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The Gut Connection: How Gut Health Affects Your Entire Body

functional medicine information Mar 05, 2024

By Jennifer Engels, MD

Have you ever heard the saying, "Listen to your gut"? We now know that phrase contains more wisdom than you might think. Your gut, or gastrointestinal (GI) system, isn't just responsible for digesting food; it plays a crucial role in your overall health and well-being. From your immune system to your mood, here's how gut health affects your entire body.

Digestive Health: 

Let's start with the obvious – digestion happens in your gut. It breaks down food, absorbs nutrients, and eliminates waste. When your gut is healthy, you're less likely to experience issues like bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.

Immune Function: 

Did you know about 70% of your immune system resides in your gut? A healthy gut is essential for proper immune function. It helps prevent harmful pathogens from entering your bloodstream and promotes the production of antibodies to fight off infections.

The foods we eat affect the diversity and composition of bacteria in the gut, affecting immune cells. Those gut bugs are the healthiest and support strong immunity when we consume plant foods that are high in fiber.

“The microbiome and the immune system are critically intertwined,” says Jonathan Jacobs, MD, PhD, a professor of digestive diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “What’s present in the gut determines what education immune cells get.”

Mental Health: 

You might be surprised to learn that your gut and brain are connected through what's known as the gut-brain axis. This connection means your gut and your brain are constantly communicating, and your gut's health can influence your mood and mental well-being. Research has shown that conditions like anxiety and depression may be linked to imbalances in gut bacteria.


Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions. An unhealthy gut can contribute to inflammation throughout the body, while a healthy gut helps to keep inflammation in check.

Nutrient Absorption: 

Even if you eat a healthy diet, you may not get all the nutrients your body needs if your gut isn't functioning properly. A healthy gut lining allows for the efficient absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.

Common Symptoms of Poor Gut Health 

Some of the more common symptoms associated with poor gut health include: 

  • Autoimmune problems, including thyroid issues, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes
  • Digestive issues, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or heartburn
  • Skin rashes and allergies
  • Sleep issues
  • Cravings for sugar
  • Unexplained mood disorders such as depression or anxiety
  • Unexplained fatigue or sluggishness
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss

Functional Medicine and Gut Health 

If you’re suffering from any of these symptoms or some combination of them, the question is, how can you support better gut health? One answer to that question is to consider how Functional Medicine seeks to promote gut health.  Unlike conventional medicine, which often focuses on treating symptoms, Functional Medicine looks at the root causes of health issues, including gut imbalances.

As a physician practicing Functional Medicine, I take a holistic approach to gut health, considering factors such as diet, lifestyle, stress, and environmental influences. In working with you to improve your gut health, I may recommend dietary changes, supplements, stress management techniques, and other interventions to optimize gut function and promote overall health and wellness.

If you want to learn more about how Functional Medicine can help improve your gut health and enhance your quality of life, consider scheduling a free discovery call with me at WeCare Frisco, 972-668-2636. Together, we can work to develop a personalized plan to support your gut health goals.

Don't ignore the signals from your gut – they could be telling you more than you realize about your overall health. Take the first step towards a healthier, happier you by prioritizing your gut health today and schedule your discovery call at WeCare Frisco.

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“I was absolutely fascinated,” Engels says, “by this new style of medicine that saw the patient as a whole biological system rather focusing on only one organ system at a time, such as Cardiology. This was a complete paradigm shift from conventional medicine and how I was trained.”