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Gut Feelings of a Gut Microbiologist

We have always been confused about the ideal meaning of the word ‘Health’. It is generally considered that if a person is not diseased and disable, he is healthy. But thanks to the World Health Organization for recently concluding the debate about this term, and coming out with the refined definition that “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". When we talk about being healthy, it obviously includes good health of each and every part or organ of our body; and of all these mechanistic parts, the most important and most fragile ones are our brain, heart and gut, the elements of the delicate triangle of health. I tag these three together as a triangle because they are indeed very strongly connected to each other, and if there is any problem, major or minor, with any one of these, the other two too get immediately affected.

For instance, if we encounter any disturbance in our gut, we feel bad (heart affected), and consequently we are unable to work or concentrate on anything properly (brain affected). After all, it is our gut that provides all the energy to each and every part of our body for normal functioning. Our brain utilizes about 25% of total energy required by our body, and all this energy is provided by the gut. So, it becomes very critical for us to take good care of our gut so that a good and healthy energy is reached to all over the body. We all are well aware of the fact that majority of the disease originate in the gut, and therefore, it is vital to maintain a balance in our gut so that we remains healthy, physically, mentally, and eventually socially as well. It also goes without saying that almost all the diseases (be it cancer, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, diarrhea etc.), except for the hereditary ones, are generally caused by an imbalance of one or the other thing (chemical, mutagen, bacteria, toxin etc.) in our physiological system; and therefore, in order to lead a healthy life, we must maintain and sustain a good balance of gut ecosystem so as to stay clear of hordes of ailments. The intestine is at the front borderline of our body’s battle with foreign invaders, pathogens, toxins and other aliens. It is the most abused organ, and hence, could be labeled as one of the toughest organs of our body. Every day, we consume so much of food, drinks, sweets, vegetables, meats, fruits, milk, alcohol etc. most of which are generally loaded with numerous dangerous things such as bacteria, chemicals, toxins, allergens, but our intestine, in addition to deriving nutrients and energy from all this, quickly protects us from the ill-effects of these unsolicited stuffs using its own well-equipped immune system and trillions of harbored beneficial bacteria.

It has been well recognized that a bad gut leads to bad heart (cardiovascular diseases) as well as a bad brain (brain infarction). Consequently, it becomes very important to keep the gut healthy and happy if we wish to maintain a good health. And this can easily be done if we are conscious about what and how much we eat or drink. If we eat fat and oily food, we make our heart at risk of atherosclerosis, and brain too at risk of infarction. If we consume too much, we get obesity that affects our liver, heart and overall metabolic health. If we consume too much sweet, we make ourselves prone to diabetes and other syndromes. If we consume unhygienic contaminated food, the bad bugs or toxins trouble not only our gut but also other parts of our body through septicemia or toxemia. On the other hand, if we eat too less, we deprive our cells and organs get starved and again put our health at risk of many serious ailments. In all these situations, our heart as well as brain gets adversely affected and we become unhealthy, not only physically, but mentally, socially and economically as well.

Therefore, if one pays some attention to these three central pillars of health i.e., gut, heart and brain, life could really become healthier and happier in all aspects. And it’s not much difficult to achieve it. For instance, to keep the gut healthier, eat good hygienic and balanced food, predate over fibers, colorful fruits and vegetables, lower calories and fat stuff, quit or limit drinking and smoking (if you do), stay hydrated, include probiotics (good bacteria) to your diet, avoid junk foods and cold drinks. For heart, do some exercises, be it walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, gym or playing any sports which pumps up your heart. For brain’s healthiness, read good books, think good, make good friends, help others, love the people around you and stay in the company of people who love you and make you happy, stay away from negativities, sleep well, listen to your favorite music, keep anger and worries at bay from your home, avoid debts, smile while you walk, follow some hobby, play with kids in the park, watch inspiring movies etc. All these prescriptions are actually very easy to follow, and soon, they make our life immensely healthier and happier in a complete and real sense. We just need to ‘eat good, think good, play good’.

Ravinder Nagpal

Ravinder Nagpal, MS, PhD, earned his PhD in Microbiology from National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, India, in 2008, and has been working as Assistant Professor since then. At present, he is engaged as a Post-doctoral Researcher at Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan. His areas of keen interest and expertise are Food & gut microbiology, beneficial probiotic microorganisms, and diet-associated microorganisms and diseases. He has authored more than 30 scientific research articles and one book “Microbes in the Service of Mankind: Tiny Bugs with Huge Impact”, in addition to several book chapters and popular articles.