Gut health: How your digestive system can impact your overall health

Gut health: How your digestive system can impact your overall health

Did you know your gut hosts bacteria, viruses and parasites? Although it may sound terrifying, experts claim this combination of bacteria and microbiome is essential for good gut health.

The food we consume moves from the oesophagus to the stomach before entering the small intestine and then the large intestine for absorption. Whatever is left is waste, and comes out as poop.

Henry Ng’ethe, Nutrition Association of Kenya Chairman, notes that in the recent past research shows evidence that microorganisms, bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in the gut affect everything from the immune system to mental health.

“Approximately 70% of our immune system lives in our gut. He adds that research indicates that the digestive system plays an important role beyond being a processing centre for the food we eat. The food we consume daily affects our overall health and well-being. The human gut affects our whole body,” he explained.

Individuals have unique microbiomes; he notes that the bacteria that contribute to an individual’s distinctive microbiome are acquired as early as during childbirth.

“Microbiome is influenced by what we eat and other environmental factors. A child is first introduced to bacteria during normal delivery, children born using normal delivery tend to have more immunity compared to those born through caesarian section. Microbiome can be affected through eating processed food, taking antibiotics, and more," he said.

In the gut, the good bacteria do more than just help with digestion. They help keep your bad bacteria in check. They multiply so often that the unhealthy kind doesn't have space to grow. Can you change your gut bacteria?

The Nutritionist notes that anyone can take back their guts to where it is supposed to be by eating the right diet to help introduce microorganisms and bring the gut to where it is supposed to be.

“But diversity within one’s diet is key. Diversifying our diets fortifies microbiomes that can do more for the rest of our bodies and minds because what we eat controls how we feel, and how we are able to fight diseases among others.

There are prebiotics, postbiotics and probiotics, they all play an important role in feeding the healthy bacteria in the system,” he said.

How fast the food we eat transfers through the whole system is a good indicator of your microbiome’s overall health suggesting a healthier gut. A high-fiber, varied diet is important to a healthy microbiome.

“Microbiota love foods with lots of fibre, such as fruits and vegetables, fermented foods can be helpful, because they often give you live bacteria,” he explained.

The nutritionist said he worried about the microbiomes of people who limit their food, either due to restrictive dieting or because they rely on processed foods.

He explains that although a healthy diet is presented as an expensive lifestyle, he notes it does not have to stretch your finances. Things are complicated because we continue to consume food that is processed, with high amounts of chemicals and also, we consume food without reading the labels. It is better to consume unprocessed food that hasn’t lost most of the essential components.

“The simplest thing you can do if you want a healthy gut is to have a balanced diet. indigenous foods and legumes are a powerhouse for micronutrients. Having enough fibre in your diet, drinking enough water and taking exercise can all improve gut motility while eating a diverse range of foods is also helpful,” he said.


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