The gut is a complex system, yet it’s one that you’re constantly interacting with, as you eat and drink and perform your bodily functions. It’s often considered too mundane or embarrassing to ask questions about. But the often unspoken truth is that one in five people will experience some kind of digestive discomfort or disorder.
So, have you ever asked yourself how this system is – or isn’t – working, to support your overall health?
Consider your gut as the gateway to the rest of your body – it’s where the external environment meets your internal ecosystem and where you digest not only your food but also your experiences. As gut issues have become more widespread amongst the population, including an increased number of people experiencing food intolerances, today’s modern fast-paced lifestyle may hold clues to the cause. Contributing factors include processed food choices; disconnection from the art of eating; and more stress in life. The good news is, diet and lifestyle changes can help you repair or maintain gut health and prevent any pesky problems further into the future.
Experiencing digestive discomfort can be distressing and potentially debilitating, depending on the severity of your symptoms. With so much information already available and increasing amounts of research being conducted into this area, it can be an overwhelming rabbit hole to dive into the search for answers! While there’s a great deal yet to be discovered, the consensus is that a happy, healthy gut helps to achieve and maintain a pleasant, healthy body.
Did you know that there’s a whole world of microorganisms residing in your gut? The term used to describe this vast, yet microscopic community is ‘microbiome’ or ‘microbiota’ which collectively refers to all the microbes – including bacteria, viruses and fungi – that exist in and on the human body. A whopping 95% of these microbes reside in your gastrointestinal tract, predominantly in the large intestine.
To put this population into perspective, there are ten times more bacterial cells in your body (40 trillion), specifically contained in your gut, as opposed to human cells (only 30 trillion) – meaning, you’re more bacteria than human!
Diving deeper into the gut microbiota, there are around 1,000 different species of known bacteria, each playing a different role in your body – but only a couple of hundred predominate. The collective weight of these bacteria can be up to 2 kilograms!
The composition of the colony in your gut is as unique as your fingerprint. One-third of gut bacteria is common to most people, while the other two-thirds are individual to you.
While some strains of bacteria are harmful, many others are extremely beneficial and necessary to keep your body healthy.
When the number of harmful bacteria outweighs the number of friendly bacteria in the gut, an imbalance called dysbiosis can occur.
So, it makes sense that in order to be at your healthiest, you need to ensure that your good bacteria are kept happy, healthy and as abundant as possible!
The gut microbiota is a complex field of ongoing research in the medical community and is constantly under the microscope. Findings uncovered by new scientific investigations have greatly improved our understanding of the microbiota, and its systemic influence in the body.
Studies have explored and identified links between gut health and the immune system, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, weight, skin conditions and even cancer.
Poor gut health not only relates to digestive discomfort but can also restrict essential energy and nutrient supplies to other bodily organs and systems, compromising their function. For example, the gut houses 70-80% of your immune system, so this can take a hit when the gut isn’t performing properly. Essentially, the gut microbiota acts like another organ in your body, regulating health and disease.
The food you eat is broken down in the digestive tract and the nutrients are absorbed through the gut lining into the bloodstream, where they’re transported to the rest of the body. The gut wall also operates as a barrier, protecting the body from harmful substances by blocking their passage. This is controlled by small gaps in the intestinal walls.
A ‘leaky gut’ refers to increased intestinal permeability. That is, when the cells lining the gut pull apart, they allow the leaking of inefficiently digested food proteins, bacteria and toxins, into the bloodstream where they’re not supposed to be. This can then create inflammation in other areas of the body. Inflammation in the body is considered to be the precursor to disease, making it important to address any signs of inflammation in the gut. This can be done, in part, by healing and sealing the gut lining.
Common digestive disorders that can be acute or chronic;
An upset stomach is a key indicator of imbalanced gut function, as a healthy digestive system will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste. While it’s not unusual to experience some digestive symptoms on the odd occasion, ongoing and long-lasting complaints may be a sign that something is not quite right.
Symptoms may include; bloating, gas, nausea, heartburn, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, constipation, vomiting
Did you know that IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is experienced by 1 in 5 Aussies?
The term IBS can often be used as an ‘umbrella’ term for a collection of unpleasant and unexplained digestive issues that may be a result of other underlying conditions and require further investigation.
This unpleasant condition is characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, constipation or diarrhea or sometimes both. IBS is more likely to be experienced by women than men and those who suffer seem to have ‘sensitive stomachs’ that can be easily upset.
The cause of IBS is unknown and often unique to the individual. However, it’s commonly triggered and exacerbated by diet and certain foods, emotional stress, infection and even changes to the daily routine, leading to variations in the bacterial composition of the gut and its functioning. Research has shown that IBS also involves changes in nerve function, particularly the way pain sensations are processed. While IBS doesn’t necessarily cause lasting damage or lead to the development of serious bowel conditions, symptoms are not exclusive to IBS and can be indicative of other illnesses.
Book an appointment if you think you are experiencing IBS.
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