Why Is Gut Health Such a Big Deal?

The interest in gut health has gradually been growing over the past year or so. More and more people are self-diagnosing with gut health related problems which seems to automatically qualifiy them as nutritionists or dietitians. Consequently everyone is talking the importance of gut health and raving about the latest probiotic supplements and foods. 

Now please don't misunderstand me here. I am all for people taking care and responsibility for their health. However, I feel very strongly about individuals passing off 'nutrition advice and information' based on their own experiences. This is where science becomes misconstrued or even lost completely. 

In this article I am going to explain the importance of gut health and some of the issues associated with poor gut microbiota. 

Many of us are familiar with the idea that poor gut health can cause bloating, diarrhoea, gas and constipation (you know, all that attractive stuff). However, research has suggested that gut health plays a key role in more issues than just digestion. Issues have included: skin disorders, autism, type 2 diabetes and obesity. 

Skin disorders 

Researchers have identified links between poor gut microbiota and skin disorders. Furthermore, acne has been linked to leaky gut disorder (or intestinal permeability). This often occurs as a result of inflammation which is caused from intestinal permeability. 

Autism 

It might be surprising to hear that the gut and the brain are heavily linked. One study found a significant relationship between those on the autistic spectrum and intestinal permeability. However, the study suggested autistic individuals who followed a gluten-free and casein-free diet reported less symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. 

Type 2 diabetes

Research has suggested that there is a relationship between gut microbiota and type 2 diabetes. Individuals with type 2 diabetes showed a significant reduction in healthy gut bacteria when compared to the healthy group. Although there has been a suggested relationship between gut microbiota and glucose tolerance however, further research is required to fully understand the relationship between gut health and type 2 diabetes. 

Obesity 

Data has shown that high intake of specific food components such as fatty acids and sugars may influence gut microbiota and alter gene expression which in turn may influence fat storage within specific tissues, around the liver and in adipose tissue. Furthermore these disturbances may also give rise to metabolic issues and further alter gut bacteria. 

Evidently gut health is not merely associated with metabolism and gut disorders. Whilst common symptoms may include gas, diarrhoea, constipation and bloating gut health is not confined to these issues. Be aware of what's going on in your body and ensure you visit a nutritionist or dietitian if you are worried about any aspect of your health or in particular your gut health.   

De Magistris, L., Familiari, V., Pascotto, A., Sapone, A., Frolli, A., Iardino, P., ... & Militerni, R. (2010). Alterations of the intestinal barrier in patients with autism spectrum disorders and in their first-degree relatives. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition51(4), 418-424. Chicago.

Clemente, J. C., Ursell, L. K., Parfrey, L. W., & Knight, R. (2012). The impact of the gut microbiota on human health: an integrative view. Cell148(6), 1258-1270.

Rosenthal, M., Goldberg, D., Aiello, A., Larson, E., & Foxman, B. (2011). Skin microbiota: microbial community structure and its potential association with health and disease. Infection, Genetics and Evolution11(5), 839-848.