Dr Tony Vendryes: It takes guts to survive!
The term 'gut' refers to the intestinal tract, a passage about 30 feet long, which starts at the mouth and ends at the anus.
You are not just what you eat. You are what you eat, digest and absorb. No matter how good your diet is, the food must first be digested in and absorbed from your gut before the nutrients can be transported to the organs and tissues of the body to nourish your cells.
Without a properly functioning intestinal tract, much of the nutrients in your food may end up in the toilet bowl. That is why some people complain that they notice no difference in their health and well-being even when they eat well and take supplements. I actually recommend a programme called Cellular Nutrition, to ensure that you not only take in the right nutrients, but that they are readily available to fuel your cells.
YOUR GUT IS SMART
The passage of food through the digestive tract is directed by a remarkable network of nerves called the enteric nervous system.
It is located in the gut wall, and it communicates with the brain. Signals go backwards and forwards between gut and brain that control the muscles, the membranes and the blood vessels in the intestines. Researchers estimate that there are almost as many nerve cells in the gut as there are in the brain.
Many people suffer from a variety of digestive complaints like gas, bloating, abdominal cramps and pain, burning, acid reflux, sometimes diarrhoea and sometimes constipation. Their frustration and worry gets worse when all the investigations their doctors do come back pretty normal. They end up having to take various medicines that only provide temporarily ease of their symptoms. The problem is usually that they are suffering from 'a nervous gut', what doctors call the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). All the tests reveal no problem with the gut because the problem is really with your nerves. Research reveals that most people with IBS also have emotional and psychological problems like anxiety, depression or post traumatic stress disorder.
YOUR GUT IS ALIVE
Your intestine is not just an empty tube that food passes through. It is a complex ecosystem populated by
billions and billions of bacteria. There are more bacteria in your gut than there are cells in your body. The various types of gut bacteria include some 'good' germs and some 'bad' germs. They normally coexist in a delicate balance that is extremely important to the health of the entire body.
Many factors can create an imbalance of these germs: drugs like antibiotics, excess sugar, too little dietary fibre or some foods like dairy and wheat products. This creates a condition called dysbiosis, with symptoms like gas, bloating, gastritis, stomach ulcers, cramps and diarrhoea, and/or constipation. Many seemingly unrelated illnesses like arthritis, allergies, nervous system disorders and autoimmune diseases may be related to bacterial imbalances in your gut.
YOUR GUT IS SENSITIVE
Most of us put between three to five pounds of solids and liquid into our bodies every day. Some of this stuff is foreign to the body and can be quite harmful. This includes food additives, insecticides, hormones, antibiotics, and germs of various types. Some people have guts that react to dairy and gluten-containing foods. The healthy gut is equipped with a powerful defence system, the immune system. There are more immune cells around the gut than anywhere else in the body.
Despite this, food allergies and intestinal infections are very common, distressing and sometimes life threatening. The young are particularly vulnerable because their immune system is underdeveloped, and millions of children still die each year from intestinal infections.
CARE FOR YOUR GUT
Have balanced nutrition with the emphasis on natural high-fibre foods like fruit and vegetables and healthy protein. Be wary of chemical food additives, excess sugar and dairy products. Eat smaller, more frequent meals, so as not to overburden your digestive system. As my grandfather used to advise, you should leave the dining table feeling that you could have had a little bit more.
From time to time, cleanse the digestive tract. Natural-fibre herbal combinations are readily available, and aloe vera is particularly useful. I use a convenient, pleasant-tasting, non-prescription drink containing healing aloe and calming camomile that gently cleanses and soothes. I hardly prescribe regular "stomach medicines", but instead extensively use this aloe-camomile blend.
Replenish the good gut bacteria. I use a patented supplement called Florafiber, which contains acidophilus and lactobacillus bacteria in a fibre blend, as the bacteria actually need fibre for food. Fermented foods like natural yoghurt contain healthy bacteria and are also useful. Finally, learn good stress management, as many gut problems are stress related.
Take care of your gut and it will take care of you.
- You may email Dr Vendryes at email@example.com or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on POWER106FM on Fridays at 8:15 p.m. Details of his books and articles are available at www.tonyvendryes.com.