As researchers conduct more studies on the gut, they’re finding that this part of the gastrointestinal system plays a significant role in health. Beyond digestive functioning, the gut influences immunity and communicates with the brain. Here are a few specific ways that taking care of your gut can help you stay healthier.

Your Bathroom Schedule Indicates Gut Health
It takes between one to three days for food to go through your entire digestive system before it’s expelled through the large intestine. In fact, waste won’t even enter the large intestine for eight hours after it has been consumed, so, if you feel the need to go to the bathroom sooner, this may indicate a gastrointestinal problem. Conversely, taking too long to make a bowel movement indicates constipation. If you’re not making two to three bowel movements a day, you should consult a doctor.

Processed Foods Trigger an Immune Response
When you eat processed foods, especially those with high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, and trans fats, the digestive process is interrupted. This is because the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract won’t recognize these chemical compounds as natural food. As a result, the food isn’t absorbed and remains trapped until the immune system recognizes it as a threat to gut health. The result is inflammation of the GI tract and, while the food is ultimately pushed through the system as waste, the inflammatory response poses a more serious problem to the health of your gut.

Your Health Relies on Helpful Bacteria
There’s an area in your colon called the gut microbiome and it serves as a home to trillions of bacteria that benefit your health. This community of bacteria affects digestive health, immunity, and may even affect your risks for developing Parkinson’s disease. Keeping a healthy gut microbiome relies on eating a diverse selection of natural foods, which allows you to consume more types of helpful bacteria. In particular, asparagus, onions, bananas, and garlic help support the gut microbiome by growing more bacteria through the influx of probiotics. Yogurt, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods contain prebiotics, which are also essential to the growth and sustenance of beneficial microbes in the gut.

Taking the time to understand the functioning of your gut a little better will help you take better care of your gastrointestinal system. This can help you manage weight, prevent some diseases, and feel better overall. By helping your gut protect other biological systems, you may even be able to improve your longevity and quality of life into the future.