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Good gut health

As the small and large intestine are so critical to digestion and the absorption of nutrients, it is really important to keep them in good condition and maintain a healthy gut. There is a delicate balance of microbes that live in your gut, some of which are good for you and others of which are not. The good microbes play several important roles such as supporting digestion, destroying harmful bacteria and producing certain micronutrients. The bad microbes however can reduce the nutrients uptake from food, lead to fat deposit build up and cause a range of auto-immune issues like such as irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue. If your gut contains too many of the bad microbes compared with the good ones, an imbalance occurs that can put stress on your health and digestive system.

Your gut is also a critical part of your immune system. The immune system is the mechanism through which your body recognizes and defends itself against foreign and harmful substances like a fungus, bacterium, virus, parasite or toxin. It consists of white blood cells, antibodies, the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus and bone marrow and your intestine houses around seventy percent of the cells that make up the immune system.

The white bloods cells are on constant patrol looking for bad pathogens (called antigens) and when they encounter them, they secrete antibodies to mark the antigen and signal to the other parts of the immune system to kill it. Importantly, your white blood cells are able to distinguish between your tissue and foreign tissue (“self” and “not-self”) and so can recognize the cells that make up your body and focus on getting rid of anything unfamiliar.

When your immune system becomes activated, it triggers a process called inflammation. Scientists are still studying how foods impact your immune system and which ones lead to inflammation, but there is evidence that certain types of fat and carbs can elicit this response as well as certain food allergies and intolerances. As your gut lining is only one-cell-thick, it is constantly exposed to irritants, bacteria, viruses and toxins (which is why there are so many immune cells stationed in and around the gut for defense) which can cause damage and inflammation.

And there are proponents of “leaky gut syndrome” who claim that increased intestinal permeability causes undigested food and other substances to be absorbed or “leak” into the bloodstream resulting in inflammation - however there is limited evidence to suggest this causes widespread issues.

Healthy eating for a healthy gut

Poor gut health, bad microbes and chronic inflammation have been linked to a number of conditions such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well as a range of auto-immune diseases and other health issues like allergies, arthritis, mood disorders. The good news is that whilst most of us are probably suffering from a degree of chronic inflammation, making better food choices can quickly and easily start to heal your intestinal lining and restore a thriving population of healthy microbes in your gut.

You should try to focus on eating pro-biotic foods, limiting fats, filling up on fiber and avoiding processed sugar. Reducing any stressors in your diet as well as eating a diverse range of foods, not drinking too much alcohol, reducing stress and getting good sleep will also help.

Certain types of fat, like Omega-3, and carbs that are high in fiber have been shown to minimize inflammation. Whilst other types of carbs that are high in sugar increases the risk of chronic inflammation and increase the population of bad microbes.

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