Chronic disease is defined as a condition that lasts for longer than 12 months, is non-infectious in nature, and/or requires ongoing treatment. It includes common conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease and also any condition you can think of as non-infectious – asthma, allergies, autoimmune disease, Alzheimer’s, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, chronic kidney disease and cataracts.Chronic disease is largely due to lifestyle factors – what we eat, our environment, the toxins we’re exposed to and other lifestyle factors. But move over smoking and sugar, gut health is fast proving to be the most vital key of all when it comes to predicting our chances of chronic disease.Developments in science have allowed us to learn more about the gut in the last 15 years than we could have ever imagined possible. In your gut, you have 2-3 kg of symbiotic yeasts, bacteria, archaea and viruses that serve a myriad of functions, some of which we are only just beginning to understand. This makes up your microbiome – and your microbiome makes up 99.5% of the DNA in your body (that’s right, you’re only .5% human DNA).While naturopaths (and Hippocrates) have always said that all disease begins in the gut, science is only just beginning to discover just how critical our microbiome and gut health is for disease prevention.For example, around 80% of your immune system lies in the gut. Your microbes have roles in immune regulation and production of important disease fighting compounds, like butyrate. Butyrate is produced by your bacteria and has anti-inflammatory effects and has been found to reduce oxidative stress.While the term ‘leaky gut’ or ‘intestinal permeability’ was once laughed at by doctors, there is very solid science showing that indeed it does happen and is a big problem for humans. When our gut is ‘leaky’ it allows molecules such as lipopolysaccharides and bacterial cells to pass into our bloodstream. We are now realising that when we have a ‘leaky gut’ we have a ‘leaky brain’ and intestinal permeability can lead to a breach of the blood brain barrier and subsequent neuroinflammation and damage to our brains.So what is the solution? We need to consider all aspects of gut health, including restoring the health of the microbiome, healing the intestinal wall and restoring natural digestive function. Alarmingly, most of the factors that we traditionally associate with chronic disease such as smoking, alcohol, environmental toxins and a poor diet, also impact the microbiome and gut health which provides a compounded effect.If there is one thing we can do for our health and the health of future generations it is to look to the gut, as this really is connected to just about every disease.Want to know more about your gut? Listen to The Shift Podcast, hosted and produced by naturopath and Endeavour College graduate Katherine Maslen.The Shift is an audio-documentary series with season one featuring gut and surrounding health. It covers the latest in the microbiome, digestive function and surrounding health and features 25 experts from across the globe. Get it on your favourite podcast platform or right here. https://www.theshiftclinic.com/gut/Interested in studying Naturopathy? Visit our course pageto find out more.