You may have heard of the maxim “You are what you eat”. Well what is more truthful is “You are what you digest and absorb’.
Why is the digestive system important?
The gastrointestinal tract is our interface with the external world and can often be the source of imbalances in the body. The digestive tract is the route through which we digest and absorb nutrients, but it is also our first line of defense against microbes and toxins that may cause disease. Our gut plays a vital role in our immunity and overall health evidenced by the huge number of immune cells in our gut. There is a direct connection between our brain and gut via the vagus nerve with bi-directional signaling; our gut has even been called our ‘second brain’. Consequently, many consider the gut to be the seat of our health and often the first place to start when things are not working well.
What is the gut microbiome?
The gut microbiome is a complex, dynamic and fascinating organism. It is said that we have more than 10x the number of microbes in our gut as we do cells in our body. We are more microbe than man!
The largest colonies of microbes live in our digestive system. A healthy adult, on average carries 1.5-2kg of bacteria in the gut. These gut bacteria are a highly organised microbial mass with certain species predominating and controlling others. They fulfil a number of essential functions including:
- the synthesis of vitamins
- the regulation of bowel movements
- the digestion of protein
- the production of natural antibiotics to prevent growth of pathogens and the adherence to the gut wall to crowd out harmful bacteria.
What is gut dysbiosis?
Gut dysbiosis occurs when the delicate balance in the gut is lost and the ‘bad’ bacteria are more dominant. This can occur for many reasons including undigested proteins, stress, high sugar, refined carbohydrate diet, food intolerances (e.g. gluten) and use of medications, particularly antibiotics. Many diseases have a gastro-intestinal dysbiosis connection.
How can we treat gut dysbiosis?
A comprehensive stool profile can assess digestion, absorption, inflammation and metabolic markers. It can also provide information about microbial balance, possible presence of any pathogenic bacteria or yeast.
These results can then inform a targeted protocol to:
- Remove all offending foods, pathogens, yeasts or parasites.
- Replace what is needed to support optimal digestion and absorption.
- Reinoculate with favorable microbes into the intestine to re-establish microflora balance.
- Repair and regenerate the mucosal lining by giving nutritional support to healthy intestinal mucosal cells and to the immune system.