In order to understand the importance of the gut, you need to know how the digestive system works in general.
The moment you put food into your mouth and start chewing, enzymes in your saliva begin the process of breaking down the proteins, sugars, and fats in the food. This process continues when you swallow and the food moves down into your stomach.
In the stomach, enzymes in the food itself, enzymes that are produced by your pancreas, and hydrochloric acid further break down the food.
After about four hours, the food has been reduced to a sludgy mush in the stomach. As the sludge moves into the small intestine, we now refer to it as chyme (pronounced “kime”). The chyme mixes with yet more enzymes and now some bile to break down the sludge into tiny particles that your body can use for energy. The walls of the small intestine, which contain millions of little fingers called “villi” and “microvilli,” begin to absorb the nutrients from the chyme and move them into the bloodstream, where they are distributed to all parts of the body.
in the colon live the bulk of the beneficial microbes that line the entire digestive tract, and these microbes eat the leftovers, such as fiber, that couldn’t be utilized by the small intestine.
As the microbes in the microbiome consume these remnants, they do several things:
o They produce a fermented byproduct in the form of short-chain fatty acids that creates the vital mucus lining of the gut
o They control metabolism of the calories you eat
o They interact with your body’s hormones to give you the signal that you are full or hungry
o They manufacture important vitamins like the B vitamins (used for energy) and Vitamin K (necessary for proper blood clotting)
o They interact with both your immune and nervous systems.
Healthy Gut vs. Unhealthy Gut
A healthy gut is able to do two main things: 1) absorb nutrients from the food you eat, and 2) support the beneficial microbes that create more vital nutrients that support overall health.
A healthy gut is teeming with trillions of the right types of microbes, including bacteria, fungi. When you eat the right types of foods to support them, these microbes are in balance and perform vital functions for health.
An unhealthy gut, on the other hand, starts to resemble a no-man’s-land of dry, mucus-free gut lining and cracks that allow microscopic particles of food to enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation. In much worse conditions auto-immune disorders are turned on. What’s more, the balance of microbes has become off-kilter, and the flora that we don’t really want takes over.
Creating a Diverse Gut Microbe Population
The Western diet is one of the least helpful diets a person can consume if you want to populate your gut with a diverse population of microbes. The high fat, high sugar, low fiber aspects of our diet are actually perfect for ruining the diversity of our gut microbiomes.
While we are still learning all the ways in which the microbiome affects human health, it seems logical to pursue a better diet in the meantime, as a diverse microbe population seems to support healthy weight and better health overall. High fiber, low-glycemic foods such as raw and lightly cooked vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and lean meats deliver diverse microbes to the gut. Fermented foods also provide amazing beneficial bacteria. Refined foods and junk foods decimate the gut microbe diversity and cause leaky gut syndrome.
In your quest toward a healthier microbiome, you can also include probiotic supplements that will ramp up the number and diversity of microbes that line your intestinal walls.
Has had Hashimoto's for 13 years. I am passionate, I live and breathe, helping you to overcome your struggles with weight, stress, and chronic health issues.