What you eat and drink significantly impacts your performance. But, many don't realize that your gut microbiome's health is just as important. It plays such a vital role in promoting the smooth daily operations of the human body that it's even labeled a supporting organ. The microorganisms in your belly play a role in absorption, immune system function, energy production, and even brain function. If you want better results from your training and a healthier life overall, it's a good idea to pay attention to microbiome health. It's gut check time.
What is my microbiome?
Your 'gut microbiome' consists of the trillions of microorganisms that live in your intestinal tract. These microbes, primarily bacteria, are responsible for several crucial functions to your health and well-being. For one, they play a key role in digesting the food you eat and how your body is able to absorb and use nutrients.
A healthy gut will even help fight off infection. It acts as a barrier that keeps the gut's contents, such as its microbiota (bacteria, viruses, fungi), undigested food particles, and toxins, from escaping into your bloodstream.
Like having a particular blood type, most of us belong to one of three 'enterotypes.' But beyond that, your microbiome is unique and one-of-a-kind to you. Many factors influence the type and amount of bacteria your gut has. On the one hand, some things are difficult to change, like genetics, stressful events, or illness. On the other hand, some can be influenced by your diet and lifestyle behaviors and can even be improved with subtle changes in your daily habits.
What does the microbiome do for overall health?
Naturally, the bacteria in your digestive system play a key role in digesting food and absorbing and synthesizing nutrients. Sugars, for example, are quickly absorbed in the upper part of the small intestine. Complex carbohydrates, like starches and fibers, are not as easily digested and may travel lower to the large intestine. There, the microbiota help to break down these compounds with digestive enzymes.
The ability of the gut to properly absorb everything your body needs to function effectively is crucial to optimal health. A healthy gut can ensure the supplements you're taking are absorbed and utilized to their fullest extent.
Additionally, gut bacteria impacts various other processes beyond your gut, including metabolism, weight, immune regulation, brain functions, and mood. That's right - the gut is physically connected to the brain through millions of nerves.
Studies suggest that the gut microbiome may help support your brain health by controlling the messages sent to the brain through these nerves. Some types of bacteria help manufacture chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Serotonin, for example, is a neurotransmitter that's primarily produced in the gut.
Clearly, the state of your gut microbiome affects more than just your digestive system.
How can I help my microbiome?
There are several things you can do to maintain a healthy gut microbiome:
- Eat a variety of whole, unprocessed foods.
- Avoid taking antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.
- Get plenty of exercise and sleep.
- Reduce your stress levels.
A supplement that has also been shown to help your gut health is glutamine. Glutamine is a supplement that has historically been known to support skeletal muscle development and help with protein synthesis. Newer research, however, suggests that glutamine also affects the gut in some significant ways:
- It has a positive impact on sustaining the balance of the microbiome,
- It increases the expression of tight junction proteins, which helps maintain a healthy and intact intestinal lining, and
- It helps minimize the inflammatory response in gut mucosal irritation.
A 2015 study found that people who took glutamine supplements had a lower Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes (F/B) ratio in their gut. That's a good thing because a high ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes has been linked to obesity and other health problems.
In essence, glutamine is a unique nutrient fuel for your gut lining, helping in metabolism, regulating cell proliferation, and repairing and maintaining gut barrier functions.
Your gut microbiome is a complex and unique community of bacteria that plays a vital role in overall health. Eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, sleep, and managing stress are all crucial factors in maintaining a healthy gut. If you want to give your microbiome a little extra love, incorporating a glutamine supplement into your daily routine could have significant benefits.
Your gut will thank you.