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But what does it mean? A network of hundreds of millions of nerve cells called neurons line the gut, or your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The gut has the same kinds of neurons as the brain. And there’s also crosstalk between the gut and the brain.
The gut doesn’t just control things like our hunger and digestion. It’s a huge part of our immune system. It even contributes to mental well-being, says Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute at Stanford University. GI issues are also often linked to neurological health problems such as Parkinson’s. And 60 percent of people with generalized anxiety also have irritable bowel syndrome.
How your gut is working has a big impact on your daily life. And millions of Americans have at least one digestive problem. So how can you keep your gut healthy?
If you want to boost your immunity, look to the gut, says UCLA Health. That’s because 70 percent of the immune system is found in the gut.
Immune cells in the gut interact with all kinds of bacteria and fungi that live there. What you eat and how you take care of your body change the mix. Those gut bugs are healthiest and support strong immunity when you eat plant foods that are high in fiber.
A diet high in animal proteins, sugar, processed foods and saturated fat creates gut bacteria that cause inflammation and life-long health problems.
A fiber-rich diet, on the other hand, lowers the inflammation response. Think fiber-filled plant foods like apples, broccoli, yams and zucchini.
Having extra weight also alters immune function. Fat tissues send out hormones and chemicals that fire up inflammation.
There are ways to help your gut help you. The main drivers of gut health change are shifts in stomach acid, gut immunity and the mix of bacteria in your digestive system. When gut health is good, you’re less likely to have harmful inflammation and breaks in immunity, says Johns Hopkins Medicine.
To improve your gut health through diet, try to:
Taking care of yourself will help your immune system take care of you, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since everything in your body ties together, what you eat is important, but it’s just one part of gut health.
There are other important ways to keep your gut, and the rest of you, healthier:
Making some changes to your life can charge up your immune system for overall better mental and physical health.
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