The impressive Role of our Gut and how we can look after it

June 18, 2015
Lyndall McAlpine

Our digestive system is like an inside-out skin barrier, a long tube travelling through our body from our mouth to our anus.

Our gut’s purpose is not just to digest our food, it has a vital role in our health, providing a physical barrier against potentially dangerous organisms. It comprises of over 75% of our immune system and producing enzymes more antibodies than the rest of the body put together. That’s pretty amazing isn’t it?

Our gut is often referred to as our “second brain”. The gut wall has its own independent nervous system and a high tech network of 100 million neurons which transmit messages via nerve impulses. It is home for more than 20 identified hormones which influence the function of your brain neurons and regulate mental processes such as learning, memory and even mood. In fact your gut manufactures about 95% of your body’s supply of serotonin (your happy hormone), a neurochemical that affects mood, sleep and gastrointestinal activity.

The delicate balance of around 100 trillion bacteria residing in our gut, called microflora, are an integral part of your overall health and wellbeing. They go about their business of keeping us well by:

• extracting nutrients from our food
• producing enzymes, vitamins and brain chemicals

• producing T1 and T2 cytokine immune cells
• regulating metabolism
• assisting bowel regularity
• suppressing excessive inflammation

A healthy ratio of good to bad bacteria is about 9/1 however lifestyle and
environmental factors can throw the ratio way out of whack. This unbalance can alter your response to stress and your behaviours and can lead to lethargy, mood disorders, allergic disorders, asthma and a compromised immunity. It has also been linked to chronic diseases ranging from autism and depression to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s, inflammatory bowel disease cancer, cardiovascular disease. Recent research has shown that the health of the gut in general also plays a significant role in both obesity (overweight people have lower levels of beneficial bacteria and/or higher amount of specific bacteria than do slender people) and diabetes.

Gas or bloating can be one of the first signs of a microbiome that’s gone off the rails.

Lifestyle and environmental factors that negatively affect the balance of your Microflora include:

  • Sugar
  • Artificial Sweeteners 
  • Chlorine  in tap water
  • Processed foods especially laden with preservatives and artificial ingredients
  • Conventionally farmed Meat, Poultry, Dairy Products, and Eggs – the possibility of containing antibiotics and hormones, or being fed genetically modified feed, which effect the health of your microbiome.
  • Non organic Grains – read more here
  • Antibiotics
  • Medications such as acid blockers, proton pump inhibitors, and anti inflammatories
  • Pesticides especially glysophates (round up) .. read more here
  • Alcohol

Lifestyle and environmental factors that will assist your good Bacteria

  • Water Filter to reduce chlorine intake (which kills gut bacteria)
  • Fermented foods  such as sauerkraut and kimchee (Korean fermented vegetables), Kombucha or kefir (fermented milk) contain natural bacteria that protect your microbiome
  • Prebiotics – foods that contain the fibre which the good bacteria feed on. These include garlic, onions, and fibrous vegetables. I also like to use this tasteless fibre powder Fibergy which includes prebiotic inulin and psyllium.  I especially like to add to my delicious healthy banana pancakes, smoothies and shakes.
  • Sleep – Your gut, body and brain need rest to repair and refresh themselves, aim for 7-8 hours
  • Probiotics – friendly bacteria that can replenish your own microbiome.  Taking a probiotic is especially important if you are taking antibiotics. Additionally, probiotics promote the function of the intestinal inner lining, enhancing its ability to act as a barrier to the entry of potentially dangerous organisms and chemicals.

You can increase your probiotic intake with fermented foods such as Sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt (organic unsweetened of course!), kefir (dairy, water or coconut)

Probiotic therapy has been used to prevent or treat lactose intolerance, intestinal infections and diarrhoea, gastritis and ulcers caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, colitis caused by excessive antibiotic use, inflammatory bowel diseases, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Bifidobacteria are one of the most popular and best-studied probiotic organisms. The bifidobacteria are a large group of normal intestinal organisms with a host of overlapping benefits.

One challenge to the development of effective probiotic supplements has been to keep cultures of the organism stable, and to deliver them alive to the colon after surviving the extreme conditions of the stomach and small intestine.

I love this Probiotic brand because it conveniently comes in a stick pack that does not require refrigeration. It contains a clinically proven dose of 12 billion bacteria via a unique 50/50 mixture of Bifidobacterium, BB-12® and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, GG®. These two strains have been clinically proven to survive the acidic environment of the stomach en-route to the intestines.

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    • Products/ probiotic Plus,
    • The overlooked role of probiotics, by Joyce Killian
    • 17 Ways to Protect Your Microbiome and Keep Your Belly Blissful,
    • How are your brain and gut connected? and GI Restoration, The Health Sciences by Alex Ruani

1 Comment. Leave new

Lyndall McAlpine
August 16, 2016 7:29 am

Thanks for your comment Alex