Updated: Jan 13
The gastrointestinal tract is one of the most incredibly complex digestive organs in your body, the health of the gut has a direct correlation immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions and cancer. So it plays a very important role in keeping your body well balanced. The information and research on the gut is so extensive that today I am just going to over the basics, but will continue to add more information in the future. So make sure you follow us on Instagram @jessicabugra_ to stay posted with the information.
A quick anatomy of the gut:
The gastrointestinal tract (GI tract), or more commonly known as the Gut is made up of several organs that digests food, and absorbs water, vitamins, and the nutrients our body requires.
Our GI tract is approximately 5-7 meters of continuous tube made of muscular walls, it extends from the mouth to the anus, made up of several organs, is supported by digestive juices, and the nervous system.
Digestion occurs mechanical and chemically starting in our mouth with our teeth, tongue and salivary glands, and then follows through to the pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and then leaves through the rectum. The liver, gallbladder and pancreas are assisting organs that release digestive juices to help further break down our food.
Most of the absorption of the nutrients occurs at the epithelial cells lining the small intestine; the absorbed substances pass into our blood or lymph system to nourish our cells. The large intestine is mostly responsible for reabsorbing excess water.
The GI tract has its own nervous system that is found in the walls of the gut starting from the esophagus and extending all the way to the anus, it controls the movements of muscles, secretions, and the blood flow to the gut. It is influenced by our parasympathetic nervous system and our sympathetic nervous system.
The gut flora:
One the most important component of the gastrointestinal system is the gut flora or also called the gut microbiome. The microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms that help maintain a healthy environment so our body can digest food, kill off harmful pathogens, and absorb the necessary nutrients.
Research has shown that a healthy microbiome environment has a substantial impact on maintaining a healthy body, a balanced metabolism, balanced hormones, efficient nerve and brain functioning, decreased disease, healthier skin and a better mental well being. The type and amount of bacteria we host is unique to each person, and influences such as stress, illness, physically inactive, use of antibiotics, and most importantly poor diet can negatively impact the environment.
What affects the gut?
I) Nutrition: what we eat and how we eat can enhance or poorly influence the functioning of our digestive system. A diet that lacks in a variety can create a deficiency of nutrients, or a diet high in sugar can create a toxic internal environment that may prevent the gut microbiome from functioning correctly.
II) Substance abuse: Alcohol and drugs are not digested the exact same way food is, and they have the ability to kill the bacteria of the microbiome. Substance abuse not only affects the main organs of the gastrointestinal system, but they can also damage the accessory organs, such as the liver and the salivary glands that further negatively impacts digestion.
III) Staying inactive, and obesity: An unhealthy body weight can create an inflammatory environment due to factors such as insulin resistance, and this affects the microbiome, visceral fat can stagnate the body’s homeostasis and further prevent healthy bacteria growth.
IV) Stress: Stress the releases hormones that can cause adverse reactions, they can decrease blood and oxygen flow to the organs causing inflammation, cramping, and imbalance
IV) Genetics and Aging- as we age our body beings to slows down overall, our muscles don’t contract as fast as enough and plus the use of medication can negatively affect the process of digestion
The diseases of the gut:
Disorders or dysfunctions can begin in the mouth and go right down to the dysfunction of the anus. Symptoms that may occur when the gastrointestinal tract is not functioning properly are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, malabsorption, constipation or obstruction, cramping and pains
Some of the more commonly experienced are:
- Autoimmune disorders (celiac)
- Chronic diarrhea
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitits); inflammation in the intestines
- Irritable bowel syndrome interferes with normal functions of the colon
- Leaky Gut
- Liver Cirrhosis
- Ulcers – peptic, duodenal
How poor gut health affects rest of the body:
Reduced nutrients to rest of body, poor body functioning, fatigue, mental fogAcne, allergies, eczema, rosacea and other skin issues The microbiome helps make serotonin which regulates our mood and sleep cycle Studies have shown that people who suffer from anxiety, autism, Parkinson, schizophrenia, arthritis tend to have an altered gut microbiome then compared to a healthier one When the gut microbiome is not balanced it produces inflammatory cytokines which when to many affect your hormones, skin, weight, and other inflammatory conditions
General advice on how to maintain a healthy gut:
Maintain a proper eating and sleeping schedule Avoid extreme dietsEat diverse and nourishing foods, that include vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, and legumes/beans, Eat bone broth Eat fermented foods and/or probiotic supplements Eat dietary fiber/ prebiotic fiberReduce intake of artificial sweetenersBecome familiar with your intolerances and allergies especially when your experiencing chronic constipation, diarrhea or malabsorption Spend even 10-15 minutes a day de-stressing and/ or stretching out the body to relax the musclesExercise Increase intake of water.
I hope you enjoyed our very first blog, like I’ve mentioned before there is so much research out there that would love to share with you. So stay posted as I go through each organ and function of the gastrointestinal system and share with you on how to maintain optimal gut functioning.
We would love to hear from you, so please feel free to contact us with your questions and concerns.
Thank you for your time.
Hall, Jennifer. Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. Elsevier, 2015.
Thompson, Janice, et al. Nutrition: a Functional Approach. Pearson Canada, 2014.