Updated: Nov 20, 2021
1. The gut has its own brain with 1/5th as many neurones as your head brain.
This is a lot of neurones!
This is more than in your spine and more than in a whole cat!
This gut-brain aka your enteric nervous let’s your microbiome speak intimately with your head brain via the vagus nerve.
90% of communication is your gut speaking to your brain.
Only 10% is your brain directing your gut.
Makes you wonder who’s really running the show, hey?
2. The surface area of your gut is larger than 2 tennis courts.
The surface of the gut is covered in little hairs called villi that in turn have their own little hairs called microvilli.
These villi and microvilli have a couple of very important roles
Firstly they create a nice environment for microbes to nestle into and make home.
Think intestinal shag pile rug!
Secondly they create a larger surface area for sensing what’s in the gut, adding digestive secretions and absorbing nutrients from food
There is a lot going on between all the different bugs living in your gut and this needs to be monitored and relayed to the brain.
3. Your microbiome has 2kg of bacteria living within it
Think about a dirty bench top and the bacteria harboured there or an old sponge that’s been sitting in your sink.
How much bacteria do you think would be in there?
A few grams?
2kg is a whole ecosystem of microbial life!
And these guys have some very important roles
They break down food and create nutrients for your human cells
They regulate your immune system and influence your metabolism
They help defend against pathogens
In fact many of the inherited characteristics that you get from your parents may in fact be inherited from their gut microbes genes rather than their human genes
4. Your microbiome is the largest endocrine gland in your body
Yep! You read that correctly.
The collection of bacteria, fungi and viruses living in your gut that aren’t even human are a part of your endocrine system.
They produce multiple compounds that exert powerful effects on distant organs including the brain and heart.
What’s even more interesting is that they have been producing these compounds since before humans even existed
That’s right! Our bodies have learnt by mimicking them!
5. Poor gut health has been linked to neurodevelopment disorders like ADHD, Dyslexia and Autism
Kids with the best gut health also have the lowest rates of neurodevelopment disorders and childhood allergies
One study found 5 factors common to kids with the best gut health
You will never guess what they are!
Never had antibiotics
Allowed to play in the dirt
Have pet dogs
Not what you expected right?
It's almost as if more microbes equals better gut health!
6. Poor microbial diversity in the gut has been linked to neurodegenerative disorders like Altzheimers Disease and Parkinsons disease
Many of the same neurodegenerative changes found in the brains of people suffering from these diseases are found in their guts 20 years before they show up in their brains!
Let that sink in
Dementia is the leading cause of death amongst women in Australia
Rates have increased 68% between 2008-2017
7. Poor gut health has been linked to depression and anxiety and poor cognitive function
95% of serotonin and 50% of dopamine - our feel good substrates - are produced and stored in the gut
I mentioned previously that the gut communicates to the brain via the vagus nerve
It connects directly to the emotional brain and has an influence over our feelings of safety
As the saying goes “Happy gut, happy life” or something like that!
8. Leaky gut is implicated in food intolerances, allergies, autoimmune diseases and fatigue
When we have a dysbiosis - an imbalance of good and bad bacteria - gut tissue becomes inflamed.
Inflamed gut cells struggle to do their many important roles
One of those roles is keeping the gut barrier impermeable
When the gut wall becomes permeable, rather than have nice simple nutrient molecules pass into the blood stream...
We get whole pieces of food passing through.
While these bits of partly undigested food are still tiny, they are big enough for your immune system to recognise them as foreign
Your body ramps up cellular immunity to fight these potential threats and in the process starts attacking things like your own tissues (autoimmunity)
This upregulated immune system is also hyper-defensive towards things in your environment like pollen, dust mites and other foods (allergies)
Does this sound like a lot of work??
Because it is. It's no wonder people suffering with leaky gut suffer from chronic fatigue
9. Antibiotics, Chlorinated water, pesticides on food and household cleaners all contribute to poor gut health
What do these things have in common?
They are all anti-microbial
And as I hope you can now see, we need microbes not just for gut health but for health of our brain, heart immune system and metabolic functioning.
One course of antibiotics will reduce diversity by 40%
A third of people will never recover from this!
If you drink from the tap, fill your kettle from the tap and/or cook with water from the tap
Then every meal and every drink is depleting your microbiome!
So don’t do that!!
Antibiotics, chlorine, glyphosate and household cleaners are all designed to kill microbes
And we need those microbes for a healthy gut
So only have antibiotics when necessary!
Get a tap filter!
Eat organic fruit and veg!
Use natural cleaners that don’t sterilise surfaces!
10. Dietary diversity and dirty hands leads to microbial diversity
When researchers went to live with the Hadza…
One of the last remaining true hunter gather peoples
They found they had 40% greater diversity of gut microbes than your average westerner.
They ate 100’s of species of animals and thousands of plants.
They would eat meat with hands still covered in blood, guts and dirt from the hunt
And they had much better health outcomes than the researchers living in the US
These researchers tested their own guts and found they had the same diversity after living with them for only 3 days
And it went back to base levels not long after returning to the US!
To finish up - the gut is implicated in just about everything! It's in your hands so you'd best take care of it.
I coach people to overcome complex health challenges (and simple ones). If your gut health needs help click here