The health of our gut is the cornerstone to our wellbeing. Most of us try to eat the right foods, supplement our diet with vitamins and nutrients to prevent deficiencies within our bodies and try to get sufficient sleep. Yet all this could be to no avail if we have poor gut health.
Our digestive system plays an important role in the function of the human body. The digestive system consists of numerous organs such as the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, large intestine, small intestine, rectum and anus. The cells lining the digestive system secrete a fluid that aids in the digestion of food whilst the muscles along the tract ensure that food is moved until it is finally excreted. Two additional glands, the liver and the pancreas, play an important role in digestion by releasing digestive fluids which enter the intestines through small tubes or ducts.
Why is digestion important?
The digestive system is responsible for breaking down the foods we eat, extracting all the vitamins and minerals from these foods and then eliminating what is left through excretion. If our gut health is poor, we can end up with many concerns such as a weakened immune system and an impaired nervous system because the entire digestive system is surrounded by nerves. Additionally, if our digestive system is not working correctly, hormonal problems are likely because the gastrointestinal tract is surrounded by neurons, nerve cells, which release the same chemicals found in the brain.
We spend time working our brain and the rest of the body to boost our emotions and yet many of us choose to ignore the digestive system. If you are feeling run down, anxious or need a happiness-boost, it turns out that your gut most likely has a huge influence on it.
Poor food choices, viruses, excess caffeine and alcohol consumption, parasites, antibiotics, some anti-inflammatory drugs and bad bacteria can all cause damage to the cells lining the digestive system leading to a concern known as leaky gut. With leaky gut, instead of food being digested, nutrients extracted, and the rest eliminated, food particles can cross the damaged intestines into the bloodstream causing intolerances, sensitivities and in turn can initiate an inflammatory response and the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Increased cortisol levels are thought to be responsible for hundreds of concerns in the body.
How to take charge of your gut health
With so many factors attacking the health of the gut, it would appear to be almost impossible to maintain or restore optimal gut health. Healing the gut lining will allow you to enhance your immunity, improve your digestion, reduce food intolerances, improve bowel movement and your mood too. This is achievable if we follow the following steps:
Remove – This is the step of removing foods that we know can damage or cause inflammation within the gut. This includes alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy products, processed and sugar-laden foods. Whist it may not be possible for everyone to remove offending foods such as caffeine and alcohol, one could at least try and reduce the weekly intake.
Repair – Repairing the gut is crucial to heal the damaged lining of the gut walls. The amino acid l-glutamine constitutes more than 20 percent of amino acid levels in the body signifying its importance. The gastrointestinal tract is by far the greatest user of glutamine in the body and the cells lining the gut use glutamine as their principal source of energy. Using glutamine as a source of energy, the gut cells can promote cellular regeneration and therefore repair within the gut. Studies also indicate that glutamine improves the gut barrier function and hence minimised the chances of a leaky gut. Glutamine is available in powder and capsule forms; aim for a dose of 1000mg daily preferably on an empty stomach. Carry on with the consumption of unprocessed foods.
Replenish – this step involves the use of a good probiotic supplement such as Mega Probiotic ND. This non-dairy probiotic supplement contains eight strains of beneficial bacteria including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bififobacterium lactis. This supplement provides the bacteria species that can colonise the entire gastrointestinal tract helping to maintain a healthy intestinal tract, fight infection and break down food more efficiently. This helps to prevent overgrowth of bad bacteria and prevent the stagnation of food which leads to toxin build-up. Scientists estimate that a good gut should contain 85% of these beneficial bacteria but that most of us simply do not have sufficient numbers of these beneficial bacteria.
Replace – aside from all the factors mentioned above which play havoc with digestive enzyme production and hydrochloric acid production, ageing is another factor that results in lower production of digestive enzymes. These digestive enzymes are important because they break down food groups such as carbohydrates, protein and fats efficiently and by breaking down food, their use means more nutrients are available to the body. A good digestive enzyme supplement such as Enhanced Super Digestive Enzymes also contains enzymes that naturally have an anti-inflammatory effect in the gut thus protecting the gut cells and the lining of the gut from damage that we could inflict due to diet and environmental factors.
The digestive system is like a complicated chemical factory and when everything works correctly, you feel good both physically and emotionally.