The digestive tract makes up about 70% of our immune system, runs our metabolism, makes vitamins for us, and communicates with other cells in our bodies. Some refer to the gut as the "second brain" as it holds its own nervous system, the enteric nervous system. The gut also produces numerous neurotransmitters, including 90-95% of serotonin! The digestive tract is home to over 100 trillion of microorganisms that coexist within us. These cells outnumber human cells by a factor of 10 and their DNA outnumbers human DNA by a factor of 100. Collectively this is referred to as the gut microbiome.
Many things influence gut balance and the gut microbiome. Some examples include chronic stress, toxins (alcohol, ciagarettes), infections, environmental toxins/exposures, lack of exercise, medications, low stomach acid, dietary choices, and genetics to name a few. A myriad of conditions are associated with imbalance of the gut and include, but are not limited to, the following: allergies, asthma, Alzheimer's dementia, anxiety, autism, autoimmune conditions, cancers, celiac disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, colon polyps, heart disease, depression, diabetes, eczema, inflammatory bowel disease, metabolic syndrome, multiple sclerosis, obesity, Parkinson's disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and thyroid disease.
Therefore, it is clear that gut health really means overall health and wellness. Goals of optimal gut health are to find that balance amongst the microbes that live with us, optimize risk factors, prevent disease, reduce gastrointestinal symptoms, and to live longer healthier and happier lives.
Hippocrates said "All disease begins in the gut" and we are just now, in more modern times, learning and understanding how important and powerful this statement, made ages ago, truly is.
Cheers to your (gut) health!