Our gut is fascinating. It’s a complex system which starts in our mouth and is made up of various parts of the body involved in the digestion process such as the esophagus, gallbladder, liver, stomach, pancreas, duodenum, large intestine, jejunum, appendix, ileum, rectum and anus.
As well as processing food and nutrients and excreting waste, a whopping 80% of our immune system is housed there. 90% of the bodies’ serotonin is produced there and it is home to 100-trillion micro-organisms (mostly bacteria but also a mix of viruses, fungi and protozoa).
These micro-organisms are collectively referred to as the microbiome and weigh 3-5 Lbs in weight, almost the same as the human brain. They interact with the body, with the food we eat and with each other. The gut is now reverently described as ‘our second brain’ and the ‘gateway to health’.
Why Is A Healthy Gut Important?
More than 2000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Hippocrates said that all disease begins in the gut’. It seems he was on to something: new evidence shows optimal health throughout the whole body starts in the gut. Beneficial bacteria play an essential role as our first line of defense in supporting efficient digestive function and gut immunity. We all have trillions of different bacteria and microbes in our body – especially in our digestive system – and we all have a completely different mix. Our guts are as individual as our fingerprints.
Healthy Guts = Overall Well Being
At Triborough GI we know a number of factors can compromise the right balance of beneficial bacteria throughout the body, including antibiotic therapy, infection, stress, travel or a period of unhealthy nutrition. An imbalanced gut flora has long been associated with digestive conditions such as constipation, loose stools, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) etc.
Furthermore, this imbalance can also be the cause of food sensitivities, allergies and atopic conditions such as eczema, asthma, hay fever and rhinitis, plus a range of other auto-immune diseases.
And we know, stress not only affects the microbiota, but the microbiota impacts our stress response in a two-way communication – the so-called gut-brain-axis. Gut bacteria can send chemical messages to the brain through the secretion of neurotransmitters, affecting conditions such as anxiety and depression.
So it’s clear that a healthy gut plays an important role for our whole body health and general well being.
7 Top Tips For Good Gut Health
Keep your gut microbiota balanced by supporting the growth of friendly bacteria:
- Opt for organic produce and include fiber from vegetables in your diet
- Include some fermented foods (e.g. sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and kombucha)
- Include some prebiotic options (e.g. onions, garlic and leeks)
- Consume herbs such as cinnamon, oregano and pau d’arco
- Avoid caffeine, sugar, alcohol and smoking
- Supplement your microflora by taking prebiotics and probiotics to restore the balance
How Does Diet Affect Our Gut Microbiome And Our Health?
Carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids and lipids are all metabolized by microbiomes in different ways, with different outcomes for our health.
Carbohydrate metabolism – especially that of fiber – leads to organic acids, short chain fatty acids, that have shown to be beneficial in the gut. For example:
- Acetate is metabolized by the muscle, kidney, heart and brain
- Propionate, cleared by the liver, is an appetite regulator also said to be involved in cholesterol synthesis
- Butyrate is a fuel and regulates cell growth
Fiber itself can stimulate the growth of good bacteria. It’s been estimated that per 100g of fiber fermented, 30g of bacteria is produced.
Metabolism of excess protein, on the other hand, leads to less positive end products:
- Ammonia induces quick cell turnover
- Phenols/indoles may act as co-carcinogens
- Amines are linked to migraine, cancer, schizophrenia
Balancing Our Gut Microbiota
- Increased fiber intake
To help ensure balanced gut microbiota, our diet needs to include enough fiber.
- Probiotic and prebiotics
Much work has been done into probiotic supplements: live ‘good’ bacteria that bring health benefits, especially lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
More recently, scientists have found that prebiotics could have an even more profound effect on our health. They work by selectively proliferating beneficial bacteria, which in turn inhibit pathogens. They may also have a more general effect, including dampening inflammatory issues.
Prebiotics are found naturally in human breast milk and in fructans and inulin in vegetables including asparagus, onion, banana and leeks. They can also be taken as supplements, especially in GOS forms.