In an ideal world, our gut should be entirely autonomous and we shouldn’t have to oversee its functioning. Unfortunately, this is not always the case – bloating, diarrhea, constipation and digestive cramps regularly put the spotlight onto our gut health, causing us both worry and concern.
Article written by Ariane Monnami, nutritionist with degrees in Micro-nutrition and Neuro-nutrition.
The intestine and its essential role
In a previous article, I explained the links between intestinal flora and immunity – but it’s important to remember forget that the primary role of our digestive tract is to allow us to absorb and digest energy sources. Once absorbed, these energy sources then allow us to renew our ‘body-building’ materials!
The small and large intestine represent the largest surface area and make up the lower end of our digestive tract, also providing homes for our gut flora. When in good health, our gut is therefore a guarantee of good health, balance and wellbeing.
Gut flora competition
Yes, to make things even more complicated, there is even competition between the two different types of gut flora:
• Fermentation flora, responsible for the fermentation of undigested complex carbohydrates and the production of carbonic gas.
• Putrefaction flora situated in the left side of the large intestine, responsible for the metabolising of proteins – A surplus in this type of flora can produce gases with unpleasant smells as well as substances toxic for our intestines.
A constant reminder…
Our gut should normally function without any particular problems – However, gut flora imbalance can be the cause of a variety of problems for both digestive and general health.
– Intestinal discomfort: bloating, gas, pains
– Intestinal transit problems: diarrhoea, constipation or both
– Infections, allergies
– Swelling: articulatory pain, metabolic syndrome
Test: Do you have an irritable bowel?
Tick the box which best describes your current situation.
0: No, never
1: Sometimes, but rarely
2: Regularly, but it never lasts
3: Frequently, and it bothers me
4: Yes, it has severe consequences in everyday life
|Abdominal pain, discomfort or cramps|
|Hard or formed stools|
|Loose or watery stools|
|Difficulty in passing stools|
|Urgent need for bowel movements|
|Sense of incomplete evacuation after bowel movements|
|Mucus (white substance) in stools|
|Abdominal tension, bloating or swelling|
|Heartburn of chest pain|
|Feeling full just after beginning a meal|
|Increased need to urinate|
Understanding your results:
Between 0-10 points; you have few gut issues
Between 11-20 points; you have moderate gut issues
Between 21-40 points; you have considerable gut issues
Restoring that ‘happy-gut’ feeling!
Lactic ferments are particularly effective and can be found naturally present in yoghurt, cheese, sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, kefir and Kombucha.
However in more serious cases, regular treatments using lactic ferments in the form of dietary complements are advised. Just make sure to use a variety of strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Streptococus thermophilus.
Fibres are complex carbohydrates neither digested by digestive enzymes nor absorbed by the gut. They are essential for our gut flora, which then uses this fibre to produce the key elements needed in repairing the intestinal mucosa. For example;
– short-chain fatty acids, in particular butyrate
– Vitamins B8, B9, B12, K
Fibre is naturally present in olives, nuts, figs, prunes, legumes (lentils, white and red beans) and wholegrain cereals.
Somewhat misunderstood as ‘fattening’, we unfortunately tend to avoid these foods and simply end up starving our gut flora of the fibre it really needs! If you take lactic ferments in the form of supplements to improve your digestive comfort, try to opt for tablets also containing fibre such as Fructooligosaccharides.
• Bixquert J – Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with probiotics. An etiopathogenic approach at last? Rev. Esp. enferm. Dig. 2009;101(8):553-64.
• Saggiero A – Probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. J. Clin. Gastroenterol. Jul 2004;38 (suppl 2):S104-6.
• Del Piano M, Montino F, Carmagnola S, Anderloni A et al. – The use of probiotics in the treatment of constipation in the elderly. Cibus.2005;1(1):23-30.