The term 'gut' refers to the intestinal tract, a passage about 30 feet long, which starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. You are not just what you eat. You are what you eat, digest and absorb. No matter how good your diet is, the food must first be digested in and absorbed from your gut before the nutrients can be transported to the organs and tissues of the body to nourish your cells.
Without a properly functioning intestinal tract, much of the nutrients in your food may end up in the toilet bowl. That is why some people complain that they notice no difference in their health and wellbeing even when they eat well and take supplements. I actually recommend a program called Cellular Nutrition, to ensures that you not only take in the right nutrients, but that they are readily available to fuel your cells.
Your gut is smart
The passage of food through the digestive tract is directed by a remarkable network of nerves called the enteric nervous system. It is located in the gut wall and it communicates with the brain. Signals go backwards and forwards between gut and brain that control the muscles, the membranes and the blood vessels in the intestines. Researchers have estimated that there are almost as many nerve cells in the gut as there are in the brain.
Many people suffer from a variety of digestive complaints like gas, bloating, abdominal cramps and pain, burning, acid reflux, sometimes diarrhoea and sometimes constipation. Their fustration and worry gets worse when all the investigations their doctors do comes back pretty normal. They end up having to take various medicines that only provide temporarily ease of their symptoms. The problem is usually that they are suffering from ‘a nervous gut’, what doctors call The Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). All the tests reveal no problem with the gut because the problem is really with your nerves. Research reveals that most people with the IBS also have emotional and psychological problems like anxiety, depression or post traumatic stress disorder.
Your gut is alive
Your intestine is not just an empty tube that food passes through. It is a complex ecosystem populated by billions and billions of bacteria. There are more bacteria in your gut than there are cells in your body. The various types of gut bacteria include some 'good' germs and some 'bad' germs. They normally coexist in a delicate balance that is extremely important to the health of the entire body.
Many factors can create an imbalance of these germs: drugs like antibiotics, excess sugar, too little dietary fibre or some foods like dairy and wheat products. This creates a condition called dysbiosis with symptoms like gas, bloating, gastritis, stomach ulcers, cramps and diarrhea and/or constipation. Many seemingly unrelated illnesses like arthritis, allergies, nervous system disorders and autoimmune diseases may be related to bacterial imbalances in your gut.
Your gut is sensitive
Most of us put between 3 to 5 pounds of solids and liquid into our bodies every day. Some of this stuff is foreign to the body and can be quite harmful. This includes food additives, insecticides, hormones, antibiotics, and germs of various types. Some people have guts that react to dairy and gluten containing foods. The healthy gut is equipped with a powerful defense system, the immune system. There are more immune cells around the gut that anywhere else in the body.
Despite this, food allergies and intestinal infections are very common, distressing and sometimes life threatening. The young are particularly vulnerable because their immune system is underdeveloped and millions of children still die each year from intestinal infections.
Care for your gut
Have balanced nutrition with the emphasis on natural high fiber foods like fruit and vegetables and healthy protein. Be wary of chemical food additives, excess sugar and dairy products. Eat smaller more frequent meals so as not to overburden your digestive system. As my grandfather used to advise, you should leave the dining table feeling that you could have had a little bit more.
From time to time cleanse the digestive tract. Natural fibre-herbal combinations are readily available and Aloe vera is particularly useful. I use a convenient, pleasant tasting, non-prescription drink containing healing aloe and calming cammomile that gently cleanses and soothes. I hardly prescribe regular "stomach medicines" but instead extensively use this aloe/cammomile blend.
Replemish the good gut bacteria. I use a patented supplement called Florafiber, which contains Acidophilus and Lactobacillus bacteria in a fiber blend, as the bacteria actually need fibre for food. Fermented foods like natural yogurt contain healthy bacteria and are also useful. Finally learn good stress management as many gut problems are stress related.
Take care of your gut and it will take care of you.