Us humans are basically walking bags of bacteria. Sounds gross doesn’t it, but we have far more bacteria within us and on the outsides of our body than we do human cells, ten times more in fact! We are going to take a closer look at what the bacteria within our digestive tract, called our digestive microbiome, does for our digestive health. When we look at this microbiome and food intolerances, we have some amazing research that proves how changes to this delicate ecosystem can determine if we will develop a food intolerance or allergy. This means that we are far more susceptible to developing any sort of food issue when our microbiome is imbalanced, and likewise restoring this bacterial balance can help us to correct food intolerances too.
Let’s delve into digestive functions to begin today’s chat:
It’s important that we have a look at how our basic digestive process works so that we can then understand the critical role that bacteria have to play in this delicately balanced system.
Everything from our mouth to our anus is included when speaking about the gut, as each individual part has a vital role to play in the overall function. Our food travels right from our mouth, through each part of the intestine and colon to the outside, and along the way it is helped by organs such as the gall bladder, salivary glands, pancreas and liver. An issue in any one of these organs can upset the whole function of the digestive process.
When we first think of food, a physical response occurs in the brain. This allows saliva and digestive enzymes to arrive in preparation for eating. Upon the first mouthful of food, we have digestion starting right there in the mouth. Food is chewed and broken down, giving a larger surface area for enzymes to break down the food even more. Stomach acid and the muscular contractions in the stomach break down the food further again. When the process has been done satisfactorily, the food is in an acidic liquid state called chyme.
This chyme enters the small intestines and signals to the pancreas that it is time for pancreatic enzymes and acid buffers to arrive. The gall bladder is also signalled at this time to release its stores of bile, which helps to digest the chyme even more, thus allowing our small intestine to actively absorb nutrients from the food. These nutrients are what we use for energy and wellness.
Anything that is left then travels on into the large intestines and our microbiome gets to then have their meal too. The bacteria not only feed on this, but they also produce nutrients and other vital substances for their human host at this time. Le’ts have a further look.
As humans, there isn’t much goodness left for us in the food that passes on into our large intestine. However, it’s a very different story for our gut bacteria. They love this fibrous indigestible matter, and feast on it. As they do so, they produce various vitamins and nutrients that are vital for human health. These include things like short-chain fatty acids, some amino acids, Vitamin K and some B vitamins and more.
They perform other vital roles as well, including metabolising cholesterol, helping us regulate our moods through the production of some neurotransmitters, regulating immunity and more. Keeping them healthy is vital if we want to have high nutritional status and equally great health.
Our microbiome truly is the epicentre of our health, and keeping it balanced and well puts us in a good place to avoid food intolerances and allergies. When it becomes out of balance, it is called dysbiosis, and this condition can cause immune malfunction. This predisposes us to develop food intolerances or allergies. In fact, dysbiosis predisposes us to many health conditions, not just food intolerances. Conditions implicated through dysbiosis include:
It’s interesting to note that many of these conditions occur as a result of food intolerances, and so taking care of our microbiome is of utmost importance.
Like all our internal organs and processes, keeping our microbiome in tip-top shape is done best by choosing to lead a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious wholefoods diet, moderate exercise, rest, relaxation and play. You actually have a lot of control over the health of your gut bacteria, so let’s take a look at some specific ways to help you improve and maintain it.
Probiotic-rich fermented foods are an excellent way to replenish healthy bacteria in your gut. Sauerkraut, kimchi and other properly fermented foods will help to nourish your microbiome and your overall digestive function.
An important note here, you need to start small, with just a teaspoon a day of fermented foods if you’ve never had them before. If you have a highly sensitive stomach, having too much initially can cause a lot of discomfort, bloating and pain. You can mitigate this by going very slowly with the introduction of fermented foods into your diet. If you are having issues tolerating them, please seek advice from a naturopath.
Using probiotics has given people some excellent results when it comes to reducing the incidence of food intolerances. Therefore, it deserves mention here. However, there is a caveat, and that is to seek the help of a suitably qualified practitioner to select the right strains of probiotics for you. Each strain has a different function, and if you don’t get the right ones you can cause further harm, or at the very least waste a lot of your hard-earned money.
Research has shown probiotics to be effective at:
Further research is still needed, but the results are excellent so far.
Just like your Mumma told you, chewing your food is really important to avoid indigestion and other issues. Food needs to be chewed thoroughly until it is liquified. Doing this helps to reduce any digestive discomfort caused by swallowing large clumps of unchewed food. It also helps your body to get more nutrients from the food.
Making relaxation an essential part of your daily life is so important, not just for your digestion, but for your overall health and wellbeing too. Our digestive process relies on our body being in a relaxed state. If we are tense, we can’t digest our food properly. This causes loads of bloating, discomfort and even bowel irregularities. Stress affects the microbiome and can kill some bacteria too, so some deep breathing and short guided meditation can be beneficial.
Bone broth is one of the top gut-healing foods. It helps to stimulate the digestive process, heal the gut lining, feed healthy gut bacteria, and so much more.
When you make your broth, add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar to the pot, so you get the most nutrients out of the bones as possible.
Plant foods are the primary fuel source for our microbiome. Making sure we consume a diverse array of different coloured veggies and fruits with high fibre content every single day is going to keep our gut bacteria very happy, and of course, boost our overall health.
We are colonised with bacteria, so much so that they outnumber our human cells at a ration of 1 to 10. These bacteria cover our bodies and have many vital roles to play. Inside our intestines, the bacteria colony is called our digestive microbiome, and it has vital work to do there in keeping us healthy and functioning optimally. Any imbalance in this microbiome called dysbiosis, and when this occurs it has major effects, one of which can be the development of food intolerances and allergies.
Some of the vital functions of our microbiome include producing vitamins and nutrients for us, such as Vitamin K and short chain fatty acids. It also produces some of our hormones and neurotransmitters and helps keep our immune system strong.
Keeping the digestive microbiome healthy is of utmost importance, and we take you through some simple ways in which you can do this on a daily basis.
If suspected food intolerances are plaguing you, we’d also encourage you to take advantage of our food intolerance hair test. It will give you a list of any food intolerances you currently have. Removing these foods from your diet will help you to restore your microbiome health much more efficiently, and you can find out more HERE.