7. CHOOSE FOOD THAT RESTORE YOUR GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM'S HEALTH
Death begins in the colon
Nobel prize winner and microbiologist Elie Metchnikoff
Based on years of research in the early 1900s Elie Metchnikoff concluded that disease and aging are mostly due to toxic bacteria in the gut. While the idea may seem unbelievable, when you begin to understand the role of the gastrointestinal (GI) system on your body then you will understand why maintaining a healthy GI system is really the corner stone of your wellbeing. If your GI system is in order, you feel great, if your GI health is poor, you can end up with impaired immune and nervous systems and it can also wreak havoc with your hormonal function throughout the body.
The digestive system
Digestion is the process by which food is broken up physically by the action of the teeth and chemically by the action of enzymes. The food is then converted into a substance/ state suitable for absorption and assimilation into the body.
The digestive system is a pathway by which the food enters and leaves. It is made up of:
--- the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (or digestive tract) and
--- the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder
The GI tract consists of long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus including the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, the rectum and anus. (Refer to the diagram on the left)
Food’s journey through the digestive system
Food enters the mouth and leaves through the anus. The process of digestion begins in the mouth where food enters and broken down into smaller pieces through chewing (physical action). The chewed food moves down the esophagus and enters the stomach.
1. Stomach — In addition to holding food, the stomach serves as the mixer and grinder of food. The partially broken foods (from the mouth) are mixed with the digestive juices (acid and powerful enzymes) that continue the process of breaking the food down and changing it to a liquid or paste form. From there, the food moves to the small intestine.
Note: Only simple molecules like water and alcohol are being absorbed directly into the bloodstream in the stomach the rest are absorbed in the intestines.
- Small intestines - The small intestine is the 'work horse' of digestion as this is where most nutrients are absorbed. The food from the stomach is moved through the small intestines, where it is mixed with the digestive enzymes released by the pancreas and bile from the liver for further breakdown process. Once the food has been reduced to its basic building blocks (eg. glucose, amino acids, fatty acids), it is ready for the body to absorb through the walls and into the bloodstream. What's leftover (the waste) moves into the large intestine (large bowel or colon).
- Large intestines (colon) — The large intestine is a five to seven foot long muscular tube that connects the small intestine to the rectum. The large intestine is a highly specialized organ that is responsible for processing waste so that the excretion of waste is easy and convenient. Waste products of digestion pass through the large intestine and reside there for about 12-48 hours. When the descending colon becomes full of (wastes) stool, it empties its contents into the rectum to begin the process of elimination. The stool itself is mostly food debris and bacteria.
The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder are the solid organs of the digestive system.
The pancreas secretes an alkaline juice containing powerful enzymes that break down protein, fat and carbohydrates. It is also the source of the hormone insulin.
- The liver has multiple functions, but two of its main functions within the digestive system are to make and secrete an important substance called bile and to process the blood containing nutrients just absorbed from the small intestine. The liver receives from and purifies this blood of many impurities before traveling to the rest of the body.
- The gall bladder stores the bile, and after a meal squeezes it into the small intestine, where it helps to digest fat.
Bacteria in the GI tract, also called gut flora or microbiome, help with digestion as explained further in the next section. The whole digestion process is complex and is highly dependent on the activity of a large network of nerves, signals, hormones, muscles and the living microorganisms in the gut. Problems with any of these components can cause a variety of conditions.
The emerging role of gut microbiota or microbiome
The human gut microbiota (microflora) has become the subject of extensive research in recent years and is considered one of the most complex microbial ecosystems on earth.
Long overlooked as a matter of importance, the gut microbiome is now seen as playing an important role in maintaining optimal health and warding off diseases. Gut microbes (gut flora) is the term referring to the microbe population living in our intestine (gut). It contains more than 100 trillion bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms per person. There are at least 1000 different bacterial species (both good and bad) and 100 times more genes than are found in the human genome. This community of bacteria is commonly referred to as our hidden metabolic ‘organ’ due to their immense impact on our wellbeing, including our metabolism, physiology, nutrition and immune function. Our gut microbiome co-evolves with us in a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship and changes to this population can have major consequences; both beneficial and harmful, for our health.
Functions of gut microbiome:
- It helps the body to digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest.
- It helps with the production of some vitamins (B and K).
- It helps us combat aggressions from invading bacteria and pathogens,
- It regulate the turnover of cells lining the intestine, maintaining the wholeness of the intestinal mucosa.
- It plays an important role in the immune system, performing a barrier effect.
What are good and bad bacteria?
Good bacteria is one that benefits us. Among the most common of these bacteria are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bifidus that live in the intestine and colon. These are the bacteria that you need as part of a normal, healthy digestive tract. The ‘friendly’ bacteria, helps digestion and facilitates regular bowel movements. The effect on the facilitation of bowel movements also lowers the risk of colon cancer by reducing the time the intestines are exposed to carcinogenic substances in the food. They are also critical in defending us against other unhealthy bacteria, neutralize and eliminate toxins from the body and produce vital vitamins. They also improve mineral absorption and aid in the regulation of hormone and neurotransmitter such as serotonin. They play a very important role in keeping both bad bacteria and yeast in check. Probiotics are what’s known as beneficial bacteria.
What are bad bacteria?
Bad bacteria on the other hand, causes inflammation of the tissues in the gut and releases harmful toxins through their metabolic processes. In addition, it digs through the protective inner lining of the intestine allowing food particles and proteins to pass into the bloodstream - a condition referred to as the ‘leaky gut syndrome’. This destruction of the normal digestive process sets the immune system into an overdrive resulting in many kinds of autoimmune disease and inflammatory conditions.
A healthy and balanced gut microbiota is key to ensuring proper digestive functioning.
A sick gut is overwhelmed with bad bacteria and yeast.
When bacteria population becomes imbalanced, inflammation is often the result. Inflammation throughout the intestines affects the intestinal mucous lining, the very tissue that hosts the majority of our body’s lymph and immune system cells. This affects the body’s nutrient and mineral absorption, auto-immune defense capability, toxin drainage ability, pH balance and anti-parasitic properties and defense from diseases.
The amount of bacteria in the gut is an important indicator of overall health. What goes on inside the gut is fundamental to our health and that is also the reason almost 80% of our immune system is stationed all along this tube.
Growing knowledge about bacterial chemistry has made the field of probiotics (good bacteria) one of the most exciting research fields in disease prevention and longevity. While the knowledge is still expanding, there is little doubt that deterioration in GUT health will inevitably lead to illness in the rest of the body. In cancer patients, restoring normal GUT health and function takes utmost importance.
" HELP THE BACTERIA TO HELP YOU RESTORE YOUR HEALTH"
How to restore optimal gut health?
1. Remove — The first step is the removal of the ‘offending foods and toxins’ from your diet that could be acting as stressors on your system. These are processed food, bad fat, sugary food, food with added toxins, GMO food, including animals raised on GMO feed —all these create inflammation in the gut.
Remove antibiotics, as these drugs kill a wide variety of bacteria, both good and bad. When the antibiotics kill off healthy bacteria, the fungi are allowed to proliferate (grow).
2. Increase the health of your ‘probiotic’
Ways that can help boost the good bacteria population in the gut.
Fermented kimchi (Korean dish) - good source of pre and pro biotic
- Eat plenty of high fiber fruits or vegetable and other known high fiber food like psyllium husks, rice bran and oat bran. Good bacteria thrive in a fiber-rich environment. The foods that promote this environment are prebiotic foods such as raw, fresh, organic, fiber filled vegetables and fruits. Food rich in prebiotics are whole grains, legumes and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, greens, radish, onions, garlic, leek, yams, jicama (Sengkuang), apples, tomatoes, asparagus and bananas are good prebiotic to add to your diet.
- Eat fermented foods such as yogurt (tairu), kefir (fermented coconut water), sauerkraut, ’natto’ and kimchi as they contain large quantity of good bacteria. Raw, organic apple cider vinegar also increases healthy bacterium in the gut.
- Supplementation is also another way to ensure that your beneficial bacteria are plentiful and functioning properly. Look for supplements that contain bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species such as L. acidophilus in the billions - the number of colony-forming units (CFU’s) should be listed on the label.
Prebioitic and probiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics work hand in hand to promote better health. It is therefore recommended that your diet includes adequate amounts of prebiotics to promote the health of the probiotic microflora that occur naturally in your intestinal tract. Prebiotics on the other hand are plant fibers, they contain polymers of fructose that nourish and promote the growth of the good bacteria (probiotic) already in the colon. The body itself does not digest these plant fibers; instead, the fibers act as a fertilizer for the good bacteria which in turn, provide many digestive and general health benefits.
When looking for probiotic-rich foods, avoid heat treated or pasteurized varieties, since these elements kill good bacteria.