The Intestine and its Inhabitants
The intestine is an important part of the digestive system – it transports the food bolus, absorbs nutrients and water, produces vitamins and short-chain fatty acids, and removes indigestible food components. With a length of about eight meters, a surface area of up to 400 square meters and a diameter of only a few centimeters, it is the main transport artery from the food supply in the supermarket to the bloodstream.
With our food, we not only absorb vital nutrients that enter the bloodstream via the intestine, but also many foreign substances and pathogens. A healthy intestine that is equipped with a good intestinal flora and whose intestinal wall barrier is intact can catch, destroy and excrete toxins and pathogenic germs in advance, so that they no longer pose a risk to the body.
Unfortunately, the “interior equipment” of the intestine is massively disturbed by today’s modern nutrition and lifestyle. Often the intestinal mucosa is damaged, e. g. by nutrition low in fiber and too much sugar or by abundant additives that are added in large quantities to many processed foods. It is estimated that about 8 kilograms (17.6 lbs) of preservatives pass through the intestine over the course of an adult life. This is unfavorable, since the preservatives do their job in the intestine just as they do as an additive in food: They destroy bacteria and do not distinguish between disease-causing or health-promoting intestinal bacteria.
The intestinal mucosa as a border post
Nutrients and water are supposed to reach the body from the intestine. However, this does not apply to undigested food components, toxins and pollutants. Therefore, the intestinal mucosa must form an effective barrier. Normally, the cells in the intestine are located close together and the intercellular spaces are sealed with a kind of “Velcro” tape, i. e. membrane protein complexes, the so-called „tight junctions“. In addition, the intestinal mucosa is supported by a variety of different intestinal bacteria, which settle on the intestinal mucosa like a “thick fluffy carpet”, creating an impermeable barrier to blood circulation.
The tight junctions can be opened to allow larger molecules and larger quantities of water to pass through.
Disruptive factors such as stress, medications, alcohol, pathogenic germs and various additives can alter the intestinal flora and damage the intestinal mucosa. The pathogenic bacteria primarily benefit from a changed intestinal flora, because they can adapt very quickly to the changed environment and multiply accordingly quickly. As a result, inflammation of the intestinal mucosa may occur and the intestinal epithelium gradually becomes permeable (leaky gut syndrome) to allergens, pollutants and pathogens that harm the body. Allergies, diabetes mellitus type 2, skin diseases and fungal infections are also associated with a damaged and altered intestinal flora.
Food for the intestinal cells
Lactobacilli (lactic acid bacteria) and bifidobacteria, which settle sufficiently in the intestine, can protect and strengthen the intestinal mucosa. Studies have impressively demonstrated that lactobacilli can repair defects caused by harmful bacteria.
The broadest possible bacterial colonization in the intestine is therefore more than desirable. This ensures that the intestine is well supplied and the intestinal cells are optimally nourished. The intestinal cells receive all vital nutrients directly from the intestinal content. The intestinal content can be partially metabolized by some intestinal bacteria from the group of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, forming short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids provide energy, stimulate intestinal peristalsis and the circulation of the intestinal wall. Particular attention is paid to butyric acid, which promotes the metabolism of the intestinal mucosa and the growth of blood vessels in the intestinal wall. It also has anti-inflammatory and anticancerogenic effects.
Propionic acid and acetic acid play an important role in gluco- and lipogenesis. Furthermore, propionic acid supports the glucose balance in addition to building up the intestinal flora. It throttles the release of glucose and stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. At the same time, the sensitivity of the body cells to insulin is increased.
It is therefore beneficial if sufficient lactobacilli and bifidobacteria colonize the intestine. With a nutrition rich in fiber, especially vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruits, the bacterial population can be increased. But just as important are foods that provide probiotic bacterial strains, which are mainly found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yoghurt, kefir, buttermilk and many more.
Intestinal bacteria against obesity
Obesity is still mostly induced by high calorie food intake and lack of exercise. However, numerous studies have shown now that there is also a significant difference between normal and obese people with regard to the composition of the intestinal microbiome. Thus, the two bacterial strains Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes occur in different populations – in normal-weight individuals, in the majority, Bacteroidetes strains were detected, while Firmicutes predominated in overweight individuals. The higher the percentage of Bacteroidetes, the lower the body weight was.
Currently, scientists are increasingly interested in the significance of the bacterial species Prevotella and Bacteroides in connection with the clinical picture of obesity and the corresponding nutritional recommendations. In studies, subjects were divided into different enterotypes depending on which bacterial species dominated – Prevotella or Bacteroides. They were able to show that this classification had a decisive influence on dietary success. If Prevotella dominated, the subjects responded successfully to a nutrition characterized by abundant dietary fiber, especially fiber from whole grain products. If the bacterial strain Bacteroides had the upper hand, then this nutrition was less successful. Instead, a nutrition that promoted bifidobacteria, i.e. foods rich in inulin (parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, salsify, and many others), was better able to positively influence metabolism and support weight loss.
Our intestine and its functionality has an immense influence on our health and well-being. For this reason, it is important to do everything possible to maintain intestinal health and take good care of the intestinal inhabitants. This is best achieved with a nutrition that is above all varied and rich in fiber and vital substances (vegetables, herbs, whole grains, legumes) and largely avoids processed foods and products. With a colorful mixture of these foods, as they are also compiled in the Metabolic Balance nutrition plan, the health-promoting intestinal bacteria receive plenty of nourishment and the opportunity to settle diligently in the intestine. In addition, high-quality fats (cold-pressed vegetable oils) and proteins (sea fish, nuts, dairy products, eggs) should not be missing. While fats support the energy production of intestinal cells, proteins (amino acids) are important components for building and repairing damaged intestinal cells.
The Metabolic Balance nutrition plan takes all these criteria into account. Nevertheless, it may well be that participants with long-standing intestinal problems need support at the beginning of the nutritional change due to a very weakened intestinal flora. In this case, pre- and probiotics can be very useful and good. But – “Keep your eyes open when shopping” – many of these pre- and probiotics contain, in addition to a variety of bacterial strains, plenty of additives, which in turn cancel out the positive effect of the bacterial strains and have an unfavorable effect on the intestinal flora.
For example, Metabolic Basics Probiotics B.26 is recommended. With 26 bacterial strains (100 billion germs) and 24 herbal, spice and fruit extracts, it offers a high concentration and bacterial diversity. At the same time, the herbal and spice extracts have an anti-inflammatory effect on the intestine and facilitate the settlement of important intestinal bacteria in the intestine.
- Yu Q et al. Lactobacillus protects the integrity of intestinal epithelial barrier damaged by pathogenic bacteria. Front Cell Infect Mircobiol. 5:26.
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