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Quest Vitamins LTD,
8 Venture Way,
Aston Science Park,
B7 4AP.

Tel: 0121 359 0056
Fax: 0121 359 0313
Registered in England No. 2530437

Issue # 67: Gut Health

Gut Health

The gut is a barrier between the human and the environment, and its function is to digest food and selectively absorb the nutrients required for health at the same time ensuring toxic substances remain out. Therefore maintaining health requires a healthy gut. There are many illnesses which are related to an unhealthy gut and these include, naming a few: malnutrition, constipation, coeliac disease, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, traveller's sickness, haemorrhoids and diverticulitis.
There are many things that cause gut diseases that we cannot control. We cannot control our age and we cannot control our genetics but we can control what we put into our mouth and our bodies, and that can significantly impact our body's health and our immune system. Positive dietary changes can improve the health of our gut. There are a few basic points to consider for maintaining a healthy gut, these include:

Eat plenty of fibre rich foods.
Fibre rich foods are low in fat, low in cholesterol and low in calories, keeping us full for longer and therefore help fight off obesity. Stools in the gut are full of bad bacteria and carcinogens and when we have constipation, these carcinogens interact with the cells lining our gut longer than they should. Fibre helps by forming bulk to the stool making it move through the gut more rapidly therefore limiting its contact with intestinal cells and preventing digestive disorders such as constipation, haemorrhoids, ulcers, appendicitis and diverticular disease by giving bulk to the stool.

Drink plenty of water, between six and eight glasses a day.
Fibre is great for fighting constipation, but it can actually cause constipation if there is not enough water in the system. The water helps the dietary fibre to swell and expand thus increasing the bulk in the intestines which promotes bowel movements.

Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Fruits and vegetables have a wide range of beneficial nutrients within them that help strengthen our immune system and maintain healthy body systems. They also contain fibre which is a great way to keep our gut healthy.

Eat foods that promote friendly bacteria in your gut.
These include live yoghurts and fermented milk drinks with friendly bacteria. Dairy products are good foods because they have calcium and vitamin D which may reduce the risk of colon cancer. They also have probiotics which are healthy gut bacteria that help decrease bad bacteria in the gut and help fight intestinal diseases.
Dietary fibre and complex carbohydrates can provide food for the friendly bacteria as these organisms have the ability to breakdown and metabolise certain types of carbohydrate that humans cannot digest.
The gut is not only used for digestion, it also plays an important role in the immune system. The intestinal microflora is fundamental to the operations of both systems.
The specific role of the colonic microflora in digestion is to ferment substances provided in the diet which cannot be digested by the host in the small intestine. This fermentation produces, among other molecules, lactic acid and short chain fatty acids which provide energy to the cell wall lining of the colon, improve the absorption of minerals and beneficially influence lipid and glucose metabolism in the liver.
Not having the correct balance of bacteria in the gut has been associated with a number of conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer and gastroenteritis.

There are two categories of beneficial ingredients for gut health - prebiotics and probiotics:

A prebiotic is defined as a non digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth or activity of bacteria in the colon.

Well known examples of prebiotics are:

- Fructo-oligosaccharides(FOS): are short chain oligosaccharides and they stimulate the growth of Bifidobacterium species in the large intestine. They can be found naturally in foods such as Jerusalem artichoke, onions, leeks, grains and honey. It is recommended that we consume at least 3 grams per day.

- Inulins: refer to a group of naturally-occuring fructose containing oligosaccharides. They belong to a class of carbohydrates known as fructans. They are derived from the roots of chicory and Jerusalem artichokes. They stimulate the growth of Bifidobacterium species in the large intestine.

- Potato Starch (maltodextrin): Has been shown to increase fecal concentrations of beneficial bacteria, including bifidobacteria and lactobacilli

In supplemental terms, a probiotic is defined as a live microbial food supplement, which benefits the host by improving intestinal microbial balance. Supplementation with probiotics offers an opportunity to restore the gut flora to its normal composition, which may have been adversely affected by dietary and environmental stresses. They are thought to bind to the intestinal surface or to certain harmful bacteria on the intestinal wall therefore blocking harmful bacteria from entering the gut and possibly causing diarrhea.

Well known examples of probiotics include:

- Lactobacillus acidophilus: Favourably alters the intestinal microflora balance. Along with Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus casei they inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, promote good digestion, boost the immune system and increase resistance to infection.

- Bifidobacterium longum: The dietary administration of Bifidobacteria, preferably in conjunction with L. acidophilus helps in the regeneration of the normal gut flora. Anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that can survive without oxygen) belonging to the Bifidobacterium species are beneficial for the well-being of the host both in infancy and in later years.

- Lactobacillus plantarum 299v: has been shown to benefit specific gastronintestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. This is a highly specific strain which has shown to be superior to other plantarum strains.

Other useful supplements for gut health

- Digestive enzymes: provide a variety of digestive enzymes such as amylase, lipase, papain and bromelain which help digest major dietary components such as carbohydrate, fat and protein respectively into fuel for the body. This kind of supplement may be useful for anyone especially those experiencing digestive difficulties such as coeliac disease, Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis or ulcerative colitis.

- Lactase: This enzyme is produced naturally by the cells of the small intestine and helps breakdown lactose, which is the sugar found in milk. Those suffering from lactose intolerance will not be able to produce this enzyme and therefore a supplement may be necessary

-Aged Garlic: can be used as a gastrointestinal antiseptic. It has been shown to restore normal bowel flora by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.

- Ginger root extract: may be useful for IBS sufferers. It has a calming effect on the digestive system, thereby alleviating gastrointestinal distress and may help to reduce diarrhea.

- Piperine: is an active ingredient of black pepper that has the ability to improve the absorption of nutrients and increases the activity of the pancreatic enzymes amylase and lipase. Piperine also increases the activity of enzymes released by the small intestine, trypsin and chymotrypsin, so therefore useful for improving digestion.

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