When people refer to 'the gut' they're most likely referring to the small and large intestine, maybe the stomach too. The gut is actually anything that houses you're digestive ecosystem, AKA your gut microbiome and includes:
mouth- where digestion begins with chewing/mastication of food. Salivary enzymes help break down carbohydrates before the food bolus reaches the stomach.
esophagus- where the food goes immediately after you swallow; food travels down this pipe via wave-like muscular movements called peristalsis.
stomach- the bolus of food enters here and mixes with various digestive enzymes and juices including amylase (breaks down carbohydrates and sugars), lipase (breaks down fat particles) and protease (breaks down protein structures) as well as hydrochloric acid forming a product now called chyme.
liver- functions primarily to detoxify the body, is the main site of many metabolic processes, produces bile for the gall bladder to store, excretes bilirubin, cholesterol, and hormones, and activates enzymes, stores glycogen, vitamins and minerals and makes blood proteins and clotting factors.
pancreas- where the majority of digestive enzymes are made and then released into the first part of the small intestine; it also produces various hormones for metabolic processes like insulin, glucagon, and amylin which are released into the bloodstream.
gallbladder- releases stored bile from the liver into the small intestine to assist with fat digestion.
small intestine- consists of three parts: the duodenum, jejunum and ileum and is the primary site of nutrient absorption.
large intestine- the last chance for nutrient and fluid absorption but mainly this organ forms waste from undigested food particles, dead cells and fluid.
rectum and anus- primary site for evacuation and excretion of waste.
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE GUT:
1. There are 10x the number of microbial cells in the gut than the whole human body, roughly 100 trillion microbes weighing close to 3.5 pounds!
2. You also have a skin microbiome, an oral microbiome and ladies have a vaginal microbiome in addition to the one in your gut.
3. Antibiotics, whether you were breast fed or not, how often you were around other children and whether you played out side frequently as a child can alter the patterns of gut microbiota at an early age. Having an imbalanced gut microbiome can shift bacterial profiles to promote obesity, metabolic issues, and autoimmune diseases.
4. Your gut bacteria play a role in the digestion of foods we couldn't otherwise digest, it helps make neurotransmitters like serotonin and communicates with your brain through the vagus nerve.
5. Your gut houses up to 80% of your immune system.
If you've ever wondered where in the digestive track macronutrients, vitamins and minerals get absorbed, check out this image condensing the GI system into their absorption compartments!
Recall that your digestive system houses your microbiome, which is a delicately balanced ecosystem of bacteria, fungi and viruses unique to you! And your microbiome helps maintains a functioning digestive system. When there is digestive distress present you see this in the form of abdominal pain, bloating, gas, distention, constipation or diarrhea, diagnoses like colitis, gastritis, IBS and IBD, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, brain fog, poor libido, impaired immune function, mood disorders, skin issues, insomnia, more sensitive to foods, etc.
The most common dysfunction seen in someone who claims to have "gut issues" is classified as leaky gut. This is when the lining of the intestinal wall becomes thin and weak creating openings in the intestinal walls allowing contents to leak from inside the intestines directly into the blood and surrounding tissues.
I made a blog post previously discussing fiber, how leaky gut even happens in the first place, and what you can do to prevent it ! Check that out HERE!
If you want to start tackling your gut health but don't know where to start or want accountability throughout your health and wellness journey, please don't hesitate to reach out for help or with any questions! You can schedule a free discovery call so we can discuss your goals and see if we'd be a good fit for each other!