What you can do to heal your gut

All disease begins in the gut!

— Hippocrates

Every illness starts with your gut! Why is that? Almost 2,500 years ago, Hippocrates knew the answer.

The digestion and absorption of nutrients takes place primarily in the small intestine. The pancreas and gallbladder support by delivering digestive secretions to the duodenum, the segment of the small intestine closest to the stomach. The large intestine reabsorbs water and manages the excretion of waste material.

The body works like an orchestra, with everything perfectly in tune and on time. But what happens when we eat incorrect food, or take medications, or stress ourselves? We create complications such as constipation, or irritable bowel syndrome.

Many people complain about abdominal bloating, and not being able to lose weight — no matter which diet they are on. There are many possible reasons for that, but the most common is incompletely digested or poorly absorbed carbohydrates, fructose, or sugar alcohol (such as sorbitol and xylitol). These create malabsorption that over time can be problematic, because the body will lose its ability to absorb the essential vitamins, minerals and fats that it needs.

So how can we heal this?

Fermented foods — such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, olives, live-cultured yogurt, and kefir — are probiotics, which means they contain live bacteria. Probiotic bacteria should be consumed in large amounts, between 100 million and 100 billion live bacteria per day.

That may sound like a lot! But the gut has approximately 100 trillion microorganisms, so the probiotic needs to survive in sufficient numbers to influence the bacterial population in the large intestine. The good news — one serving of yogurt usually provides these amounts.

Probiotic supplements are available in capsules, tablets and powders, and you can find them in almost every supplement store.

Remember, probiotics contain living organisms so how you store them can affect the quality. It’s best to store them in the fridge and certainly avoid heat and humidity, to protect the microorganisms.

Prebiotics are also important — they’re the indigestible substances in foods such as artichokes, asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions, bananas and dandelion. Indigestible means that they are broken down either by gastric acids or enzymes, and they’re able to be metabolized and fermented by the intestinal bacteria.

Prebiotic foods can help you to lose weight, and may decrease the risk for many diseases, including diabetes.

Eating a variety of food sources, with different colored vegetables and whole fruits, and avoiding simple sugar in your diet can help your body and heal your gut, helping you to prevent illness.

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Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892

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