The health of our gut is extremely important to our overall health. Think of the gut as an open tube that is the central connection between the two ends of your body.

It passes through the mouth and what comes out through the anus does not actually enter the body. In order to enter our body and reach our blood, the food must pass through the wall of the intestinal tract and pass the intestinal barrier properly.

What is intestinal obstruction?

The intestinal barrier consists of the cells that line the gut, the mucus layer, and the immune system. The intestinal barrier prevents non-food substances and various pollutants from entering the bloodstream from the intestinal cavity. Think of the intestinal wall as a sieve (a fine filtering device) with very small pores that allow small molecules to enter the bloodstream.

When there is damage to the intestinal barrier, large holes break in the filter and unwanted substances can enter the intestinal cavity into the bloodstream.

This condition is known as “leaky gut”. When it flows through the intestine, the substances that enter the blood into the intestinal cavity stimulate the body’s immune system, which sees these substances as foreign bodies, which leads to an inflammatory process in local or distant organs.

What is the microbiome?

Our gut contains over 100 trillion microorganisms known as the microbiome. A proper balance of bacteria in the gut is important to both our gut health and overall health. The proper balance of gut bacteria plays a key role in the development of our immune system. An imbalance of gut bacteria leads to an inflammatory state in the gut and contributes to the development of various chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, obesity and colon cancer.

In order for the gut to be healthy and function properly, 2 things need to exist: the right gut lining and the right balance of gut bacteria.

What can damage the stomach?

1. Gluten: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and oats. Gluten leads to inflammation in people with celiac disease and causes damage to the gut wall outside of the digestive system, such as rashes and anemia.

There are also many people who suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity and may experience symptoms in the digestive system or outside of the digestive system after eating gluten. In people who are sensitive to gluten, gluten causes the release of a protein called zonulin, which damages the immune system and intestines. If you suffer from celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you should avoid eating gluten.

2. Industrial seed oils; Industrial seed oils are synthetic oils such as canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and soybean oil. These oils are rich in omega-6 fatty acids that promote inflammation. The consumption of these oils has been found to be associated with inflammatory processes in the intestines and damage to the balance of bacteria in the intestines.

3. Complex carbohydrates: Refined carbohydrates are found in products such as flour and sugar. On the other hand, unprocessed carbohydrates are found in natural products such as sweet potatoes and fruits. The processed carbohydrates stimulate inflammatory processes and affect the balance of intestinal bacteria. Unprocessed carbohydrates, on the other hand, promote gut health because these foods feed beneficial gut bacteria.

4. Artificial food additives; In the year A 2022 study by the Weizmann Institute showed that artificial sweeteners caused changes in the composition of gut bacteria and disruption of sugar tolerance. Another ingredient called maltodextrin, used to thicken food products and preserve processed foods, encourages harmful bacteria to stick to the intestinal wall.

Carrageenan, which is extracted from algae and is used to strengthen and standardize food, promotes the formation of inflammation in the intestine. Polysorbate 80 and Carbomethyl Cellulose are two of the most common thickeners in the processed food industry, and both increase the incidence of leaky gut. Titanium dioxide, which is used for cleansing and detoxification, stimulates inflammatory processes in the intestines. It is recommended to avoid all these substances to maintain a healthy intestine.

5. Stress: Prolonged mental stress damages the intestinal barrier and allows unwanted bacteria and their products to enter the bloodstream, causing local or widespread inflammation.

6. Lack of exercise, excessive training; Regular exercise encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, including short-chain fatty acid bacteria that contribute to gut health. Conversely, lack of exercise has been found to be associated with an increase in inflammatory processes in the intestine. It is important to note that while regular exercise contributes to gut health, excessive exercise can lead to leaky gut and alter the composition of gut bacteria for the worse.

7. Sleep disorders We all have a biological clock that works on a 24 hour cycle. When there is a sleep disorder, there is a violation of the biological clock. Gut bacteria also act as our biological clock, and a violation of the biological clock disrupts the normal balance of bacteria in the gut and promotes inflammatory processes.

Even poor sleep for two consecutive nights can cause negative changes in the composition of intestinal bacteria. That’s why it’s so important to get enough sleep to keep your biological clock working properly.

8. Antibiotic treatment; The use of antibiotics can negatively affect the gut microbiome. Antibiotics reduce the diversity and richness of desirable gut bacteria and allow unwanted bacteria such as bacteria to thrive. Clostridium difficile It can cause diarrhea and severe illness. In addition, antibiotics encourage the development of bacteria that are resistant to the treatment. That is why it is important not to take antibiotics when there is no clear medical indication.

9. Antacids: Medicines used to treat heartburn, such as hydrogen channel blockers (such as Contraindications and Omeprazole), reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. When the stomach produces enough acid, it prevents unwanted bacteria from entering the intestines. The use of antacids can reduce the acidity of the stomach, and as a result, unwanted bacteria can enter the intestine and lead to inflammation.

10. Toxic substances in the environment; We are exposed to more and more chemicals in our environment. One of the consequences of this exposure can be damage to the gut bacteria and inflammation in the gut. Bisphenol A, a substance found in plastic dinners and receipts printed on thermal paper, damages the bacterial balance in the gut and leads to inflammation.

Triclosan, a substance found in hand sanitizers and other hygiene products, disrupts the balance of intestinal bacteria and leads to inflammatory processes. The pesticides used in agriculture contain a substance called gyphostat, which affects intestinal bacteria and acts as an antibiotic in the intestine.

What steps can we take to improve gut health?

  • Eat real foods that are rich in nutrients and stay away from processed foods. Be sure to eat foods rich in natural fiber, which provides food for gut bacteria.
  • If you are sensitive to foods like gluten, make sure to avoid it.
  • Manage your stress well. Constant stress can affect your gut health, so it’s important to find good ways to reduce stress, such as meditation or deep breathing.
  • Exercise regularly but avoid overtraining.
  • Maintain good sleep habits and regular sleeping hours.

Do not take antibiotics yourself, always consult a doctor. Limit your exposure to environmental toxins: politely refuse to take receipts, use glass or stainless steel containers for your food, eat food that is not sprayed with pesticides, and use cleaning agents and natural materials.

Dr. Dalit Dariman Medina is a family medicine, integrative and functional medicine specialist.

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