Did you know that if you look after your gut, you’re (quite literally) looking after you? Gastroenterology Dietitian Dr Sammie Gill shares five reasons why your gut is way more important than you think. Spoiler: There’s a reason it’s often called the “second brain”.
Your gut produces most of your serotonin
Commonly labelled the ‘happy hormone’, serotonin is a chemical messenger with a reputation for regulating how we feel and behave. But did you know that only 5% of serotonin is actually produced in the brain? The other 95% is produced in the gut, mainly by the cells that line the gut wall (called enterochromaffin cells). It’s one of the reasons why the gut is also labelled the ‘second brain’.
Your gut microbes are mentors to your immune system
70% of your immune system sits along your gut. Impressive, right? But our gut microbes have a huge role to play in how it behaves. In fact, they support the immune system to develop by teaching and training it to react appropriately – to trigger a response to potentially harmful microbes and to remain tolerant to harmless ones.
Your gut is at the centre of your health and wellbeing
The gut and the trillions of microbes it contains have the ability to influence the health of all other organs in the body. For example, there is now focus on how the gut may impact the heart with early research showing that SCFAs can regulate blood pressure.
Your gut microbiome regulates your hormone levels
Research has shown that your gut microbes play a key role in influencing levels of reproductive hormones. For example, a certain group of bacteria (labelled the ‘estrobolome’) can transform inactive oestrogen back into its active form for use.
Your gut microbes do things you can’t
Your gut microbes are more than just allies; they perform functions the human body can’t. For example, they break down all of those non-digestible nutrients (such as fibre and plant chemicals) and in exchange, release beneficial molecules such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which play a key role in gut health, such as supporting the gut barrier.