The digestive system is home to trillions of bacteria which play a crucial part in healthy digestion, cognitive and mental health, the immune system, appetite and energy levels. This flourishing micro kingdom needs to be balanced to do its miraculous job properly but can easily be knocked off caused by stress, poor sleep, the wrong kinds of food and medication. Having an imbalanced microbiota can result in a wide variety of problems including digestion, immunity and there's also a strong link between an imbalanced microbiota and an inability to lose weight.
Immunity & intestinal microflora
The immune system and intestinal tract are tightly interlinked and their relationship is incredibly important. The intestine houses around 70% of the bodies immune system in its gut-associated lymphoid tissue, or GALT for short. The immune system evolves to recognise the trillions of healthy bacteria that live in the intestine as safe and leave them unharmed in turn these healthy bacteria influence the development of the main system.
Intestinal flora and the liver
Think of the intestines as a mini kingdom that is home to trillions of microbiomes - an ecosystem of intestinal flora designed to aid digestion, generate the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter serotonin, synthesise vitamins K and B12 and regulate around 70% of the bodies immunity. Having an imbalance microbiota can compromise the intestinal barrier. Pathogens (microorganisms that can cause disease), toxins and foreign particles may then escape into the bloodstream, where they get picked up again by the portal vein and redirected back to the liver, giving it more work. Not good.
What does our intestinal microbiota actually do?
- The gastrointestinal lining houses an elaborate network of 100 million neurons, often referred to as the ‘second brain’, which communicates with the central nervous system. The balance of the microbiota can directly influence our emotions, moods and general health.
- Microbiota ferment and feed on any remaining proteins, fibres, starches, or sugars in a large intestine and they synthesise essential nutrients like vitamin K and B vitamins.
- Around 95% of serotonin (the body’s ‘happy neurotransmitter’) comes from the cells lining the digestive tract and plays an integral role in appetite, digestion, sleep, memory and mental health.
- Microbiota plays a crucial role overseeing the bodies two immune systems, innate and adaptive, helping them learn how to identify pathogens and managing levels of information.
Intestinal barrier function
A healthy microbiota supports the maintenance of the gastrointestinal tract’s integrity. A strong intestinal wall prevents a common condition called increased intestinal permeability (‘leaky gut’). This inflammatory condition allows larger molecules and pathogens to escape through an ineffective intestinal wall into the bloodstream.
"Gather round one of my favourite anti-inflammatory, intestinal healing drinks: add a teaspoon of coconut oil to a tumeric latte and let it cool a little before adding a teaspoon of L-glutamine powder." - Gabriela
I always recommend a good quality probiotic for my patients. Probiotic supplements are living beneficial bacteria, and come as part of Gold with Collagen & Clean Me supplement packs. They are potent and as they contain live (good) bacteria, it's important not to take them on an empty stomach and not to consume hot drinks or foods at least 20 minutes before or after taking them or they will burn.
You can learn more about microbiota, digestion and more ways to feel great in my book, '2 Weeks to Feeling Great'.