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BENEFITS OF A HEALTHY GUT

BENEFITS OF A HEALTHY GUT

BY: Bianca Jonischkeit (RD SA)

Our gut microbiome and its importance to our overall health has become a popular topic for expanding research and, in turn, a hot topic of conversation over the past years. The more researchers explore the topic, the more microorganisms they find but what are the benefits of a healthy gut?

The human gut is home to trillions of bacterial cells that form a living population, the microbiota. Researchers are even moving towards describing this microbiota as a new human organ! Our gut microbiome starts to develop at birth and, in healthy individuals, can be completed within three years. Even though it is completely developed, it can still be affected by external factors such as antibiotic use, exercise, and our diet. The microbiota’s interdependent relationship with its host plays a role in maintaining health and the prevention of certain disease.1


HOW IS THE GUT MICROBIOTA LINKED TO HEALTH?

It is strange to think that these little microbes play a role in protecting us from disease. So, where does it go wrong? The answer is dysbiosis

Dysbiosis occurs when there are abnormal changes in the composition of the intestinal microbiota 2,3. For quite some time, we have known that dysbiosis contributes to the development of certain diseases involving altered intestinal health3. However, only fairly recently have we come to realise that dysbiosis plays an intricate role in a wide range of diseases that do not involve the intestines.

An abnormal gut microbiota composition has been linked to obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, certain cancers and autoimmune diseases. This is due to the influence that the microbiota has on our metabolic pathways. For example, the types of bacteria that are found in the gut of lean individuals differ from those found in obese individuals4,5. This illustrates the role they could play in gaining unwanted weight and struggling to shake it off.


BENEFITS OF A HEALTHY GUT


1. Assisting in Preventing Certain Cancers

Our more Western-style diet tends to be low in fibre and high in sugar and fat. This has led to a change in our gut microbiome profile, particularly the type of bacteria we find in our gut, reducing the protective nature of our microbiota. Having a diet that is low in fibre has been shown to have a negative relationship with our gut bacteria. This negative relationship has been shown to increase the risk of inflammatory disease including certain cancers and allergies6.

Increasing your fibre intake might be easier said than done and many people do not meet their daily requirements! Simple tips include choosing fruits and vegetables as snacks throughout the day- and yes, the skin must be consumed too, adding grated vegetables and legumes to meals and choosing high fibre breakfast options like the FUTURELIFE® Bran Flakes and Barley, which has a whopping 9.9g of fibre per serving (39% of your daily requirements). Fibre and fluids go hand in hand so remember to drink enough water throughout the day too! The FUTURELIFE® range has high fibre options for the whole family. Alternative high fibre FUTURELIFE® products include the FUTURELIFE® Oat Cereal Bits and Multigrain Pops and the FUTURELIFE® GRANOLA CRUNCH VITALITY.

 

2. Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease/ Failure

It is now also recognised that the gut contributes to the development of heart failure and the complications associated with it5. During heart failure, the gut wall is impaired due to an overgrowth of bacteria and decreased host defence. This leads to unwanted bacteria getting into the blood and releasing toxins, which results in inflammation4.

 

3. Mental Health

The link between the brain and the gut involves neural, hormonal and immunological pathways7. These pathways are found to be bi-directional, meaning that the gut influences the brain and the brain also influences the gut8.

 

The GI tract serves as a large mucosal surface that bridges the gap between ‘inside the body’ and ‘outside the body’. Normal microbial inhabitants of the GI tract reinforce the barrier of the intestinal lining, decreasing ‘translocation’ of bacteria or particles from the intestine into the blood stream9. Changes in the composition of the gut microbiome can lead to inflammation, which may affect the structural barrier of the gut. This leads to an increase in permeability of the gut and allows toxins into the blood stream. This is known as “leaky gut”. This results in the production of pro-inflammatory molecules which can impair the functioning of the central nervous system and influence stress, cognition, behaviour, and pain sensitivity10.

 

Probiotics promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation as well as diarrhoea. They are also commonly used in individuals with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) for symptoms such as cramping, bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhoea. Studies have shown probiotics to be useful in inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis as well as H. pylori infections which can cause stomach ulcers and stomach cancer. Probiotics feed off fibres such as prebiotics which result in the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, propionate and acetate. These feed the cells of the gut wall and have powerful protective and metabolic effects.

 

4. Supporting the Immune system

Considering that 70-80% of your immune cells exist in your gastrointestinal tract, it must seem obvious that probiotics will positively influence your immune system. Probiotics also keep bad bacteria under control by competing with them for space and food in the digestive tract. Since good bacteria is more ‘at home’ in the digestive tract and there is generally a much larger army of ‘good’ than ‘bad’, good bacteria usually win the battle. Probiotics maintain the integrity of your gut walls which prevent bacteria and toxins from ‘leaking’ into the blood system.

 

5. Weight Loss and Weight Management

Studies have found that the bacteria in the gut of obese individuals are significantly different from a lean person. It is therefore now believed that gut bacteria may determine body fatness. A study of 210 individuals that was conducted in 2013 found that after taking the probiotic Lactobacillus Gasseri SBT2055 for 12 weeks, people lost 8.5% abdominal fat mass. When they stopped taking the probiotic, they gained the fat back in 4 weeks.

It is always important to remember that each person is unique, they follow a unique eating pattern and lifestyle and in turn each person will have a unique gut microbiome. Good health is extremely important, and it starts in your gut. Both fibre and probiotics (live beneficial cultures) are known to help the body with good digestion so be sure to increase fibre intake and make sure you consume pre and probiotics!  Our unique gut microbiome plays an important role in preventing certain diseases so put your gut first and become one step closer to a healthier you.

 


REFERENCES

  1. Wilson AS, Koller KR, Ramaboli MC, et al. Diet and the Human Gut Microbiome: An International Review. Dig Dis Sci. 2020;65(3):723-740. doi:10.1007/s10620-020-06112-w
  2. The contributory role of gut microbiota in cardiovascular disease. Hazen, W.H. Wilson Tang and Stanley L. 10, s.l. : The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2014, Vol. 124.
  3. Linking the gut microbiota to human health. Guarner, Virginia Robles Alonso and Francisco. s.l. : British Journal of Nutrition, 2013, Vol. 109.
  4. Prognostic Value of Elevated Levels of Intestinal Microbe-Generated Metabolite Trimethylamine-N-Oxide in Patients With Heart Failure. H.Wilson Tang, Zeneng Wang, Yiying Fan, Bruce Levison, Jennie E. Hazen, Lillian M. Donahue, Yuping Wu, Stanley L. Hazen. 18, s.l. : Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2014, Vol. 64.
  5. The Heart and the Gut. Rosano, Gerhard Rogler and Giuseppe. s.l. : European Heart Journal, 2014, Vol. 35.
  6. Makki K, Deehan EC, Walter J & Bäckhed The Impact of Dietary Fiber on Gut Microbiota in Host Health and Disease. 2018; 23(6):705-715. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2018.05.012
  7. The Gut Microbiome: Potential Innovations for the Understanding and Treatment of Psychopathology. Matilda E. Nowakowski, Randi McCabe, Karen Rowa, and Joe Pellizzari. 2, s.l. : Canadian Psychology, 2016, Vol. 57.
  8. From gut dysbiosis to altered brain function and mental illness: mechanisms and pathways. Rogers GB, Keating DJ, Young RL, Wong ML, Licinio J and Wesselingh S. s.l. : Molecular Psychiatry, 2016, Vol. 21.
  9. From gut dysbiosis to altered brain function and mental illness: mechanisms and pathways. Rogers GB, Keating DJ, Young RL, Wong ML, Licinio J and Wesselingh S. s.l. : Molecular Psychiatry, 2016, Vol. 21.
  10. Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry. Selhub EM, Logan AC and Bested A. 2, s.l. : Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 2014, Vol. 33.

 

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