Gut Health is key to our overall wellbeing!
It seems as though everyone is talking about it, self-prescribing supplements, using fermented foods, often not finding any relief from their symptoms. From the beginning to the end of digestion the gut has it all worked out. It’s perfectly made for food processing, extracting the nature of the food all in order to help support other functions in the body!
New research shows that when the gut is compromised it can cause serious illness and disease.
How Do I Know If I Have An Issue?
Whilst there are obvious gut symptoms, such as bloating, flactulence, stomach pain, urgency, constipation, cramping and reflux. Symptoms can be silent, you don’t need to have any bloating and discomfort to have an underlying gut issue and the key to that might allude to an issue can be a chronic disease or issue such as autoimmune disease, allergies, compromised immune system, cancer, hormone issues, fatigue, mood issues, skin problems and many more!
What exactly does the gut do?
The gut secretes acid and enzymes which dilute food, digest proteins, kills off bacteria and then delivers it to small intestine where most of the nutrients are absorbed into the blood stream after protein, fats and carbohydrate are broken down into amino acids, sugars and fatty acids.From the small intestine liquified chyme (partially digested food and digestive secretions) travels through the ileocecal value into the Large Intestine where a small amount of digestion occurs and water is reabsorbed into the body forming a solid waste eventually travelling to colon where it is excreted.
However, this process is not always smooth sailing! The gut requires a balanced amount of beneficial flora (Microbiome), in order to keep digestion consistent and if one is slightly out of whack digestion is compromised.
How Is The Gut Related To Our Immune System?
The gut contains a large component of the immune system home to millions of nerve cells and trillions of bacteria (Microbiome). These organisms digest our food, produce chemical substances, control infectious pathogens and regulate the immune system. Acting like their own brain network even altering functions in the brain through serotonin production and fine tuning the immune system! A microbiome inbalance can disrupt the digestive pathways by encouraging growth of bad bacteria causing infection which over time produces an immune response leading to inflammation, allergies or autoimmune conditions.
What are Gut infections?
Infection occurs anywhere in the digestive system and can wreak havoc on our system! What we eat, stress, exercise, medications, genetics, age and illness all contribute to whether our bodies are prone to infection. However, there are still common underlying causes of infection which include low stomach acid, constipation and a processed food diet.
Low stomach acid predisposes you to the growth Helicobacter Pylori infection especially. Other factors such a constipation, unhealthy dietary choices, excessive alcohol, coffee, overeating and smoking can also contribute to gut infections. An infected digestive system can cause a ripple effect stopping effective nutrients absorption, cause food intolerances, allergies and other serious conditions of the gut such inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Celiac disease.
Here Are Some Common Gut Infections!
Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO)
SIBO is a condition of the gut where an overgrowth of bacteria from the large intestine are found in the small intestine (where you absorb all your nutrients). This excess of bacteria causes hydrogen, methane or hydrogen sulphide gas production which mimic irritable bowel symptoms and can cause damage to the intestinal wall. While these bacteria naturally occur throughout the digestive tract, the highest concentrations are intended to be located in the large intestine. SIBO symptoms are chronic and patients can experience flatulence and bloating which lasts months and even decades before diagnosis!
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Parasites are organisms that live in or on a host, they can survive throughout the body however prefer the intestinal wall. Most parasites go unrecognised with no signs or symptoms of distress in the body and range from microscopic organisms like pinworm, hookworm and whipworm. Two of the most common parasitic infections which most people have never heard of are Dientamoeba fragilis and Blastocystis hominis, which other than aggressive Giardia and Cryptosporidium can show little to no signs of discomfort. But for some infection is recognised through typical symptoms such as bloating, cramping, constipation or the opposite, even food sensitivities and skin disorders. They can live for years undiagnosed.
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Helicobacter Pylori (H Pylori) is a gram-negative bacterium which invades the human stomach affecting almost half the population and is well known as a very resilient pathogen. Surviving in the acid environment of the stomach, H Pylori is a stomach pathogen and can live inside the human body for decades and years as opposed to days or weeks. They can damage the mucus layer, resulting in ulcers, gastritis and possible stomach cancer. H Pylori should certainly be ruled out as a driver in inflammation and digestive issues. Proven to be contagious, there can be serious side effects and symptoms of hosting the bacteria or there can be none at all. Beltching, vomiting, bloating, stomach pain and excessive burping are just a few symptoms associated with H Pylori.
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Crohns Disease (IBD)
Essentially, Crohns Disease is chronic intestinal inflammation, categorised in two major types, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC). Usually occurring due to abnormalities in the body immune system where it overreacts to food, good bacteria and other normal digestive functions. Intestinal lining becomes inflammation through this causing swelling, ulceration and injury. Regular excessive diarrhea, malnutrition, fatigue, weight loss and abdominal pain are signs you need to be checked for Crohns!
A long tern autoimmune disorder of the small intestines in particular. The body produces an immune response towards a protein called Gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley and other grains. It can occur in people who are genetically predisposed. Undiagnosed celiac disease cause serious damage and the inflammation associated with the immune reaction damages the smalls intestine lining leading to medical complications, malnutrition, developmental delays, low immunity, psychological distress and other food allergies. Symptoms are commonly, anaemia, osteoporosis, bloating, flatulence, fatigue and low blood count. Celiac disease is dangerous left untreated and sometimes no symptoms at all are present. It’s vital that a strict gluten free diet facilitating the repair of the intestinal lining is essential for individuals with Celiac disease.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Is a well known GIT condition which comes with a broad range of long term symptoms causing recurrent abdominal discomfort, pain and shifting bowel habits. A condition sensitive to anxiety, stress and certain irritating foods however because the causes are unknown its often refereed to as a functional disorder.
A disease where pockets (diverticula) form in the wall of large intestine, most of the time symptoms do not occur until bacteria builds in the diverticula leading to inflammation and infection. Generally diverticulitis is associated with age and low fiber diets. Change in bowel movements, nausea, abdominal pain are common symptoms of the condition.
Leaky Gut is a condition which is growing rapidly in the media’s awareness. It not only affects the digestive tract, and can lead to many health complications. It’s where bacteria and toxins leak through the intestinal wall causing an immune response throughout the body.
When investigating underlying causes of leaky gut there is a large amount of research around the state of gut microbiome – with the breakdown of barrier protection increases intestinal permeability, therefore processed foods, high sugar and alcohol, intestinal parasites, fungus and bacterial overgrowth are considered to be contributing factors.
Leaky gut can be the cause of many food intolerances, nutritional deficiencies, joint pain and a weakened immune system, even thyroid disorders!
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How To Measure Gut Health Status?
A gastroenterologist can perform a colonoscopy or endoscopy to check for structural issues such as ulcers, inflammation, polyps, atrophy of the villi and cancer. Functional tests can measure microbiome status, absorption issues, gut immunity and various infections (such as those mentioned above). Blood tests can give important information on nutritional deficiency status which when assessed with dietary intake will reveal digestive issues. For example a serum vitamin B12 result which is low in an individual who eats animal products suggests that the problem is with digestion, but in an individual who eats a vegan diet then the problem is a simple dietary lack of the vitamin.
Medical testing is way to diagnose disease whereas gut functional testing is investigating the functioning of the gut in order to improve and prevent further illness and stop further damage.
How can you take care of your gut?
- Staying hydrated
- Keep bowels moving daily
- Fermented and prebiotics foods
- Stress management
- Eating wholefoods and Seasonal foods
- Protein/carbohydrate adequacy
- Avoiding additives/preservations
Please note the microbiome you are born is worth checking!
Gut Healing nutrients?
- zinc, vitamin A, cod liver oil
- Turmeric, licorice, marshmallow, ginger, gentian, chamomile
- peppermint oil
- zinc carnosine