When most people think about the gut, they imagine a big, round belly. However, the gut itself is internal and more important than many people realize. “The gut” refers to the gastrointestinal (GI) system—stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and colon—which collectively house their own ecosystem of healthy bacteria that live in the digestive tract. An imbalance of these healthy bacteria can cause a number of health issues both visible and unseen.

For this reason, improving gut health is crucial to experiencing holistic health. Keep reading for 7 benefits of good gut health:

Optimal Digestion

One of the most recognizable benefits of a healthy gut is good digestive function. Our ability to have successful digestion is dependent on the gut’s overall health. The gut is directly involved in digestion, so consuming foods that agree with your system and balance healthy bacteria is crucial to maintaining gut health. Foods like bananas, beans, and berries can improve digestion while supporting the ecosystem of the gut.

Decreased Inflammation

Speaking of ecosystem, the gut’s ecosystem is what affects its ability to operate normally. This ecosystem is called the gut microbiome—trillions of microorganisms (aka good bacteria) that live in the intestinal tract. Its makeup is determined by our environment, lifestyle, and what we consume. When any of these factors are disrupted or negatively impacted, the gut microbiome experiences an imbalance which triggers an inflammatory response in the body. Eating anti-inflammatory foods such as garlic, oats, olive oil, and fresh vegetables can help combat this response and regulate the gut microbiome to a place of balance.

Increased Healthy Bacteria

T​he gut microbiome is made of numerous microscopic organisms that live in your system. The “good bacteria” in this ecosystem are called probiotics. Probiotics only live in the gut for a temporary period, so it’s important to consume food and drinks that are good sources of probiotics to ensure they are active in the gut. Yogurt, kombucha, kefir, and sourdough bread are just several examples of foods you can sneak into your diet to provide probiotic support to the gut.

Good Bacterial Maintenance

P​robiotics play an important role in gut health, but their counterparts—prebiotics—prove to be just as important. The difference between pre and probiotics is that while probiotics are living organisms, prebiotics are not living at all. Instead, they are non-digestible food particles that support probiotics in the gut. Some prebiotics are used to feed probiotic bacterium to help them grow, and others support gut health by targeting “bad bacteria” so probiotics have more room to thrive. To supply your body with the prebiotics it needs, focus on incorporating foods like onions, soybeans, asparagus, and leeks into your diet.

Clearer Skin

I​nflammation isn’t just for the gut—it can occur anywhere in the body. Other common examples of inflammation appear on the skin as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and dandruff. These are inflammatory responses that can result from an imbalance in pre and probiotics. When you eat foods such as tomatoes, nuts, kale, and salmon, you administer probioitics to the gut microbiome, sending anti-inflammatory signals throughout the body. This will help combat inflammation on all areas of the skin, improving symptoms like itching, redness, and burning.

Improved Energy

T​he gut is where your body processes all of the food and drink you take in for sustenance. However, our body can fail to absorb the intended nutrition it would otherwise receive from the foods we consume. This can lead to feeling energy-deprived, even when you get sufficient sleep. Focusing on a healthy gut can contribute to improvements in energy according to how it breaks down food. A balanced gut with flourishing probiotics and supportive prebioitics works to separate and process the nutrients in food to be absorbed and used by the body. When the body absorbs nutrition with ease, it doesn’t have to work as hard to function, allowing you to save your energy for when it counts.

Sustained Weight Loss

I​t can be difficult to lose weight even if you’re eating healthy and staying active. The answer to keeping the weight off could be found in your gut. The state of the gut microbiome helps determine the activity of many hormonal responses in the body, one being our hungry/full response to food. Because the gut is in charge, regulating gut health can also assist with regulating your appetite, cravings, and how soon you get full, ultimately helping you reach and maintain your weight loss goals.

G​ut Health Takeaways

All in all, a healthy gut makes for a healthy body. You deserve to feel good in your body and your gut deserves a fighting chance. Give yourself the boost you need by eating food that supports the gut and also avoiding things that don’t agree with your system. Take the first steps to get your gut health on track today!