The intestine – more than just a “digestive tube”

“Health begins in the gut!” – this insight is already described in the 4000 year old writings of Ayurvedic medicine. The intestine is the centre of well-being. A disturbed digestive power is regarded as an essential cause for chronic illnesses.

It is well known that the digestive organ, the intestine, transforms food and drink into vital nutrients, supplies the body with energy and excretes food residues and unwanted substances. But that’s not all. With a total surface area of approx. 400-600 m2, the intestinal mucosa forms the largest interface between the organism and the outside world. Nowhere else in the body does a more intensive contact with foreign substances take place than in the intestine. The “dark, warm brew” made of food paste and mucus contains not only healthy nutrients but also dangerous germs. The intestinal mucosa is therefore in constant contact with potential harmful substances.

Darm-Hirn-Achse (c) DSGIP 2013

This leads to a vital double function of the intestine:

It must be permeable to nutrients, but at the same time prevent the penetration of bacteria, pollen, food allergens, fungi, viruses and other foreign substances. Here it becomes clear how important an intact intestinal mucosa is for the health of the entire body. If the protective function of the mucous membrane is disturbed, the organism and in particular its immune system is overwhelmed with large quantities of pathogens and harmful substances, leading to the so-called “Leaky Gut Syndrome”.

Furthermore, our intestines are populated by an incredible number of bacteria that live in a kind of symbiosis with us and perform important functions in the digestion and production of vitamins. However, this “microbiome” should have the right composition of bacteria. There are favourable and unfavourable bacterial compositions and this combination is decisive for our health.

In recent years, the connection between brain and intestine has become more and more the focus of science. Connections between diseases of the brain (depression, Parkinson’s, dementia, autism) and the intestine are being discussed and investigated more and more intensively. Last but not least, we are even talking about our abdominal brain. Intestine and brain are constantly connected via neuronal networks, information is exchanged and a therapy of the intestine should always be part of a holistic therapy. The term Brainfood is becoming increasingly important, because it cannot be indifferent how we feed ourselves. Many vital substances, unprocessed, natural foods are the basis of intestinal health and can therefore also provide a relief of the constantly increasing intestinal problems (irritable bowel syndrome and digestive problems of all kinds).

If the intestinal barrier is not intact (Leaky Gut), this also leads to an impairment of the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is supposed to protect our brain against the penetration of bacteria, but like the intestinal barrier it can also become more permeable. Then bacteria can be detected in the brain which are not expected to be there.

Our gut must:

  • crush food and breaking it down by enzymes
  • be able to absorb nutrients
  • prevent and eliminate unwanted components of food
  • perform immune function
  • communicate with brain
  • host our microbiome and feed it as well as possible
  • protect the body from undesirable bacteria

 

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