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 we eat, all in order to supply our body with the nutrients we need to function and drive our immune system!
Do you have problems with digestion & your Gut?
The gut is critical to our health, this is because our intestinal microbiome plays an important role in various systems of the body. This includes controlling our immune system, absorbing nutrients from our food, detoxification, inflammation, vitamin and neurotransmitter production (chemicals that control our mood), controls feelings of hunger and how we process fats and carbohydrates. The state of your gut impacts your experience and susceptibility to allergies and food intolerances. Things can go wrong and do, infections such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), parasites, Helicobacter Pylori and yeast infections can cause problems and result in digestive permeability issues such as “Leaky Gut”! Then there are far more chronic conditions such as Celiac disease, irritable bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to name a few. These compromise our health and so working toward improved gut function is a must!
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, you may also have symptoms which are silent, you don’t need to have any bloating and discomfort to have an underlying gut issue. The give away to this might be because you have a chronic disease, such as an 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, kill off un wanted bacteria or pathogens 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, where most of your gut flora/microbiome live and water is reabsorbed into the body forming a solid waste where it is excreted from the bowel.
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 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 imbalance 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 whilst sometimes we can live harmoniously with these infections other times they 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. Our microbiome plays a big role in regulating our gut and ensuring that infections do not remain unresolved. Low stomach acid, constipation and a processed food diet contribute to poor gut health.
Other factors such a constipation, unhealthy dietary choices, excessive alcohol, overeating and smoking can also contribute to gut infections. An infected digestive system can cause a ripple effect stopping effective nutrients absorption, contributing to food intolerances, allergies and other health conditions.
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 causing permeability issues. 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, stomach pain and bloating which lasts months and even decades before diagnosis!
See our blog – SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth!!
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 can also include worms! Dientamoeba fragilis is a common parasite, as are Giardia and Cryptosporidium. But for some infection, is recognised through typical symptoms such as bloating, cramping, constipation or the opposite, even food sensitivities, skin disorders and rashes. They can live for years undiagnosed.
See our blog – Are You Hosting Parasites?
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, digestive issues and some chronic diseases, as it can interfere with nutrient absorption. 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.
See our blog – H Pylori, The Stomach Invasion – Ulcers
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
This is essentially 2 types of chronic intestinal inflammation – Crohns Disease (affecting any part of the intestines) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC) (affecting only the large intestine). IBD usually occurs due to abnormalities in the body’s immune system causing an overreaction to food. Good bacteria and other normal digestive functions are effected, the intestinal lining becomes chronical inflammed. This causes swelling, ulceration and progressive injury to the intestinal structure and function. Symptoms such as regular excessive diarrhea, malnutrition, fatigue, weight loss and abdominal pain are signs you may need to be checked for IBD! Whilst this is diagnosed by way of a colonoscopy there is a fecal test called calprotectin which can be taken to give you an insight if this might be an issue issue for you.
A long term autoimmune disorder of the small intestines in particular, is celiac disease. The body produces an immune response towards a protein called Gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley and other grains. It can occurs 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, bone issues and other food issues. 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. (It is important not to come off gluten until first line screening is completed).
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS Is a well known gut 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 sometimes unknown and varied its often refereed to as a functional gastrointestinal disorder (FGID). That means that structurally there are no issues to be seen, this can be frustrating for those who suffer IBS, and commonly SIBO is a cause of IBS.
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. Inflammation occurs causing times of flare ups! Whilst lack of fiber has been attributed to diverticulitis, suffers may need to start with cooked foods and slowly introduce fiber into the diet to avoid flares.
Leaky Gut is a condition which is gaining rapid attention in the media, 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 and causing chronic health conditions.
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!
See our blog – What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
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, gut permeability and various infections can be identified. Blood tests can give important information on nutritional deficiency status which when assessed with dietary intake will provide further clues. 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. Putting together the peices of your gut puzzle is important and critical for success in dealing with gut issues.
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 – constipation
- Fermented and prebiotics foods
- Good 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 & Supporting Nutrients?
- zinc, vitamin A, cod liver oil
- Turmeric, licorice, marshmallow, ginger, gentian, chamomile
- peppermint oil
- zinc carnosine
- All you need to know about yeast infections.
- Allergy, Histamine or Intolernace?
- Elimination Diet – Why, When & How!
- Constipation: Gut Works
- Food Additives – How do They Affect Health