The gut - also known as our second brain, is home to over 100 trillion bugs (roughly the weight of our brain), and I would argue one of the foundational pieces of our overall health and wellbeing.
I ask all my patients about their poops, every visit, for this very reason. Just as a menstrual cycle tells a menstruator about their internal balance, your bowel movement does as well.
Your gut is one of the primary organs of elimination. We’ve got 5 of them:
- Digestive tract
If your digestive tract isn’t working optimally, it puts extra pressure on the other systems. You may notice more acne or skin lesions. You may notice more sensitivities as your liver becomes overloaded. You may notice more urinary tract infections or symptoms like congestion, runny nose, or strep throat. Many of these things are rooted in the gut.
We need regular, daily, and healthy poops to excrete our waste. And if that’s not happening it will show up in your body in some form.
The gut is also where we house the majority of our microbiome. These are bugs that we depend on for survival. They help us create a healthy gut barrier, protecting our internal environment from the external world. Similar to our skin and lungs, our gut is where our external environment (via food) gets direct access to our internal environment. This needs to be protected or we run the risk of constantly being exposed to things that cause inflammation and damage.
How does our gut directly contribute to inflammation?
Because the gut is one of the organs in direct contact with the external world, the majority of our immune system situates itself right behind the gut lining. Therefore certain things we consume can be a direct trigger of inflammation.
More commonly though, I see inflammation coming from an imbalanced microbiome.
We know certain bugs are directly linked to protecting the gut lining and creating a thick barrier. They also produce foods that feed the microbiome and gut cells, keeping it healthy. And certain bugs directly have an immune-modulating effect. Too few of these “good bugs” can cause impaired gut barriers and inflammation.
Other bugs however contain toxins. Gram-negative bacteria in particular contain an “endotoxin” called Lipopolysarrdiced or LPS that has been shown to be linked to the development of a number of chronic health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, and elevated triglycerides, insulin resistance, and more.
Animal studies have shown that elevated LPS associated with reduced testosterone production, elevated oxidative stress, and reduced sperm function.
In women undergoing IVF, blood LPS levels are correlated to those found in the follicular fluid (the area surrounding the egg). This study showed high LPS linked to increased oxidative stress in the follicular fluid and lower progesterone levels.
How do I know if my gut health needs support?
The first step is getting comfortable with your poops! Pay attention to:
- How often you're going?
- What they look like (banana, soft, loose, hard)
- Are you straining or is there urgency?
- Is there food or mucus?
Also, pay attention to other digestive symptoms:
- Do you experience bloating or abdominal discomfort?
- Any issues with gas or frequency belching?
- Any issues with heartburn?
If any of these things are coming up for you - then we probably need to give your digestive tract more attention. Sometimes it can be a simple solution to get things moving in the right direction. Other times we may need more advanced testing and test your gut microbiome to see what’s going on.
You know you’re on the right track when you start giving yourself a high-five after a good poop! ;)
For more info, schedule a discovery call and we can review what’s going for you and how we can help.
Dr. Ashley Damm, ND