There is no consensus definition of gut health, but the term generally refers to the health or disease of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract; the diversity, composition, and function of the gut microbiome; and the ways in which these factors may influence nutrient absorption, GI distress, and other diseases or disorders.
The digestive tract plays essential roles in both nutrient absorption and immunity, and the gut microbiome may influence many other aspects of health and disease. Changes in gut health can influence the body’s ability to fight off infections and obtain nutrients from the diet, and can also affect quality of life.
The production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes can decline in older adults, while the risk of colorectal cancer rises with age. The diversity and stability of the gut microbiome also changes over time as a result of age and lifestyle changes, though this hasn’t been directly linked to health or disease. Some gastrointestinal diseases, like IBD will go through stages of flare and remission throughout life.
Gut health encompasses the function of the digestive tract, which can be affected by organic diseases that damage the tissue (like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)) or functional diseases that only disrupt the action of the gut (like irratible bowel syndrome (IBS)). Gut health also includes the composition and function of the gut microbiome, which is the collection of microbes and their genetic material in the intestinal environment. A number of lifestyle factors affect the structure and function of both the digestive tract and the gut microbiome.
Probiotics are some of the most widely studied supplements for gut health. They reduce some of the digestive symptoms associated with antibiotics, food borne illness, IBS, and IBD. Peppermint oil has also been shown to reduce IBS-associated abdominal pain in a number of studies. The evidence for other supplements, including digestive enzymes, collagen and glutamine is less compelling.
Special thanks to Examine