The human gut is a complex ecosystem where the intestines live peacefully with millions of good bacteria. These two live in a symbiotic relationship. The gut provides food and shelter for the bacteria. In return, the bacteria provide the gut protection and help with digestion. The health of this system can determine a person's overall health. An unhealthy gut can lead to systemic problems that can cause anything from chronic fatigue to cancer. Let’s dive into how a gut can become unhealthy, how a person can be more prone to an unhealthy gut, and what you need to do to keep your gut healthy.
The intestines need to have a large surface area in order to absorb the amount of nutrients required to keep a person alive. When stretched out, the human gut has enough surface area to cover an entire tennis court. It is the responsibility of the immune system to protect us from anything dangerous that can be absorbed by the gut. This is why over 70% of our entire immune system is actually located in our intestines. When triggered, the inflammation produced by the gut can have systemic effects in the body.
Chronic inflammation in the gut can cascade into an endless cycle of damage and disease. Inflammation hurts both the intestinal lining and the good bacteria in the gut. If the good bacteria die off, bad bacteria will begin to flourish. Instead of helping with digestion, those bad bacteria can produce toxins that cause liver disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. When the intestinal lining is damaged, holes begin to open and anything can pass from the intestines into the body. Toxins and bacteria that escape and enter the bloodstream can end up causing systemic problems. This is called leaky gut syndrome and can be the cause of chronic fatigue, bloating, diarrhea, and many other digestive symptoms.
Inflammation produced in the gut can be divided into two categories: IBD and IBS. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a diagnosed reason for having chronic inflammation in the gut. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are both considered IBD’s. These are genetic conditions that make a person more susceptible to inflammation in the gut. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a general diagnosis for gut problems that have no obvious underlying cause. The symptoms are similar to IBD and typically are also caused by chronic inflammation.
Whether you have IBS or IBD, it is important to recognize what triggers the inflammatory response in the gut. This can be sugar, gluten, processed foods, spicy foods, or even stress. Each person will have different triggers and they need to adapt their lifestyle to reduce their exposure. Stay tuned for a follow up blog next week that will cover a detailed description of how we repair the damage done by these conditions! Here at Rush-Henrietta Family Chiropractic, we recognize that many citizens of Rochester, NY suffer from IBS and IBD. After you see our nutritionist, he will try to make it easier for you to identify IBS or IBD triggers by helping track your food and symptoms to narrow down what needs to be replaced to live healthier lives.