Some of the many types of "GUT" bacteria that boost health and digestion
As we now know a healthy gut is important for overall health and wellbeing. If your gut is unhappy, it is not able to perform its functions efficiently. This can lead to poor nutritional status, a compromised immune system and eventually disease. Read More ...
A healthy gut depends on the complex interaction of three main areas/systems:
- The balance between the good and bad intestinal bacteria
- The gut lining
- A healthy immune system (about 70% of our immune cells are found in the gut)
Each system has the ability to affect the others but if any of them are unstable, our gut will not be happy. If we consider that our gut contains around 100 trillion bacteria (that is 10x more cells than in our entire body), some good and some bad, it makes sense that the health of our gut is dependent on the balance between the two.
--- The Gastro Intestinal Tract ---
The 9 to 10 metres of tubing that all of your food and drink pass through
The general acceptance of the role of the gut and gut bacteria in overall health and wellbeing is only fairly new. However with new research it is becoming increasingly evident that our modern way of living has caused changes in the gut bacteria. It is these changes that have given rise to the increase in food intolerance, allergies and diseases found in the developed world.
Our gut bacteria are influenced by a number of factors including age, gender, geography, stress, medication and of course diet. Antibiotics for example act by killing all the bacteria, including the beneficial bacteria. This can result in unfavourable growth of yeast or candida accompanied by IBS similar symptoms. This is why probiotics are often prescribed as an adjunct to antibiotics to promote the growth and recolonisation of the good gut bacteria.
Birthing method is also thought to play a significant role with vaginal delivery over C-section the optimal option as it exposes the child to many bacteria in the vaginal canal. First foods also contribute to the bacteria found in our gut. Breast milk, over formula generally increases the number of good bacteria. For this reason breastfeeding is always the ideal choice and is often associated with reduced incidence of allergies later in life.
Food PH Chart
It should be no surprise that the bacteria in the gut feed on the nutrients in the body with different diets resulting in the growth of different bacteria. Bacteria feed on iron and carbohydrates so low iron status or a low carbohydrate diet can also impact the growth of the good bacteria. On the other hand, excessive consumption of processed carbohydrates can stimulate the overgrowth of bad bacteria. Ultimately a balanced wholefood diet should always be the first defense against an unhealthy gut due to its significant impact on the balance of good and bad bacteria.
Now that we have a better understanding of the role of bacteria in the gut, our next post will explore some common gut issues and the interplay between gut health and the immune system.
- Olivia holds a Bachelor of Science Degree and is an Accredited Practising Dietitian