Aug 14, 2015
If you have ever been to a TRI Fitness nutrition consultation, you will know that we take the digestive system pretty seriously! It can often be one of those taboo subjects because, lets face it, we do not like talking about pooing, farting etc and so forth. But its time to break this taboo because this month, with many people travelling abroad on holiday, we are talking about GUT health.
The GUT, also known as the gastrointestinal or GI tract, is the long tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. This thoroughfare is like a planet inhabited by a cosmos of micro-creatures known as gut flora or microbiome. These micro-creatures can also be found in our skin, eyes, respiratory system and excretory system. Yep, you got it, we are unknowingly walking around with trillions of invisible lodgers living on and in us - eek! So how do we survive the constant battle against an army of micro-organisms on top of the chemicals and toxins that we engulf on a daily basis?
This ecosystem of bacteria is incredibly important in keeping us healthy and happy because we rely on them and they rely on us; a symbiotic relationship. In the digestive system alone, the average healthy adult has a whopping 1.5-2kg of microbes. These bacteria are so important, that if we were to be internally steralised, we would probably not survive.
So lets talk a little more about this bacteria:
'Yakult Cuddly Digestive System' You know you want one!
You have probably seen a Yakult advertisement where they talk about friendly bacteria. Friendly, or essential, beneficial bacteria is the most important and numerous bacteria inhabiting the gut of a healthy adult and is vital for digestion, a good immune system and the absorbtion of nutrients. Scientists have only recently discovered just how important they are and despite having discovered many strains already, it is believed that there are many more. Amongst these 'species' names you may have heard of are Bifidobacteria, Lactobactillus, Propionobacteria, Peptostreptococci and Enterococci.
This is a large group of microbes that will generally live in harmony with us, as long as they are kept in check with the beneficial flora. If allowed to get out of control, each microbe is capable of causing a lot of trouble.
These are the microbes that you swallow on a daily basis which simply pass through you without forming colonies and either help you out whilst they are on the move or simply don't do any harm.
The healthy bacteria in our gut is incredibly beneficial to us and although it might seem a little odd (or even grose). Our healthy bacteria works to do the following:
PROTECT US AGAINST FOREIGN INVADERS
NOURISHING THE GUT WALL
Beneficial bacteria lives on the gut lining, digesting food that comes along, converting it into nourishing substances for the gut lining. In fact 60-70% of the energy needed for it to function is derived in this way. If the gut flora is comprimised, the lack of nourishment would lead to a damaged gut wall.
If the gut wall is damaged in this way, the bodies ability to digest proteins, ferment carbohydrates and break down fats and fibre is comprimised. Fibre in particular cannot be digested without the help of the beneficial bacteria living in the gut. When the bacteria is unable to work, the fibre can become dangerous to the digestive system leading to an aggravated and inflamed gut wall. It is this that leads us to get problems such as IBS (Irratable Bowel Syndrome) or even IBD (Irratable Bowel Disease).
Food intolerences such as an intolerance to milk or lactose are also linked to the bacteria in our gut. Most of us do not produce lactase, the digestive enzyme capable for digesting milk, naturally. So why can some of us digest milk and others of us can't? The answer boils down to whether we have the right, healthy bacteria in our gut.
Finally without the correct bacteria, it is common to develop nutrient deficiencies. This is because, the bacteria we have inside us, also systhesises nutrients for us. Many of the vitamins and minerals that we absorb from our food has a fairly short life in our body, so unless you are taking these vitamins every hour, there will be periods during the day when the body is deficient in these vitamins. Those people with damaged gut flora are unable to provide a constant steady stream of vitamins and other active substances for the body to use.
So in order to keep ourselves healthy and our gut and its bacteria happy, we need to learn the best way to look after it. This should be done in three ways:
.....and will be covered in next weeks post! So make sure you check in next Friday for the next installment!
Posted by Viki Marr with thanks to Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride MD for her amazing knowledge on Gut health.
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