Gut health and the gut microbiome
~ 8 minute read
The highly complex makeup of the gut and its overall importance to our health is a topic of much importance and has gained significant attention by scientists and doctors in the past few decades. Some specialists have referred to the gut as the second brain and numerous recent studies have shown links between gut health and the “immune system, mental behavioural patterns or mood, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions as well as cancer”.
When we talk about the “gut microbiome” we are referring to the microorganisms that exist within your intestines. Typically a person has hundreds of different species of bacteria in their digestive tract. Within this diversity of microorganisms there are some which are harmful to our health which most of us know as “bad bacteria” or pathogens, and others which are incredibly beneficial and crucial for a healthy functioning body, commonly referred to as “good bacteria”.
How does the Gut Microbiome Develop?
There are many different factors which may alter or significantly change the state or types of bacteria that will make up your gut microbiome. “Our genetics, the health states of our parents, whether we were breast or bottle fed or whether we were delivered vaginally or through a caesarean”. As we grow this gut microbiome continues to diversify and grow as we do, what this basically means is a greater number of microbial species begins to exist within your gut microbiome.
What is a ‘Healthy Gut’?
As we are all separate individuals who live in different environments, have different lifestyle choices and countless other day to day realities we all have a unique gut microbiome. Therefore a healthy gut varies from person to person, what scientists and doctors have discovered is that there is a direct correlation between health and the diversity of microbial species in their microbiomes. Healthy people generally have a large diversity of gut microbia and the opposite is true in people who are generally unhealthy - we find much less diversity in their gut microbia.
Why is gut health important for overall health?
The diversity of microbial species play an important role in assisting and regulating key functional bodily processes including digestion of food, maintaining a strong immune system, helping control the nervous system and further bodily processes which are discussed below.
Bad bacteria or pathogens may be of risk to the body when they multiply rapidly. This process may spread disease and cause infection through the secretion of toxins which inhibits normal and healthy cell function. A healthy microbiome regulates and ensures that this process of the bad bacteria rapidly multiplying doesn’t occur.
The healthy gut forms a barrier which keeps the contents of the gut, such as its microbiota, undigested food particles and toxins, from escaping into the bloodstream and potentially having a poisoning effect.
A healthy gut also helps to fight off infection, as well as performing a number of key processes like digestion and regulatory functions, such as absorbing and synthesising nutrients and vitamins that are essential in keeping your body running at optimal condition. According to medical experts about 70% of the cells that make up your immune system are found in your gut, which is why keeping it in top condition is so important.
Furthermore healthy gut bacteria has a positive effect on the regulation of appetite, total intake and metabolism- assisting in weight management.
What’s the connection between gut and brain health?
Many of us are familiar with the term “follow your gut” or having “butterflies in your stomach”, interestingly enough scientists have connected this feeling to signals that are received from your “second brain” which is scientifically called the Enteric nervous system or ENS. The ENS consists of two thin layers of over 100 million nerve cells which line your gastrointestinal tract. Its primary purpose is to regulate and control digestion. This process includes swallowing and the release of enzymes which breaks down food as well as regulating the blood flow which assists with nutrient absorption by the body and eventually elimination.
In recent studies scientist have discovered that an unhealthy or irritable gastrointestinal tract may send signals via the enteric nervous system to the brain which may cause a shift in mood or mental behavioural patterns such as a bringing about anxiety or depression. These signals and mood changes are closely tied to functional bowel problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, pain and stomach upset.
This evidence may explain why a high percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety.
Improving gut health
There are number of ways in which one can increase the amount of beneficial microbia in their gut microbiome. One of these is to increase the intake of probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria for the gut, whilst prebiotics are food for the bacteria. Eating fermented foods is a great way to increase your intake of probiotics. They contain beneficial bacteria that thrive on the naturally occurring sugar or fibre in the food.
Some examples of probiotic foods:
- Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kombucha tea, water or dairy kefir, pickled vegetables
Eating prebiotic fibre and high fibre food is also a great way to increase the amounts of beneficial bacteria or probiotics as these probiotics feed on nondigestible carbohydrates which are referred to as prebiotics. This process encourages beneficial bacteria to increase in our microbiomes.
Some examples of prebiotic foods include:
- Legumes, beans, oats, bananas, berries, jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions
If you are looking to further improve and regulate the state of your gut health and flora we can strongly recommend The Cultured Whey products which are discussed briefly bellow;
- Raw Kombucha Vinegar – assists in regulating the intestinal flora, promoting cellular strengthening, balancing pH levels and assists in detoxifying the body of harmful bacteria. This product also contains good yeast and beneficial bacteria, helping one to increase the health of their gut microbiome.
- Beet Kvaas – Highly beneficial in assisting one with cleansing of the gut, alkalising the blood and assisting with digestion. This product is great for people who are looking to cleanse their system of harmful bacteria and pathogens as it assists with detoxifying the upper bowels and liver.
- Raw organic kraut – These fermented vegetables contain high amounts of probiotics, digestive enzymes and vitamins B and C helping the body boost immunity, regulate and balance gut flora and aid in digestion.
Gut issues may lie dormant for years leaving a person feeling ‘normal’ and only at a later stage these underlying issues manifesting in either chronic or acute conditions of disease. Other people may be living with issues and either suffering in silence or dependant on medication to suppress these issues that they feel inevitable to daily life. Years of chemically laden food products grown in abnormal, nutrient deficient soils and genetically modified crops which have found their way into regular daily modern day diets have ultimately lead us to this point of suffering and irregular gut microbiota. Some may argue this is the cause of all or most of the disease found in modern day life. It is imperative to the health of human kind to not only nourish ourselves with nutritionally dense foods grown through regenerative farming practices but to essentially make the correct choices in what we consume in every facet of our being. The diversity of our gut microbiota must resonate on the same frequency to that of the diversity of life within our very soil our foods are grown in – this is unachievable in conventional food produced today. That is the core value of the produce found on all the shelves at Sans Grocer.
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