We’re Excited About The Gut!
How is it that we at PLMI get excited about gut health? For many practitioners, the gastrointestinal tract is where it’s at. After all, some of the top-selling drugs are those used for gastrointestinal symptoms like excess stomach acid. We realize that gut health is rather personal. While some people get squeamish thinking of gases, chyme, bile, and bowel movements, there is nothing to fear or shirk away from when it comes to the 23 feet of small intestine and 5 feet of large intestine. Much of our day-to-day functioning will depend on whether we have adequate quality bowel movements and absorption of nutrients from our foods. Of course, the gut goes beyond its well-recognized functions of digestion, assimilation, and excretion into the realm of influencing immune function (60-70% of our immune system resides in our gut tissue!), changing the degree of bone mineralization (did you know that a Western-style, processed meal can lead to increases in serotonin in the gut that can travel through the blood and alter bone formation and breakdown activities?), and impacting mood and behavior (haven’t you heard that the gut has been referred to as the “second brain”?).
Other fascinating, current findings about the gastrointestinal tract include the discovery of taste receptors in the small intestine. Why would our intestine be ‘tasting’? It seems that these taste receptors are plugging into bitter and sweet compounds in foods that may change our metabolism, digestion, and even transport within the intestine. Amazing, isn’t it? Another staggering tidbit about the gut is that we have more bacteria in our gut than we do cells of our own body. Research from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has estimated that we have about 100 species and 200 strains of bacteria taking up residence in our low belly. Why does that matter? It seems that our gut microbiome has the potential to determine so much of our physiology and even psychology. Obese people appear to have different bacteria in their stool compared with lean people. Further, we can offset some of the negative effects of unhealthy eating by making sure we have protective microflora to prevent the release of harmful endotoxin into the blood after a high-fat meal. Other more recent research indicates that there is a web that involves the gut microflora, immune system, and the skin. An article by Bowe et al. in Beneficial Microbes released last month touted the interconnection of gut microbes and skin, especially with relationship to acne, due to their effects on systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control, and mood.
Healing the gut requires a personalized “5R” process that includes removing offending organisms like unwanted bacteria, mold, and yeast, and even food allergens and toxins; replacing stomach acid and enzymes for digestion to properly break down food; reinoculating the gut by balancing the “good” and “bad” bacteria living in your intestines; repairing the gut lining by providing nutrients that are building blocks, like glutamine or minerals like zinc to assist with cellular turnover; and finally, relaxing…yes, that’s right…relaxing has benefits not just for unwinding your intestines, but when done on a repeat basis, may change gene expression relating to “energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance, and reduced expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways.” (PLoS ONE, May 2013).
So, take a deep breath and enjoy the blogs from our experts this month, like Alice Bast and Dr. Tom O’Bryan, who teach us about celiac disease and non-celiac disease gluten sensitivity. Feel free to comment on any and all blogs and find us on Facebook (link) and Twitter (link) for up-to-date, cutting-edge information on gut health this month!
Dr. Deanna Minich
Vice President, Education