The Gut and Its Role in Human Health

What might joint pain, asthma, fatigue, high blood pressure, diabetes, skin problems, heart disease, depression, IBS and autoimmunity all have in common? Answer: The digestive system.

The health of the digestive system is fundamental to overall well-being. Hippocrates stated nearly 2,500 years ago that ‘death sits in the bowels’ and ‘bad digestion is the root of all evil’. Scientists are now just beginning to realise the truth associated with these statements. Study after study links imbalances in the digestive system to the development of long-term disease. So why might this be the case?

The 25 feet of tubing that runs from the mouth to the anus, is populated with a huge number of bacteria. It is estimated that we have on average 100 trillion bacteria in our digestive system (that’s equivalent to the number of footsteps required to walk from Earth to Pluto and back again over 7 times!), effectively making us more ‘bacteria’ than ‘human’. These bacteria weigh in total around 2kg and consist of an estimated 35,000 different bacterial species, typically being referred to as the microflora or microbiota.

The microflora is made up of both good and bad bacteria. In a healthy gut, good bacteria dominate and keep control of the bad ones (using them for important tasks). Some of the key roles undertaken by a balanced microflora include: weight management, energy production, genetic expression, balancing mood, efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients, manufacture of certain vitamins and maintaining both a strong and tolerant immune system.

Problems can start to occur when the bad bacteria become too dominant (dysbiosis), contributing to inflammation of and damage to the gut lining. This can lead to the manifestation of any number of disparate and seemingly disconnected symptoms. The science now recognizes multiple ‘gut–organ axes’. What happens in the gut does not stay in the gut and we ignore the impact that the microflora has on our health at our own peril.

What causes dysbiosis? Modern life! Specifically: caesarian birth, poor dietary choices, food sensitivities, low stomach acid, antibiotics, medications, chronic stress, toxins/pollution, infectious diseases and alcohol/drug abuse.

Thankfully the body is regenerative and it is possible, working with a skilled practitioner, to both identify and rectify imbalances in the microflora, using specific functional diagnostic testing in combination with targeted nutritional and lifestyle protocols. Remember, ‘you’re in control’ far more than you might at first ever believe.

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