloating or Colon Cancer.”
So what is “gut health” and why is it so important?
“When people talk about gut health, they’re talking about the microbiome as a whole and how it interacts with various bodily processes,” says Dr. Shilpa Ravella, a gastroenterologist transplantologist and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University. She explains that the gut microbiome refers to the “trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in our intestines.”
One of the most important ways the microbiome affects health is through its influence on our immune system, Ravella says.
“What happens is that from birth to death, our microbiome actually helps shape our immune system,” she explains. “And that’s important because today we know that inflammation is very relevant to our health. Low-level inflammation or chronic inflammation is linked to almost all of our modern disorders. So when you have a gut microbiome that’s out of balance or dysbiosis, you tend to have more of that inflammation running through your body.”
So while most people think of the intestinal track as just a tube that food goes in and out of, it’s more than that.
In a 2020″60 minutesreport, CBS News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook spoke with Dr. Jeff Gordon, who has spent decades exploring the mysteries of the bacterial community in our gut and is recognized as “the father of the microbiome”.
“(Microbes) help transform the food we eat, but they do much more than that. They make vitamins…they are able to produce essential amino acids, they are able to talk to our immune system and ‘help educate the immune system.’
In a landmark experiment, Gordon and his team fattened a skinny mouse by feeding it bacteria from a fat mouse, suggesting that part of the cause of obesity could be the types of bacteria found in the microbiome. .
“We find that obese people have a less diverse microbial community than lean people,” Gordon explained.
In 2021, a study found that the gut microbiome may possibly indicate whether a patient with rheumatoid arthritis will improve over time. And research into the link between a healthy microbiome and heart health, diabetes and other conditions continues.
Products showing promise for gut health are proliferating, including beverages marketed for those looking to support a healthy gut. At the same time, scientific understanding of probiotic supplements is also evolving. Once thought of as a useful daily dose of commercially made blends meant to replicate the healthy bacteria found in our bodies, some experts now say these products might not be as helpful as we once thought.