In a recent breakthrough study, U.S. scientists discovered that gut microorganisms not only influence immune cell function, but actually support the production of immune cells that form the first line of defense against infection. Your gut is your immune system—two-thirds of your immune system, to be exact.
In fact, the gut is so complex and regulates so many bodily functions it's often called the body's "second brain." About 80 percent of the neurotransmitter serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract—not the brain. Since large quantities of neurotransmitters are manufactured in the gut, that means your GI tract is largely responsible for your general physical and mental wellbeing.
"The bacteria that are in our gut help regulate metabolism, they talk to our genes," explains Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, CCN, academic director of nutrition and integrative health programs at Maryland University of Integrative Health. "When that's in balance, we have energy and our brain works better."
A few other fun gut health facts:
• We have 10 times more bacteria in our digestive system than cells in our body.
• 99 percent of the DNA our bodies are made of bacterial DNA.
• As a result of the Human Genome Project, scientists discovered we have fewer genes than a fruit fly, carrot, or pineapple! Instead, the genes we have are always talking to the microbes in our gut.
• Your gut lining is only one cell thick—much thinner than your eyelid—and replaces itself every few days.
It's clear a healthy gut is essential for happiness and health. But as it stands, about one-third of people today have some sort of digestive problem on a weekly or monthly basis. As it turns out, a lot of conveniences associated with modern date life are actually killing gut health.