Gut health is a topic gaining increasing attention in the realm of wellness and for good reason. The gut, often referred to as the “second brain,” plays a crucial role in our overall physical and mental well-being. Dr. Keith Giaquinto is an expert in gut health. He explores the fundamentals of gut health and helps you to understand why it is essential for a thriving body and mind.
The gastrointestinal tract is a 25-30 foot long hollow tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the rectum. The upper part of the GI tract (mouth, stomach, duodenum) is where digestion takes place. The lower part of the GI tract (jejunum, ileum, ascending, transverse, descending, sigmoid colon) is where absorption of nutrients and water, formation of vitamins and other postbiotic substances (amino acids, short chain fatty acids, antimicrobial peptides) and the formation and propelling of feces occur. Digestive health only involves the upper GI tract and gut health involves the entire GI tract.
To deepen your understanding, watch my Digestion Lecture and Digestion Disorders.
Gut health is paramount for overall health and well-being. A healthy and balance gut promotes regular bowel movements, absence of gastrointestinal discomfort, stable mood and mental well-being, strong and balance immunity, healthy skin and sustained energy levels. Let’s discuss the different components that make up a healthy gastrointestinal tract and common conditions of the gut.
Small Intestine and the Microbiome
The small intestine is where absorption occurs. The lumen of the small intestine is lined with finger-like folds called villi and microvilli to increase the surface area. This is necessary to maximize the absorption of nutrients. If you were to take the villi and microvilli of the small intestine and flatten them out, the surface area would be about the size of a tennis court.
The microbiome is comprised of multiple microorganisms, including fungi, viruses and most abundant of all, bacteria. The more diverse and balanced the bacteria in the small intestine the healthier the gut and overall health of the body.
Symbiosis is a healthy balance where the bacteria and human host equally benefit from each other.
Dysbiosis is an imbalance between the types of organisms thought to contribute to a range of illnesses. This is where the bad bacteria outnumber the good bacteria.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is an excessive unhealthy balance of bad bacteria in the small intestine. Common symptoms of SIBO are loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, uncomfortable feeling of fullness after eating, diarrhea, unintentional weight loss and/or malnutrition.
Factors that positively increase the diversity of the microbiome are fiber, consuming a variety of vegetables, maintaining ideal body weight or losing weight if needed, fasting, polyphenols (found in fruits/vegetables) and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, etc.
Factors that negatively decrease the diversity of the microbiome are snacking, consuming processed foods (GMOs), sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, antibiotics, smoking, being overweight and poorly managing your stress.
Microbiome terms to know.
Pre – biotics are what the good bacteria eat, which is fiber.
Pro – biotic are the good bacteria, the organism itself.
Post – biotics are the substances that good bacteria produce (microbiome metabolites). These metabolites are Vitamins B and K, amino acids, and substances called antimicrobial peptides that help to slow down the growth of harmful bacteria. Other postbiotic substances called short-chain fatty acids help healthy bacteria flourish and nourish the intestinal lining cells. The microbiome metabolites positively impact many mechanisms for overall health like insulin resistance, balance digestive tract, strengthen immune system, reduce inflammation, allergies, mental health, heart health, weight management and increased nutrient bioavailability.
The large intestine is responsible for absorbing water/electrolytes, producing & absorbing vitamins, forming and propelling feces.
Gut Health and Immunity
70% of the immune system is located in the gut. This is done by design. The intestines are the entry point for nutrients to be absorbed and to keep out toxins, bad bacteria/viruses and anything that is not supposed to be in the body. It makes sense that the intestines would be the primary home for the immune system.
Poor diet, poorly managed stress and weak digestion leads to gut inflammation and leaky gut syndrome (increased intestinal permeability). Over time if not corrected can lead to a weakened, exhausted and dysfunctional immune system. This can lead to food intolerances, allergies, autoimmunity and frequently being sick to name a few conditions.
This is why it is so important to maintain a healthy gut to keep your immune system strong and balanced to prevent illness.
Intestinal conditions and being diagnosed with an intestinal disease are caused by what IS NOT happening upstream à strong digestive health. The small and large intestines only react to what is coming down from above. Read that again. Poor diet, poorly managed stress and weak digestion are the cause of all intestinal conditions. Strengthening your digestive health is the key to correcting intestinal conditions.
When your digestive system (upstream) is weakened, this can lead to many bowel conditions like leaky gut syndrome, food intolerances, malabsorption, crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, constipation, diarrhea, autoimmunity and/or weakened immune system. To learn more about this process, watch Dr. Keith’s lecture on Digestion Disorders.
Understanding and nurturing your gut health is a fundamental step towards your overall physical and mental well-being. From a balanced diet and probiotic-rich foods to lifestyle choices that reduce stress and promote physical activity and regular chiropractic care are small changes that can have a profound impact on your digestive system. Strong digestive health leads the body in the direction of health and well-being. Prioritize your gut health and your body will thank you with improved vitality and resilience.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from a digestion, gut or any unresolved health challenge call Dr. Keith Giaquinto’s office at 630-246-2627 to schedule an appointment now for a 15 minute complimentary screening. He provides chiropractic care and enzyme therapy to the Naperville and surrounding communities.