The mighty health benefits of the bacteria in your gut
Your gastrointestinal tract is inhabited by microbes collectively called the microbiome, which includes bacteria, fungi, and even viruses. Though it sounds gross and even unhealthy, it’s in fact, the complete opposite. Gut bacteria perform many important functions in the body, including aiding the immune system, producing the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, making energy available to the body from the food we eat, and disposing of foreign substances and toxins, according to Lisa Dreher, RDN, a registered dietitian at the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. Though most of us have a mixture of good and bad bacteria, sometimes the bad guys get the upper hand, causing dysbiosis, or an imbalance in gut bacteria, which can play a role in a number of health conditions. So, how do you know when you have an imbalance? These clear signs point to a dysbiosis that has the potential to make you sick.
Your stomach doesn’t feel right
Diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea, and heartburn are classic symptoms of problems with gut health. “Gastrointestinal discomfort—especially after eating carbohydrate-rich meals—can be the result of poor digestion and absorption of carbohydrates,” Dreher says. Reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and colitis have all been linked to an imbalance in the microbiome. Here’s how to tell if your belly bloat is something serious.