How Does Your Gut Bacteria Influence Your Health And Weight?
Bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms that exist in every environment – both inside and outside other organisms. These bacteria are prevalent, especially in the human body. As a matter of fact, there exist about ten times more bacteria than human cells in your body. However, do not let this information alarm you because most of these bacteria are actually good for your body.
In fact, these micro-organisms can be found everywhere in your body. However, they are especially pervasive in your gut. Studies have even shown that the bacteria found in this specific part of your body plays a significant role in your overall health. Let us share more about the vital role these micro-organisms serve and how they affect your body.
The functions of gut bacteria
Your gut microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes. They play an essential role in your overall health by helping to control your digestion, which, in turn, benefits your immune system, among other body functions. In essence, the bacteria in your gut are fundamental to the proper functioning of your body. Below are some of the vital functions performed by your gut bacteria:
- Break down food
- Break down toxins
- Synthesis of essential nutrients like vitamins K and B12
- Supply energy to the gut
- Support the development of gastrointestinal health
- Protect against pathogens
- Regulate and develop the immune system
The effects of gut bacteria on your body
While the bacteria found in your gut are typically beneficial to your overall health, not every bacterium has a positive impact on your body, as some may contribute to the development of specific diseases. This is because the microbes in your gut are comprised of both good and bad bacteria. Let us share some of the commonly known effects of gut bacteria on your body:
- Control your appetite
Studies have shown that gut bacteria can cause specific chain reactions in your body that impact the production of various hormones, such as leptin, peptide YY, and ghrelin, which can affect your appetite.
In particular, specific types of gut bacteria are reported to generate short-chain fatty acids, like propionate, when they digest fibre, which possibly affects the signals that suppress your appetite.
- Affect weight management
Gut bacteria help to regulate how your body digests food and the nutrients and calories you absorb. Therefore, it stands to reason that they impact your weight management as well.
The food choices you make, and the combinations of specific gut flora in your body, will also impact your weight. Poor diet decisions may cause an imbalance of healthy and unhealthy gut flora, affecting your body’s ability to digest food, thereby leading to weight gain.
- Contribute to certain diseases
Several preliminary studies have also shown that some gut bacteria may contribute to the development of certain diseases. In particular, low levels of certain bacteria, specifically those responsible for minimising inflammation, are associated with inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, arthritis, and ulcerative colitis.
- Impact your brain processes
The changes in your gut can affect your brain processes as well. This is because your gut has nerve endings that connect with your brain, which is termed the gut-brain axis. Studies have even shown a link between gut bacteria and disorders such as depression and anxiety.
- Indicate colon cancer risk
Patients diagnosed with colon cancer are found to have higher levels of disease-causing bacteria compared to healthy individuals. This could be linked to higher consumption of processed food and a lower intake of fruits and vegetables that influences the proportion of good and bad bacteria in the body.
Therefore, it is advisable for you to minimise your consumption of processed food, such as instant noodles, and include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet to minimise the risk of colon cancer.
Additionally, you should consider going for a colonoscopy check-up at a gastroenterology clinic to ensure your colon is perfectly healthy and there are no signs of cancerous cells developing within the colon.
Ways to increase the good bacteria in your gut
Taking probiotic supplements can effectively enhance your gut health since they are live bacteria that help replace or improve your system. Aside from supplements, the best way to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut is to incorporate food that contains good bacteria or support the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
You may want to consider including the following items into your diet:
- Fruits like bananas, apples, and raspberries
- Vegetables like broccoli and green peas
- Food high in prebiotic fibre like legumes and oats
- Whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat, and quinoa
- Cultured and fermented food and drinks, like fermented soybean cake, kimchi, and yoghurt
- Green tea
Not all bacteria found in your gut are harmful. Some of them are considered good bacteria that can improve your overall health. By maintaining a balanced diet and living an active lifestyle, you can easily maintain a healthy gut and avoid the complications caused by harmful gut bacteria.