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.

Conclusion

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.

Source:

  1. Yu Q et al. Lactobacillus protects the integrity of intestinal epithelial barrier damaged by pathogenic bacteria. Front Cell Infect Mircobiol. 5:26.
    Doi: 103389/fcimb.2015.00026.
  2. Schumacher B. “Störungen im Darm machen krank“. Ärzte Zeitung 2014 Oct 10; 03:05.
  3. Wehkamp J, Götz M, Herrlinger K, Steurer W, Stange E „Chronisch entzündliche Darmerkrankungen“; Deutsches Ärzteblatt 2016 Feb 5; 113/5
  4. Fischer S. „Genom, Proteom und Mikrobiom – Ein mikrobiologischer Blick in den menschlichen Organismus. Die Naturheilkunde 5/2015
  5. Francesco Asnica et. Al: Microbiome connections with host metabolism and habitual diet from 1098 deeply phenotyped individuals; Nature Medicine (2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41591-020-01183-8)
  6. Christensen L., Roager H. m., astrup a., Hjorth m. f. (2018): microbial enterotypes in personalized nutri-tion and obesity management. am J Clin nutr 108 (4): 645–651
  7. Hjorth m. f., Roager H. m., Larsen T. m., Poulsen S. K.,Licht T. R. Bahl m. I., Zohar Y., astrup a. (2018): Pre-treatment microbial Prevotella-to-Bacteroides ratio, determines body fat loss success during a 6-month randomized controlled diet intervention. Int J Obes 42 (3): 580–583

Cholesterol – Facts and Myths

Many people cringe when “cholesterol” is mentioned as it is associated with unpleasant topics such as obesity and disease. But what actually is cholesterol and is it really as harmful as many fear? Who is affected by high cholesterol levels and is it enough to abstain from cholesterol-containing foods in order to protect oneself? You will find answers to all these questions in this short summary on cholesterol.

What is cholesterol and what does “LDL” and “HDL” mean?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance and can be found in all animal foods. Like fat, it does not dissolve in water and must therefore bind to certain proteins (lipoprotein) in order to be transported in the body via the blood (90% of which consists of water) to the various organs.
The most important and best known lipoproteins in this context are HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein).

LDL supplies the organs and tissues with cholesterol. Excess LDL cholesterol can bind with white blood cells and deposit on the inner walls, usually the arteries, of blood vessels, leading to arteriosclerosis. If these deposits thicken over time, the blood vessels become increasingly inelastic and constrict. In the worst case, this results in complete vascular occlusion, which can trigger coronary heart disease, stroke or heart attack. This is why there is often talk of “bad” or “evil” cholesterol.

HDL cholesterol has the property of binding excess LDL cholesterol from the blood and transporting it back to the liver, which is why it is also called “good” cholesterol.

Myth 1 Cholesterol is fundamentally harmful

WRONG

Cholesterol is not fundamentally harmful, in fact, it is essential to life. Cholesterol is a very important component of the human body and performs a variety of tasks in the organism. It is involved . . .

  • . . . in the construction of cell walls and tissues
  • . . . in the formation of vitamin D
  • . . . in the formation of bile acids for fat digestion
  • . . . in the production of various hormones (cortisone, estrogen, testosterone)

Myth 2 Only very overweight people have high cholesterol levels

WRONG

A high cholesterol level is not visible from the outside and does not necessarily depend on body weight. Most sufferers have no symptoms and do not notice their high cholesterol levels, so the disease often goes undetected and untreated. Both obese and normal-weight people may be affected by an increased level of LDL cholesterol.
In addition to body weight, other risk factors such as an unhealthy lifestyle with increased tobacco and alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and poor nutrition, as well as diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes play a major role.
In addition, there is also a genetically-related metabolic disease known as familial hypercholesterolemia, in which the affected people often have a strongly elevated LDL cholesterol level already at a young age, which greatly increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. So even young people can have a heart attack at a very early age.

Myth 3 Eggs and cholesterol-containing foods are bad for cholesterol levels

WRONG

About two-thirds of the body’s cholesterol is produced in the liver by the body itself. Only one third is ingested through food, of which only about half is actually absorbed by the body.
In healthy people, dietary cholesterol intake has little effect on cholesterol levels because the body can adjust its own production of cholesterol accordingly. Thus, if there is a higher supply of dietary cholesterol, the body’s own production is inhibited.
However, about 20-25% of the population are unable to do so, so that no adjustment of the body’s own cholesterol production takes place, resulting in elevated cholesterol levels in the blood.
This adaptation mechanism can also fail to occur in the case of highly unbalanced nutrition with a high proportion of cholesterol, a lot of saturated fats, few long-chain carbohydrates, such as those found in fruit and highly processed foods, and little fiber. Therefore, it is much more important to develop a healthy and balanced nutrition pattern than to avoid eggs or other cholesterol-containing foods in general. Dietary fats with poor fat quality are considered a major health risk – especially in terms of elevated cholesterol levels.
Saturated fatty acids, such as those found in butter, lard, cream, sausages, meat and cheese, increase cholesterol levels more than the cholesterol in food.Trans fatty acids, which are mainly found in industrially produced foods such as fried foods, pastries, confectionery and convenience foods, also have a negative effect on cholesterol levels, as they increase the “bad” LDL cholesterol and lower the “good” HDL cholesterol.

Nutrition tips:

In order to control cholesterol levels through nutrition, the most suitable diet is one that uses a lot of

  • fiber-rich foods such as oats, pulses, apples and vegetables and that inhibits cholesterol intake.
  • vegetable oils with high omega-3 fatty acid content such as linseed oil, walnut oil and hemp oil and thus supports the cardiovascular system. However, nuts and seeds are also an ideal supplement.
  • green tea. It is rich in cell-protecting antioxidants, but also saponins, which can bind cholesterol and inhibit fat absorption from food.

Conclusion:

With the Metabolic Balance nutrition concept and the individual selection of foods, the basis for a healthy cholesterol level is laid. In addition,   

  • exercise in everyday life
  • limiting alcohol and tobacco consumption and
  • reducing stress

can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels.
You want to go deeper into the topic? Then read the article written by Silvia Bürkle, nutritionist and co-founder of Metabolic Balance here.

Cholesterol under control!

Cholesterol is essential for human life. It is not only a necessary component of cell membranes, but also an important starting material for the production of sex hormones in the adrenal grands, ovaries and testicles. In addition, vitamin D, which is so important for our metabolism, is formed from cholesterol under the skin. Most cholesterol is needed for the production of bile acid in the liver. Due to the many functions of cholesterol in the body, it is also able to produce cholesterol itself. This means that 90% of the daily amount of cholesterol needed is produced by the liver. In contrast, only 10% of total cholesterol is absorbed with food.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance and, like triglycerides and long-chain fatty acids, is insoluble in water, i. e. it cannot circulate freely in the blood (blood consists of 70% water). Therefore, the fats are transferred to a water-soluble form, the so-called lipoproteins.

The exogenous metabolic pathway
Dietary fats absorbed through the intestine – cholesterol, triglycerides and long-chain fatty acids – are packed in lipoprotein shells in the intestinal wall and thus enter the vascular system via the lymph channels. From there they are distributed throughout the body. With the help of enzymes, triglycerides and individual fatty acids are broken down, which are needed for energy production and various metabolic processes. The remaining residual particles are absorbed by the liver.

The endogenous metabolic pathway
The liver produces various lipoproteins from the residual particles, among other things LDL cholesterol. The LDL is absorbed into the cells via special LDL receptors found on almost all cell types and thus removed from the bloodstream. Unfortunately, the absorption of LDL cholesterol into cells is not unlimited. If the supply of cholesterol from the blood exceeds the needs of the cells, the LDL receptors on the cell surface are reduced and the cells absorb less and less LDL cholesterol from the blood.
As a result, a large part of the LDL cholesterol present in the blood oxidizes and is absorbed by the immune system’s scavenger cells (macrophages). So-called “foam cells” are formed, which contain large amounts of cholesterol. Over time, these cells die off and release cholesterol crystals, which promote the deposition of plaques in damaged vessels – arteriosclerosis develops.

HDL cholesterol is formed in the intestine and liver as well as in the blood while metabolizing other lipoproteins. These can – and this distinguishes them from other lipoproteins present in the blood – absorb oxidized LDL cholesterol and transport it back to the liver, where it is then used to produce bile acids.

Primary and secondary lipometabolic disorders
Approximately 30 percent of diagnosed hypercholesterolaemia are primary or familial hypercholesterolaemia. Primary or familial hypercholesterol anaemia is attributed to a gene defect. This gene defect causes fewer LDL receptors to be formed on the cells and thus reduces the absorption of cholesterol into the cells – with the result that the LDL concentration in the blood rises rapidly. 
Often, however, an elevated cholesterol level is secondary. The reason for this may be, for example, a nutrition that is too rich in fats, which in particular contains too many saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids. But a nutrition high in carbohydrates and low in fiber also contributes to this. Diseases such as hypothyroidism, diabetes or renal dysfunction can also cause elevated cholesterol levels. Furthermore, medication such as cortisone, antihypertensives or beta-blockers are suspected of having a negative effect on cholesterol levels.

What role does nutrition play?
Dietary and lifestyle changes are core elements of prevention and treatment of dyslipidemia.
In general, a nutrition that is simply low in cholesterol is not recommended. The cholesterol in food usually has only a small effect on blood levels. It is much more important to have a balanced nutrition in which, besides high-quality vegetable omega-3 oils, sea fish, lots of fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, as well as high-fiber foods are on the menu.

Influence of carbohydrates on cholesterol levels
A low-carbohydrate nutrition has a positive effect on blood lipid levels and cholesterol. This was observed by scientists in a study of nearly 180 overweight middle-aged men. In the subjects who only met their energy requirements with carbohydrates for a quarter instead of a half, the harmful triglyceride levels and unhealthy LDL cholesterol in the blood already showed a decrease after three weeks. This effect was also observed if the participants did not lose weight.
The explanation for this is provided by the metabolic intermediate product acetyl-CoA. It is produced during the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, is needed for energy production and at the same time is also the starting substance for the body’s own cholesterol synthesis. With a high consumption of carbohydrates, especially those with a high glycemic load, more acetyl-CoA molecules are formed, which then stimulate cholesterol formation when no energy is needed, for example in the form of exercise and activity.

Vegetables – cholesterol-lowering
Fiber-rich foods, which are mainly rich in soluble fiber, such as apples, pulses and oats, have a positive influence on LDL levels. Their direct effectiveness is mainly based on their ability to bind bile acids in the intestine and excrete them. The more bile acids are bound and disposed of in the intestine by the soluble fiber, the less cholesterol is reabsorbed into the bloodstream. As a result, the liver removes more cholesterol from the bloodstream for the production of bile acid – the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood drops.

In addition to soluble fiber, plant foods also offer a special group of bioactive substances, the so-called plant sterols (phytosterols). These are particularly useful in reducing the absorption of cholesterol from the intestines into the bloodstream.
Plant sterols compete on the micelles in the small intestine with the absorption of cholesterol, so that cholesterol in the presence of plant sterols is increasingly excreted in the stool. This also means that less cholesterol is absorbed into the body, whether it is food cholesterol or the cholesterol that enters the intestines with bile acid. Plant sterols are found naturally in vegetable oils, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or pine nuts and other nuts.

In addition to abundant fiber and phytosterols, vegetable foods also provide a high proportion of other secondary plant substances (carotenoids, polyphenols, sulfides, etc. ), which may protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation. The free radicals that accumulate in the body during the metabolic process or also due to stress are absorbed by the antioxidants and thus prevent them from joining with the cholesterol-containing fat particles.

Avoid hidden fats
The quality of dietary fats also has a major influence on the concentration of lipoproteins. Neither cholesterol nor fats are “dangerous” substances, but essential to life. The problem is usually that too many fats with an unfavorable fatty acid composition are consumed. A scientific study shows that on average 70 % of the daily amount of fat is absorbed as hidden fat (e. g. in sausage, cheese, chocolate, sweet pastries, snacks etc. ). However, it is now known that the fatty acid pattern in nutrition influences the composition, size and oxidation tendency of LDL cholesterol.
Therefore, the focus should be on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. A wide variety of studies have shown that replacing saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids with omega-3 fatty acids (sea fish, cold-pressed vegetable oils, walnuts, seedlings) helps to activate the LDL receptors on the cells to absorb more LDL cholesterol.

Conclusion:
With a balanced nutrition rich in vital substances, as well as by avoiding industrially processed foods and a healthy lifestyle, which means integrating exercise into everyday life and reducing stress, a secondary lipometabolic disorder can be kept in check. At the same time, other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure or blood sugar as well as obesity can be reduced.
In the Metabolic Balance metabolic program, analysis of blood values can determine whether the problem is primary or secondary hypercholesterolemia. Not only values such as total cholesterol, HDL or LDL cholesterol are decisive, but also glucose and triglyceride values must be taken into account in order to be able to make the appropriate nutrition recommendations. Simply avoiding foods high in fat and cholesterol can only reduce elevated cholesterol levels to a limited extent.

Sources:

  1. Scholz R: Medizinische Biochemie, Band 9/10 „Cholesterin, Lipoproteine und Steroidhormone“, Zuckschwerdt-Verlag
  2. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e.V. Evidenzbasierte Leitlinie: Fettkonsum und Prävention ausgewählter ernährungsbedingter Krankheiten. Version 2015; http://www.dge.de
  3. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e.V. Evidenzbasierte Leitlinie: Kohlenhydratzufuhr und Prävention ausgewählter ernährungsbedingter Krankheiten. Version 2011; http://www.dge.de
  4. Worm,N., Mehr Fett. Warum die etablierten Ernährungsempfehlungen nicht haltbar und potenziell gefährlich sind. Ernährung & Medizin 27 (2012)57-63
  5. Bantal, Ganapathi; George, Belinda (2012): Low density Lipoprotein cholesterol target. Changing goal posts. In: India journal of endocrinology and metabolism 16 (suppl 2), S233-5. DOI:10.4103/2230-8210.104047

Optimize Your Health

Is it actually possible to eat healthy…? Buying healthy food, well that can be easy. But to know which individual foods are good for your health, that’s another story. The solution for a holistic way of eating is: Metabolic Balance. Our nutrition plan, based on your personal blood analysis includes exactly the foods you need for optimal health.

Reasons for healthy nutrition: Fewer sick leaves due to diet-related diseases or deficiency symptoms

Especially in our school children, a lack of ability to concentrate is being observed more and more frequently. Even when it comes to brain performance, healthy eating is the keyword. No sugar and white flour products, healthy fats, high-quality protein, a large portion of vital food and plenty of drinking water – this is the optimal brain-food, which increases the ability to concentrate.

MB (2019-06-06)

International World Environment Day

As a nutrition concept that focuses on a clean, conscious and sustainable lifestyle, this day is particularly important for Metabolic Balance. Anyone who wants to eat clean and consciously pays attention to the type of cultivation, the origin of the ingredients used and the sustainable packaging. So it’s better to do without packaging than using disposable or plastic packaging. It’s good for man and nature. Thank you!

MB - safe the planet (2019-06-05)