The gut is considered to be the centre of human health.
Research has found that an unhealthy gut can negatively impact our health, contributing towards obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, hormonal imbalances, chronic fatigue and joint and heart problems. So how does what we put into our mouths and how efficiently we process it have such an effect on our health? Food is not only a provider of calories, it is one of the most complex substances that enters your body and it does this many times a day.
How can you support your gut health?
One hurdle that is more difficult than it sounds is to make sure we digest food thoroughly and properly. Chewing prepares the food and mixes it with enzymes that help to break it down. As food travels to the stomach, acid and pepsin released from the liver thoroughly work on the food. Stomach acid also kills a lot of bacteria, reducing the workload of the immune system. Given how powerful the stomach is, it’s important that not too much or too little acid is produced.
A big health problem now is ‘reflux’ where the acid is pushed up into the oesophagus causing burning and an unpleasant taste. Once food passes through the stomach it enters the small intestine. Here additional enzymes are used to break down all food groups into the simplest molecules. If this process is interrupted such as rushing meals or the concentration of acids/enzymes are compromised by age or other medication, then larger particles of food are passed through the digestive system. These large particles may be fermented by bacteria in the gut causing wind and bloating. If they get through the gut wall’s defences, the body’s protective immune system may even decide that they look similar to a potential enemy and attack them causing inflammation. This inflammation may cause ‘IBS’ type symptoms.
Some foods can generally be quite difficult to digest and irritating to the gut. This can be due to the way the food has been processed or manufactured over the years. Gluten is one of these. Undigested gluten can cause an array of digestive problems and therefore eliminating/reducing gluten in the diet may reduce symptoms.
Our friendly bacteria maintain general health and help keep the immune system on a low-level alert, supporting its function. A healthy balance of bacteria protects our gut from harmful bacteria such as those causing candida. We can help to restore the balance with probiotics, which are essential when taking antibiotics. If the balance of bacteria is affected by an infection, certain plant oils such as garlic and oregano oil, on a short-term basis, can help to speed up the recovery.
Gut problems are on the increase and sub-optimal gut function seems to be having wide ranging effects on health beyond. You can also do a great deal to help take care of your gut, and you will reap the health benefits for years to come.