Here’s “Just the Facts,” a series where we scour Greatist’s archives for the most vital need-to-know nuggets on any given subject. It’s the no-noise info you gotta have, the way you gotta have it.
Let’s be honest: a lot of us don’t give too much thought to our digestive system until we get an impatient pre-dinner rumbling or cheeky slip of gas. But our gut plays a much bigger part in our overall well-being than we might realize — influencing everything from our mental state and immunity to weight and skin.
For this reason, it’s important to ensure that our guts are in their best condition possible — and, fortunately, there are lots of steps we can take to achieve a happy tummy.
Hope you brought your appetite. Let’s digest 28 facts about gut health.
Who needs pretzels or potato chips when you’ve got these delectable stats to snack on?
1. Tens of trillions of ‘‘good’’ bacteria live in your gut
They play an essential role in helping your body break down food and absorb essential nutrients. Upset their balance, and you’ll start noticing problems.
2. 75 percent of our immune system is in the stomach
That’s right — looking after your gut is super important if you want to enforce full-body health.
3. 60 to 70 million people in the U.S. have digestive issues
Whether you’re regularly bloated, blocked up, have a leaky gut, or Crohn’s, you’re definitely not alone in experiencing a glum tum.
4. We fart 5 to 15 times every day
Meaning if your partner tells you they never break wind, you can start giving them the nickname Pinocchio.
5. Men poop more often than women
So, why-oh-why are the lines for the gents’ restrooms never as long? But seriously, studies reveal that everything from gut microbiome, diet, lifestyle, and exercise influence regularity.
6. Pooping 3 times a day is totally normal
So is pooping only 3 times a week. Basically, movements can vary. Here are 13 factors that can impact bowel movements.
7. 73 percent of women experience digestive issues…
…prior to their periods. Read more about how Aunt Flo and your gut are more closely linked than you might think.
8. 3.9 million U.S. adults take probiotics and/or prebiotics
These supplements are packed full of beneficial live microorganisms, which can help restore balance in the gut and aid in maintaining good digestion.
Sure, it has its own microbiome, but your gut is definitely not isolated. It impacts our wider physical health.
9. Your gut has an appetite for weight
Studies show that those with less diverse microbiome bacteria are more prone to storing fat, while these microorganisms also play a part in sending hunger signals to our brains.
10. Everyone’s optimal digestive health is different
So, it can be tricky to decipher exactly what’s going on if yours seems awry. Keeping a food diary can help, though.
11. IBS is definitely irritating
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the digestive tract, but has far-reaching physical effects (more so for women). Here are 12 symptoms to look out for.
12. Your stomach needs sleep, too
A lack of slumber has been linked to everything from heart disease to diabetes, so it’s not a surprise that missing out on precious Zzz’s can affect your gut as well.
13. Snooze positions lead to good poos (sort of)
Certain sleeping positions can encourage healthy digestion, and help avoid unexpectedly noisy nighttime farts.
14. Medication + gut health = frenemies
Sometimes there’s simply no avoiding the need to take meds. But some — antibiotics especially — negatively impact the gut microbiome. So, speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about starting a new prescription.
15. An unhappy stomach shows on the outside, too
It’s not all about internal rumblings. It’s believed that inflammatory skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis, are linked with poor digestive health.
16. You can run your way to a happier tum
Check out how exercise kicks your gut into gear — and what you can do to avoid any awkward on-the-go accidents.
17. There’s a yoga pose to aid digestion
Moving your way through Downward Dog and Child’s Pose can prove equally beneficial for your digestive health. Mats at the ready, ‘cos we’ve rounded up the best tummy-friendly yoga poses.
The gut is called the “second brain” for good reason. Turns out your stomach and mind have been secret BFFs all along.
18. You really can be worried sick
Those nervous butterflies don’t just fly to your stomach. Delve deeper into how a stressed gut can create a worried mind.
19. Indigestion is a prerequisite to depression
What if an unhappy gut isn’t just a symptom of depression, but actually the root cause of it? That’s what scientists are now hypothesizing.
20. Fits of rage can be managed in the pits of your stomach
One study found that those who took probiotics — and thus had a more balanced microbiome — displayed lower levels of anger. Time to take a natural chill pill.
21. Enhancing your gut eases ADHD
Both probiotic usage and diet changes have been shown to ease symptoms, along with a variety of other natural treatment approaches. We’ve got the rundown.
22. Stress can send your digestive system into overdrive
The gut-brain connection isn’t a one-way street. Those worrisome thoughts can do a big number on your gut, too. The good news? There are steps you can take to help lower the impact.
Bear the following in mind to help you make tummy-friendly choices.
23. Sugar ain’t always so sweet
The bad bacteria in your gut microbiome feed on sugar, and you don’t want to spoil them with too much candy. Artificial sweeteners are also on the list of ingredients to try and limit for a happier gut.
24. It helps to limit the quarter pounders to a quarter of your diet
Meat and dairy contribute to gut inflammation, which can lead to poor nutrient absorption and even the development of conditions like Crohn’s. Experts suggest keeping these two food groups to around 25 percent of our overall diet.
25. It’s good to find yourself in a pickle at times
Fermented products such as kefir, kombucha, and kimchi are packed with natural live cultures that your gut microbiome will love. Peruse nine of the best fermented foods to try.
26. Your gut gets fired up about fiber
Loading up on bean-filled burritos is a sure-fire way to encourage gas. But eating a range of fibrous foods in moderation is important to maintain digestive health, as our good gut bacteria feed off it. These high-fiber ingredients are super easy to add to meals.
27. It helps to drink to your health
It’s not just food that can do your gut good. A variety of drinks are also on-hand to deliver, including these five champs. Full disclosure: booze isn’t one of them (sorry).
28. You’ve got the guts to handle the heat
Spices such as turmeric have been used for years to encourage digestion and fight inflammation — and we’ll take any excuse for a curry night.
Those sure were a lot of facts to stomach, so we’ll end there before we slip into a food coma. Whether you want to switch up your diet, add a bit more movement into your day, or simply roll over to try sleeping on a different side — it’s all a recipe for better gut health that your mind and body will love.
Chantelle Pattemore is a writer and editor based in London, UK. She focuses on lifestyle, health, beauty, food, and fitness.