To understand the role that food plays to gut health, it’s good to have some understanding of the digestive system and its processes.
Your gut refers to the stomach or belly area, but really it’s more involved than that, when a discussion concerning gut health ensues. In this case, the word gut and the digestive system are interchangeable. The gut is quite involved and includes several organs and body parts that aid digestion, the first of which is the mouth.
Your mouth is the beginning of the gastrointestinal tract. Food is taken in through the mouth, obviously, and then travels through the esophagus to land in the stomach. Both the small and large intestines are also part of the digestive system or gut.
The Role of the Intestines
The small intestine has several parts: duodenum, jejunum and the ileum. The small intestine is responsible for food digestion and is the spot where the food you eat is absorbed into the bloodstream. The large intestine is involved too, as you well know. It absorbs water and houses undigested food. Like the small intestine, the large intestine is made up of several segments: the ascending and descending colon and the transverse colon. The transverse colon makes its way across the body, and the ascending travels away from the appendix, while the descending colon moves downwards and into the final part segment of colon, into the S-shaped sigmoid that leads to the rectum where the food is pushed out of the body through the anus. That’s the process of gut digestion in a nutshell.
How Food Affects Gut Health
Eating healthy food will create a healthy gut. The gut needs what the gut needs and surprisingly, your gut requires bacteria. Bacteria is required for digestion, and before you find that appalling, realize that our bodies are full of bacteria. It is the bad bacteria in the gut that has been linked to certain poor health conditions. For instance colon cancer, diabetes and even depression can be the results of the bacteria that are located in the gut. However, your gut bacteria are unique to only you. Like fingerprints, no two persons have the same gut bacteria and a healthy person’s gut is different to that of an unhealthy individual. The goal is to be healthy, right? The best way to have a healthy gut is to consume nutritious foods that combat the bad bacteria that attack the gut.
Fiber rich foods assist in providing a healthy gut. Fiber rich foods include whole grains, vegetables and fruit. A high fiber diet regulates bacteria in the gut and the result is proper digestion. Additionally, refined sugars are the gut’s enemy as are processed foods. Cut down on artificial sweeteners, too. They don’t help at all in the reduction of bad gut bacteria.
Refined sugars, and artificial sweeteners actually limit damage to gut bacteria as they reduce inflammation. Eliminating the refined and processed foods and increasing fruit and vegetables feed the good bacteria in the gut and starve the bad.
Add lentils, wholegrain breads and rice, both brown and wholegrain to your diet. The soluble fiber foods are definitely advantageous for gut health. Other food sources that affect gut health are sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and other fermented foods, such as pickles, miso, tempeh (soybean product), goat milk and unpasturized raw cheese. Speaking of dairy products, probiotic yogurt is your gut’s best friend.
Live bacteria or probiotics are very good for your gut. People who eat probiotic yogurt aid their gut by introducing good bacteria. There are two types of probiotics. Each is found in yogurt and some other dairy products. Lactobacillus is the most common probiotic and is found in yogurt. If you’re lactose intolerant, then lactobacillus is an option that can help to eliminate diarrhea and other issues related to lactose intolerance.
Bifidobacterium is the second probiotic that is most common. It is found in some dairy products, but not all. Check the food labels to find if it’s included. Symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome have been relieved with consumption.
Digesting probiotics can ease symptoms that accompany the viruses, bacteria or parasites that cause infectious diarrhea. Antibiotics have been known to cause diarrhea as well, and will also create yeast infections. Probiotics can ease the symptoms of both.
Food definitely affects gut health, either for good or bad. For more information on how to protect your digestive system, contact Austin Gastroenterology. We’ll be happy to assist you in all matters concerning your gastro intestines and over all digestive health.