About 100 trillion bacteria call your gut home and they play a role in almost every aspect of your health.
First, let’s take a look inside. The epithelial lining of the intestinal tract is covered with what are known as villi, if you imagine something that looks like a microscopic shag carpet, that’s about right! The tight junctions of the villi are what keep the pathogens and out and let the good nutrients in, remember, the gut is where you will absorb what you need from food. You are not what you eat - you are what you absorb!
Over time these junctions can become looser - a worn down carpet instead of a tightly bound one if you like. At this point the gut lining has become more permeable allowing protein molecules to enter directly into your bloodstream. Why is this a problem? Well, your immune system sees these protein molecules as invaders as they are not supposed to enter in this manner and creates antibodies that can trigger a reaction. Allergies, intolerances and inflammatory conditions, not to mention feeling tired and sluggish, all share this root cause.
There are many reasons this can occur and it’s not just about your choice of food.
How you eat not just want you eat plays a role. Chewing your food well is vital. Food that isn’t broken down properly can cause more issues for the gut. Overeating also overwhelms the digestive system - think about how exhausted you feel after Christmas dinner, this is a clue!
Microbial imbalances in your gut are also major root cause of chronic health issues. The delicate system between the beneficial and ‘bad’ bacteria can be managed with a healthy diet and nourishing amounts of beneficial L- bacteria. This can be taken most effectively in natural forms such as fermented foods sauerkraut and kefir. These can be a hassle to make (to put it lightly) so buy sauerkraut pre-made in health food shops or check out the my Rhythm range which are the most potent probiotic coconut kefir based drinks and shots on the market (www.rhythmcleanse.co.uk)
For some people, the issue lies in the stomach. If you don’t have adequate stomach acid (HCl), you can’t digest your food properly. The result is that proteins and pathogens reach your intestines where they cause trouble as discussed. Enzymes are so important and are helpful to supplement until digestive issues have cleared up.
Antibiotics can also upset the balance of gut bacteria as they kill the good and the bad strains and frequent use of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can damage gut lining. Excessive alcohol or binge drinking also harms the gut over time, as does low-fibre, processed food based diets.
The trigger point for an individual’s digestive imbalance or complaint may never be found. The circumstances surrounding your birth and your early years even play a factor, not something you had any choice in. The key point is either to investigate what’s going on or simply start on a path that supports digestive health.
Stool and digestive analysis tests can be arranged through naturopaths and nutritionists and will help pick up the presence of parasites, infections or bacterial overgrowth such as candida as well as determining the integrity of the mucosal lining.