Your gut health

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Luke Coutinho

You would have heard of the saying. ‘Almost all diseases begin in the gut’. Well it’s true and maintaining the right ‘microflora’ (balance of good bacteria) in the gut is crucial for great health, immunity and even, preventing, healing and recovery from serious diseases like cancer.

Your intestines (gut) contains pounds of good bacteria, whose job is to help with the absorption of nutrients from the food you eat. The ‘good bacteria’ determines the strength of your immunity, regulates weight loss, recovery, healing, colon health, toxicity in the body and several other functions.

The gut also contains yeast (fungals), and if this exceeds in numbers compared to the good bacteria, it can cause serious digestive issues, affects assimilation of nutrients, and can cause leaky gut, vaginal rashes, IBS and several other bowel and GI tract disorders. It is extremely important that the proportion of good bacteria is maintained at all times, especially in children.

A shortage of this bacteria could also be the leading cause of allergies, skin problems, headaches, migraines, inability to lose weight and even contribute towards piling on fat. Energy levels of the person fall when there is an imbalance.

Everything we eat and drink passes through the gut along the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It seems simple enough, but the tube like GI tract, lined with a thin, sticky mucous, is embedded with millions of bacteria that live, grow, and metabolise (digesting and absorbing) in what’s considered a complex ecosystem comprised of both beneficial and harmful bacteria.

I would say maintaining gut health is one of the most important and least looked into things. Many lifestyles that we adopt deplete the gut of the ‘good’ bacteria’ and that’s where all health problems begin, something as small as acne to something as deadly as cancer.

If you have more bad bacteria (fungus) than good bacteria in your gut, even the healthy food you eat will not be assimilated the right way. Whether you choose to eat clean, organic or expensive foods, it doesn’t matter if your gut microflora is out of balance.

That’s where probiotics come in.

Probiotic bacteria do several things that contribute to good health and immunity.

Their most basic function is to fight harmful foreign substances that enter the body by detoxifying them and easing their elimination. Probiotics can prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, which thrive and grow within a neutral pH environment, by producing organic acids such as acetic and lactic acids that, in turn, lower the pH of the large intestine.

This lower pH also prevents the metabolism of cholesterol and bile acids in the colon. Since cholesterol and bile metabolites act as cancer-causing agents, they can play an important role in the prevention of cancers of the GI tract and other organs as well. These helpful bacteria can even lower serum cholesterol levels along with cardiovascular disease risk by preventing the activity of an enzyme involved in the synthesis of cholesterol.

Inside the gut are about 100 trillion live microorganisms that promote normal GI (gastro intestinal tracts) function, protect the body from infection, and regulate metabolism and the mucosal immune system. In fact, they comprise more than 75 per cent of the immune system.

Also important is their role in maintaining and protecting the GI barrier. An intact GI barrier maintains gut health, while a problem with its microbiota composition will affect the body’s defence systems and can create a condition known as leaky gut syndrome, which can compromise gut health and lead to diseases such as inflammatory breast cancer, obesity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression.

Your diet is the most important element when it comes to building gut health and I cannot emphasise how important it is to do this.

Make sure your diet contain curds or take a probiotic supplement if you are vegan or cannot have yogurt. Here are some top natural probiotic rich foods

Yogurt (plain kind), miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha tea, pickled gherkins, spirulina

and chlorella.

Your diet should be rich in complex carbs, fibre, fruits, vegetables, omega – 3 and you should have a healthy water intake and low intake of sugar, processed foods and red meat. Sodas, processed foods and sugar quickly deplete the gut of good bacteria, dropping immunity almost instantly, making it the worst thing your child or you can consume.

I constantly tell parents that giving your child aerated drinks is worse than drugs.