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What Is Gut Health?

The human body’s ability to communicate its health and well-being (or lack thereof) in organs that we never see or rarely feel is nothing short of amazing. A person’s “gut health” typically refers to the health of their digestive tract — a complex system that often requires significant regulation.


The Digestive Tract

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) provides an in-depth analysis of the human digestive system. This system is made up of long tubes connecting the mouth to the anus and includes the digestive tract, the liver, the pancreas, and the gallbladder. Food enters and passes through the digestive tract (also known as the gastrointestinal or GI tract) using the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus to leave your body. 

Proper digestion is important for our overall health and wellness. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the digestive tract that runs from our mouth is approximately 30 feet long. The size of the digestive tract means there are a lot of areas that can be challenged during the digestive process. One common issue is constipation, or the blocking and backing up of digestion. A person with constipation may experience bloating, mood swings, pain, and the inability to defecate (ie, use the bathroom) for extended periods of time. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causes pain in the abdomen and extreme bowel movements. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is another health issue when stomach acid jumps up into the esophagus, causing heartburn and indigestion. 

Monitoring your gut health is important, especially if there are life-threatening complications. Complications due to gut-related issues can include severe, life-threatening issues, like appendicitis (the bursting of the appendix) or certain cancers. Proper monitoring of overall health, eating a proper diet, exercising, and other preventative health measures can decrease the risk of these complications.


Microbes in the Digestive Tract

It may sound strange, but the digestive tract actually needs bacteria to function properly. These bacteria — often called gut flora, microbiome, or microbes — work with your nerves, hormones, organs, and blood to digest the food you consume. If these tiny bacteria do not function properly, they can have a big impact on your health, potentially causing obesity, type 2 diabetes, IBS, and cancers like colon cancer. They also can manipulate the body’s immune system, hindering your body’s ability to fight off disease and illness.

NIH confirms that we should not kill off the microbes in our bodies too often. Using antibiotics can kill off microbes in a significant manner, upsetting the digestive system. When you are prescribed antibiotics for an infection, you should take them. However, there is no need to ask a doctor for extra antibiotics without a dangerous and painful infection present. Antibacterial products like antibacterial soap seem to have little to no effect on infections yet unnecessarily kill off microbes when they are overused.


Methods for Improving Gut Health 

If your gut isn’t operating as efficiently as you’d like it to, the NIH suggests several ways to help your microbes and digestive system work in unison.

  • Eat slowly, allowing yourself to chew your food and eat smaller quantities in a longer amount of time. Eating slowly can also help you realize that you’re full before you eat too much and get an upset stomach. 
  • Eat meals that are smaller in size, perhaps more frequently throughout the day if you are still hungry. This prevents your digestive system from being overwhelmed, forcing a negative reaction like reflux or discomfort. 
  • Manage your stress, as stress can negatively affect the digestive system and how microbes do their work. Methods of managing stress include exercise, practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or calming hobbies. 
  • Create a routine and try eating at the same times each day. Routine can help unruly digestive systems. 
  • Get adequate sleep, as many digestive systems work best on well-rested bodies. 
  • Talk to your doctor about probiotics. Probiotics are supplemental healthy bacteria that can work with your body to aid digestion. Probiotics occur naturally in certain fruits and dairy products but talk to your doctor before attempting a probiotic-heavy diet. 

The gut communicates illness, problems, and may even play a role in controlling certain conditions. If you’re worried about your gut health or symptoms of digestive problems, talk to your health care provider. When making major and sudden changes to your diet or overall health, consultation with a health care provider is crucial to safe planning and overall wellbeing.


Gut health can be a good indicator of bigger problems. Certain mental health issues can also intensify gut health issues, causing fear, stress, and anxiety for those who aren’t sure why their body is reacting the way it is. If you suffer from addiction, your gut health may be the last thing on your mind, but any concerns about your overall health and wellness need to be addressed. At RECO Intensive, we understand that mental health and body issues are important and can be scary to go through alone. Helping you get to your best self through RECOvery is our mission. Our specialized internal care team includes doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and experienced alumni who are here to help you heal both physically and mentally. At RECO Intensive, we will create a personalized care plan that meets your individual needs. To get started, call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future. 

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