Gut Health 101

Gut health seems to be the latest buzz in a fast paced world looking for quick fixes and magic bullets, but what exactly is gut health and how can it affect you? I believe that improving intestinal health and protecting the integrity of the gut barrier is one of the most important goals for current medicine today.

When we think of gut health, we think of digestion and although it is a major factor in macronutrient absorption and elimination of waste there are other roles that the gut plays as well. The human gut contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body, with over 400 known diverse bacterial species. So technically, we are more bacterial than human.

In today’s day and age we see many toxic factors that can negatively impact the colonies of the intestines, their balance and the integrity of the lining.

  • Chronic stress
  • Antibiotics and other medications like birth control and NSAIDs
  • Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
  • Diets low in fermentable fibers
  • GMO toxins

Antibiotics are particularly harmful to the gut flora, and recent studies have shown that antibiotic use causes a severe and rapid loss in diversity and a shift in the composition of the gut flora. This diversity is not recovered after antibiotic use without proper supplemental intervention.

We also know that infants that aren’t breast-fed and are born to mothers with bad gut flora are more likely to develop unhealthy gut bacteria, and that these early differences in gut flora may predict overweight, diabetes, eczema/psoriasis, depression and other health problems in the future.

The term “leaky gut” used to be confined to those employed by alternative medicine with letters like D.C., L.Ac and N.D. after their names. Conventional researchers and doctors originally laughed at the proposed idea that a leaky gut contributes to autoimmune problems, however recent studies repeatedly show that the integrity of the intestinal barrier is a major factor in autoimmune disease. When the intestinal barrier becomes permeable, large protein molecules escape into the bloodstream. Since these proteins don’t belong outside of the gut, the body mounts an immune response and attacks them.

The breach of the intestinal barrier by food toxins like gluten and chemicals like arsenic or BPA causes an immune response which affects not only the gut itself, but also other organs and tissues. These include the skeletal system, the pancreas, the kidney, the liver and the brain.

Healthy guts are an eco system full of micro-organisms which protect the intestinal barrier, govern and fine tune the immune system, and actively affect the way you think and feel. An unhealthy gut  may contributes to a wide range of diseases including diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, autism spectrum disorder, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome, to name a few.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of how complex and important having the right colonies, healthy barrier and supporting food and supplements are to the overall well being of a human being.

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Karl Viger
Humming Tree Wellness
Naturotherapist
Check out my website!
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