A look inside the gut

I get super excited when I talk about the gut, and there are many good reasons for it!

To begin with, the gut is a very unique and quirky part of us:

  • It is a long tube, which is technically outside the body (anything that goes in the mouth and stays undigested goes out the other end).

  • As such, it is our first line of defense for preventing foreign substances from entering the body and around 70% of our immune system resides in there.

  • The small intestine is around 7m long!

  • The large intestine is one of the most fascinating places, containing around 1.5kg of "good bacteria" (or at least they are supposed to be 'good', depending on how your diet and lifestyle are going!).

Perhaps even more interesting, and little known, is what our gut actually does for us. Often we don't associate common ailments with the gut, when in fact, this piece of our "machinery" is central to most diseases in the 21st century:

  • Our gut is the primary way we absorb and make nutrients, which are building blocks for our bodies. If we don't have the right nutrients, we can't build our body!

  • Disease like coeliacs, diabetes, autoimmune disease and metabolic problems begin in the gut when the intestinal barrier becomes 'leaky' due to mostly lifestyle choices.

  • The gut influences the brain in remarkable ways, including the formation of neurotransmitters, and as such has a critical impact on anxieties, depression and other mental health states.

  • It is thought that the gut has a direct involvement in the development of allergies.

  • The gut impacts the energy harvested from food, and our gut bacteria can influence weight management.

  • Poor gut health is to blame for issues like irritable bowel, bloating, wind, constipation, diarrhoea and gut pain.

Given this, it's not hard to see that perhaps there lies truth in Hippocrates' statement made over 2,000 years ago: "All disease starts in the gut". You'll probably be glad to hear that the gut can be very forgiving, and once we know how, the road towards healing is often easily travelled with a little assistance and tummy love.