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The gut and its ecosystem.

My first mini-science lesson... (don't bring your old science lesson preconceptions with you!) The gut is formally known as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, as shown below. You can also refer to it as your digestive system. The gut spans from your mouth to your anus, fairly straightforward; from where food comes in to where the waste comes out. So in simple terms, it's in charge of managing everything you consume, getting the most out of it, then getting rid of what your body doesn't need. This digestive process starts when you look at or smell food, because your body senses that it's coming and activates your salivary glands, producing saliva that mixes with the food and helps to break it down. The next major checkpoint is at the bottom of your esophagus (before the stomach), where the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes to let food into the stomach, then contracts to stop it from coming back up - when this doesn't occur, you may experience reflux or heartburn. The food then reaches your stomach, where acids and enzymes break down the food - this feeds onto the small intestine (which the pancreas is part of). The small intestine is where you get nutrients out of food, with the help of enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the liver. It's then down to your large intestine (or the colon) to process what's left and evacuate it out. The waste arrives at the small intestine in largely liquid form, and then it becomes solid as it makes its way through. At the start of the colon is the cecum, where a large portion of your microbiome is located. THE MICROBIOME: The microbiome is an ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and archaea, each with its own function. These are largely found in your intestines. From the moment you are born, and with every bite of food you consume, your microbiome evolves and affects your body. We've discussed the effects of your microbiome in previous issues, including how it affects your brain, your immune system, your hormones, and more. Gut dysbiosis describes an imbalance of the ecosystem in your gut. More "bad bacteria" than "good bacteria", which often results in what many see as "poor gut health" - including symptoms like bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, leaky gut, and more. Image below adapted from: source

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