Gut health has been a favorite topic of ours to talk about. When it comes to wellness and the body functioning at its very best, gut health is where it all starts.
This goes for everyone, even when there is no doubt that your main health issues and concerns seem unrelated. The reason for this is the GI tract (or the gut) is your main mechanism to get nutrients, supplements, water and medications into the system. You must be able to digest and absorb well if you have any hope of getting all of your tissues and systems healthy.
The GI Tract Keeps Us Healthy
The gut and the bacteria that line it are critical to the health of the rest of the body. The GI tract has a big job of sifting through everything we consume.
It sorts out what is good, what is bad, what is a nutrient, what is a toxin, what is important to absorb and share with the rest of the body and what must be isolated and not allowed in. If inadequate absorption occurs, non-beneficial substances get stored in fat tissue.
Healthy bacteria in the gut benefits our well being.
The GI tract is lined with healthy bacteria that keep the gut and the body functioning well. This is termed the gut microbiome. You have more bacterial DNA in your GI tract than you have of your own DNA in your entire body. The bacteria in the GI tract weighs between 3-5 pounds.
Eighty percent of the immune system is in the gut in the form of Peyers patches and GALT/MALT. Seventy percent of your serotonin is made in the gut and 80% of your vitamin K (a key factor in clotting cascade) is made by the bacteria in the gut. Absorption of nutrients occurs at specific places along the gut. Talk about a ton of responsibility!
Abnormal gut bacteria can do a lot of negative things.
Many of the things that can go wrong in the GI tract have to do with the bacteria that line it. First, you can have good bacteria but way to much of it. When this happens the bacteria that usually live down in the lower bowel: the colon (large intestine) works its way up into the small intestine. This is called SIBO or small intestine bacterial overgrowth and it can cause dysfunction such as malabsorption, villus atrophy, and severe IBS.
Another issue that can arise in the GI tract is dysbiosis. Although the term literally means bacterial imbalance, it can also mean the growth of bad or pathogenic bacteria. These bad actors can cause inflammation, mucosal disruption and micro-ulceration or breakdown of the GI tract surface cells.
Finally, yeast overgrowth can be an issue causing puffiness, bloating and fatigue.
All of the above can lead to more severe issues like:
- Food allergies.
- Immune system overstimulation.
- Systemic and local inflammation.
- Malabsorption of nutrients with subsequent micronutrient deficiencies.
- Maldigestion, which can lead to macronutrient absorption issues.
- Intestinal hyperpermeabilty, commonly referred to as leaky gut.
What is listed above are just a few issues that can occur when the GI tract gets unhealthy but what isn’t listed are all of the symptoms and health issues that can accompany an unhealthy GI tract.
Symptoms that are often vague and nonspecific like:
- Fatigue and lethargy.
- Increase in food hypersensitivities.
- Silent inflammation that can lead to many systemic disorders.
- Insulin resistance or pre-diabetes.
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight,
- Water retention and overall puffiness.
- Autoimmune diseases.
You may also be interested in, Chronic Inflammation: The Root of Illness.
All of these issues listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. A rule of thumb for healing is to “always start with the gut”. Gut health starts the day we are born and starts to affect our overall health through our developmental years and beyond.
The good news is, following an anti-inflammatory nutritional protocol is simple, inexpensive, and keeps the gut and the bacteria that line it balanced and healthy. A healthy gut is the key to overall wellness.
This is one issue, when properly addressed, that will change your life!