Tag Archives: digestive health

Our Soup of Bugs: Promoting Good Gut Bugs Prebiotics and Probiotics

Source: flickr user BASF

Source: flickr user BASF

There is a lot of talk nowadays about probiotics. What the heck are they?  Well we learn a little about probiotics during a television commercial with a yogurt product called Activia which claims to help populate your gut with good bacteria. If it could be so simple!  Did anyone say our current diet could be eroding the good bacteria? No! Anyway, probiotics are the first step in being aware and empowered in our gut health and integrity.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that flourish in your digestive track but they require a balanced pH (potential hydrogen) environment to stick around. Some voices would argue they do not stick around but wash out.  They help your body digest nutrients, absorb vitamins, stop inflammation and stop the growth of bad bacteria. Bad bacteria are classified as anaerobic bacteria. If these bad bacteria are left unchecked your food will not digest like it should but will ferment and produce toxins. You will have discomfort, gas and bloating. After eating you will feel bad.  Yuck!

Maintaining the friendly bacteria in the GI tract is paramount to good health. In order for the small intestines to work properly, it is important to nourish this tissue with an ample supply of friendly bacteria called probiotics.  Probiotics are live microorganisms that when eaten in adequate amounts as part of food intake support the host’s health.  Some individuals call probiotics the “ultimate neighborhood watch” as they are continually keeping guard against harmful bacteria, parasites and other pathogens that want to rob our health.

Probiotics are the active participants in a wide range of health promoting mechanisms in the GI tract. Probiotics support health cell growth, maintain the gut barrier, build the cell wall, reduce inflammation, stop pathogen adhesion and enhance the immune system. Our diet profoundly affects the gut flora just as it affects the rest of our health.  A diet high in sugar and starches such as flour-containing foods limit probiotics’ growth.  However, a vast array of plants we can eat will encourage the growth of healthy intestinal flora.  While probiotics are the healthy bacteria, prebiotics are the foods that feed them.

A prebiotic is a nondigestable food ingredient that positively affects the growth and activity of bacteria in the colon and improves over all health13.   Examples of prebiotics are disaccharides, polysaccharides and oligiosaccharides.  These are complex carbohydrates that migrate to the colon where they are selectively fermented by specific bacteria. This fermentation process stimulates the growth and activities of other bacterial species that already reside in the colon.

The probiotic prebiotic phenomena creates a chain reaction whether in the small intestines or colon by releasing a vital short-chain fatty acid called butyric acid (butyrate) that improves gut function and promotes an anti-inflammatory response in the GI tract.  Short chain fatty acids are the ideal fuel for the epithelial cells that line the gut, nurturing them to ideal health and function.  Supplements nowadays can contain both probiotics and prebiotics called “Synbiotics.”

An ideal way to maintain proper gut flora is using a synbiotic that is from soil-based organisms.  When we talk about maintaining good gut flora over the long term for optimal function and graceful aging this combination shows promise.  Who would of thought we are made up of a soup of bugs and that we need to be proactive in maintaining the good gut bugs and not the bad?

To your health,

Dr. Dana

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Health Begins with the Pathway of Digestion

CaptureEvery cell in the body requires energy to function.

Food that is ingested is the energetic material necessary for cellular function.   However, most food cannot directly enter the blood stream and be used by the cells of the body until it is broken down into simple molecules.  The digestive system’s role is to alter ingested food by mechanical and chemical processes so food can cross the gastrointestinal barrier and enter the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems for cellular distribution throughout the body.  Digested food is then able to provide energy to fuel body activity and incorporate into the body structure.

So let’s get acquainted with the digestive system.  The digestive system is comprised of a tube called the alimentary canal that extends from the lips to the anus.  Below the diaphragm the digestive tract is called the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The alimentary canal is a long muscular tube lined with mucous membrane for a total length of about 27 feet with 1 ½ feet above the diaphragm. Each part of the tube is called by a different name, for example, mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.  Each classified part has its own special anatomic characteristics and performs its own particular functions with the overall purpose of making food available to the cells of the body.

The whole time food remains in the canal it is considered “outside” of the body and has not “entered” the body. Think of the alimentary canal as the hole in a doughnut. In order for food to enter the body it must cross the epithelium that lines the wall of the digestive tract.  A number of glands and organs assist in the digestion of food in the alimentary canal including secretions from salivary, gastric and intestinal glands, the liver/gallbladder and pancreas.  The digestion of food is a complex interplay of many players we take for granted but relay on one another to accomplish a very important task, fueling the human body.

The activities of the digestive system are divided into six basic processes beginning at the mouth and ending at the anus—it’s a journey.  This hidden passage of physiological processes is your body’s ability to feed itself through sustained nourishment.  The alimentary tract is like a root system deep in your body that anchors your health and provides the foundation for your longevity.

To ensure our health and vitality it is imperative we pay attention to what we eat and how we feel. Good and natural foods may be inflammatory in some people’s gastrointestinal tract.  Paying attention is critical so gut problems do not take hold and alter the sensitive balance of good flora or erode your immune status.

Be mindful of what you eat.

To your health,

Dr. Dana