What do you actually know about gut flora or gut microbiota?
Are you often tired, even after a good night's sleep? Do you often have stomach or intestinal pain? Do you suffen from diarrhea or constipation? Depression?
Over a period of several weeks, Simone suffered from frequent stomach aches and was constantly tired. It all started after she was forced to take antibiotics. She was fortunate to be friends with a good Naturopath, who recommended that she take probiotic food, and avoid some other foods and food combinations. After a few weeks of this diet, she was no longer in pain and the fatigue was gone, as her gut flora had regained its balance.
The gut flora
The gastrointestinal microbiota, also known as gut flora or gut microbiota, is the set of micro-organisms in our intestine. It is characterised by its diversity and complexity (bacteria, viruses, parasites, non-pathogenic fungi). Consequently, they are our unknown allies.
We have more bacteria than cells in our whole organism (2 to 10 times more, between 20, and 100,000,000,000,000 = one hundred thousand billion bacteria). That is to say between 2 and 5 kilos of bacteria depending on the individual. They are in our organs, on our skin, in our hair... they are almost everywhere. The intestines alone house 1 to 2 kilos on a surface of 32 square meters!
Our gut flora contains several hundred different bacterial species. Our intestine and colon are therefore the largest reservoirs of the human organism's microbiota and reservoirs of enzymatic activity essential for human digestion and physiology. As such, this flora has an enormous influence on our health.
Roles of the gut flora
1. Interaction in the gut-brain axis
The gut-brain axis is the biochemical relationship that exists between the gastrointestinal tract and the functions of our brain.
Our digestive system and our brain are closely linked. The proof: strong emotions can cause diarrhoea, constipation and various pains, for example functional gastrointestinal dysfunctions or digestive disorders.
On the other hand, digestive abnormalities can cause anxiety or depression. Research has shown that probiotics can improve not only physical health, but also our moods and thoughts.
Even before digestion properly begins, there is an interaction. This happens when gastric and pancreatic secretions are released in response to sensory signals, such as smelling and seeing food! The production of saliva is triggered spontaneously even before eating, just at the sight of certain appetising foods... it's "mouth-watering".
2. A barrier against intruders
All microorganisms cooperate with our cells to protect us. Bacteria act as a shield against intruders and form part of our immune system, while our cells form selective cell barriers.
3. Protection against pathogens
The gut flora or gut microbiota provide protection against pathogenic microorganisms. A pathogen is an organism that causes disease. Some bacteria are capable of secreting antimicrobial substances against other microorganisms or other bacteria and therefore prevent their proliferation.
In a way, they are a kind of self-defence within the immune system.
4. Synthesis of vitamins
The gut flora participate in parts of the synthesis of vitamins. For example of group B and vitamin K (are needed for blood coagulation). They are also involved in the metabolism of calcium and magnesium.
5. Production of hormones
The happiness hormones dopamine and serotonin, as well as the sleep hormone melatonin, are also present in high concentrations in the intestine. Hormones influence us in all situations of life.
6. Development of our immune system
The immune system is one of the most important systems in our body. We inherit it at birth, especially through vaginal birth, because the bacteria in the vagina, which the baby comes into contact with, help to strengthen the immune system! Later on he gets stronger through breastfeeding. The immune system is autonomous, adapts and evolves according to the contacts it has with microbes or environmental substances foreign to the body.
Intestinal bacteria guide our emotions
Our gut flora is capable of dictating our mood, our ability to process and store information, and our actions. When we consider the connection between the brain and the gut, it’s important to know that 90% of serotonin receptors are located in the gut. Our gut is very sensitive and numerous studies have found that his influence on our emotions may be particularly important, however.
But it goes even further, because even within a relationship, partners influence each other both mentally and physically. Stress and shared emotions, lifestyle and routines, are all factors that promote the development of common diseases. Marital disagreements have strong two-way links, which feed on each other. These risks are influenced by diet, sleep, exercise habits and emotion regulation strategies.
How do we support our gut flora?
- Above all, ensure a healthy, varied and regular diet.
- A lack of magnesium makes you tired, so make sure you get this mineral (no need for magnesium supplements) through a varied diet.
- Fill up with vitamin D as soon as there is a ray of sunshine (10 minutes a day with just your face and hands exposed is enough, but more fresh air is still necessary for other reasons).
- Take part in regular physical activity and move as much as possible on a daily basis.
- Avoid antibiotics and all kinds of synthetic medicines.
- Take probiotics after taking antibiotics. Better and cheaper, with natural foods :
- Yogurt, Kefir, cheese
- Cider Vinegar
- Tempeh (fermented soybean)
- Miso (Japanese spice paste)
- Kombucha (fermented tea)
- It is important to get enough sleep, between 7 and 9 hours are recommended.
- Avoid eating dinner after 8 p.m.
- Take breaks to de-stress and let go of negative emotions. Try to keep a clear mind with any kind of positive thoughts all day long.
Many factors disturb our gut flora and make us vulnerable to diseases. We could say that the intestine is the centre of our health, because 80% of our immune system is hidden there.
In conclusion, the decisive factor to have a good gut flora, i.e. to heal or even better not to get sick, is above all to have a healthy and varied diet, rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins and everything that nature puts at our disposal and be conscious of your body and all you can do for it's improvement.
"Our food is the most important medicine"
For more information, inspiration and examples, we have created the “Beginner's Guide to Healthier and Happier Living” to help you get started.
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Change your habits and you will change your life!