We always like to start on a positive here at The Six Pack Revolution, and today is no different. We are delving into the world of microbes and your gut to investigate how your gut health can be attributed to your overall health and wellness!
What is the gut?
We tend to think about the gut as our stomach, but the gut is the long tube that starts at the mouth and ends up at your bottom. So, when we talk about the gut, we are also talking about our mouth, food pipe, small and large intestines and of course the end passage. Along the route, the gut is supported by the liver, stomach, gallbladder, and pancreas.
Your gut is a crucial part of your digestive system that processes food from start to finish…
Did you know that food digestion starts even before we put the first forkful into our mouth? Our body is designed to signal we are about to eat. Triggered by the smell of your favourite dish, your brain will tell the gut that food is on its way.
Two important things happen now:
1. You release stomach acid and enzymes to help digest the food – cephalic digestion.
2. Glands in your mouth release saliva. Saliva not only moistens food, so it moves easily through your Oesophagus, but it also has an enzyme that begins the process of breaking down complex starches.
Food hits your stomach where acid and enzymes form a liquid substance called chyme – a cocktail of acid, enzymes, partially digested food, and water. Chyme is a carrier of food to the small intestine.
Heading through to the small intestine, the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder all get involved in producing bile to emulsify fat and more digestive enzymes. More nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestine through the liver and given the once over to make sure they are all good.
Arriving at the large intestine is where the magic happens. 100s of trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms both ‘good’ and sometimes harmful, live here. They produce enzymes that in turn raise levels of short-chain fatty acids.
We are still learning about how short-chain fatty acids can aid our health, but we do know that they are the primary source of energy for gut cells, support your immune system, and prove protective against certain diseases. These little beauties are produced by the fermentation of fibre by your gut microbes.
It’s a fact
It is estimated that around 70 tons of food will pass through your gut in your life span. Not a second passes that your gut is not working at breaking down foods, delivering nutrients to the rest of your body and expelling waste. The average person’s gut will take between 12 to 24 hours to digest just one meal and if you have a healthy gut, it will eliminate what it doesn’t need within 24 hours.
Your gut is a kind of superpower that we need to nurture. Here’s why…
- Accommodates most of your microbiome.
- Digests and absorbs nutrients.
- Supports immune function (approximately 70%).
- Plays a role in producing chemicals that affect how we feel.
“The gut microbiome is the most important scientific discovery for human healthcare in recent decades,”
– James Kinross, Microbiome Scientist and Surgeon, Imperial College London*
How important is the gut microbiome?
Scientists believe the health of our gut could hold the key to tackling everything from anxiety, and obesity, to Alzheimer’s. Optimising your gut health is one of the most powerful ways to support your overall wellness and this is where your gut microbiome comes in.
Interestingly, the word biome means a distinct type of ecosystem. That is exactly what is going on inside your body. 100s of trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms exist in harmony, a bit like the tropical rainforest, a biologically diverse terrestrial ecosystem.
These microbes living in your gut is influenced by a whole host of external factors. That is why your gut microbiome is unique to you. A person will be first exposed to microorganisms as an infant, during delivery in the birth canal and how you were fed as an infant and, later where you live, your diet, and how stressed you are.
Our microbes do incredible things…
- Stimulate our immune function – a network of intricate stages and pathways in the body, which protects us against harmful microbes as well as certain diseases. Your gut houses 70% of your immune system.
- Synthesize certain vitamins and amino acids including B vitamins and vitamin K. (The key enzyme needed to form vitamin B12 can only be found in bacteria, not in plants and animals).
- Ferment indigestible fibres which produce short-chain fatty acids that can then be used to fuel the cells in your gut and absorb nutrients into the rest of the body.
- Protect our body from pathogenic organisms that enter the body such as through drinking or eating contaminated water or food.
Benefits of a healthy gut microbiome
Since the microbiome helps contribute towards your metabolism and ability to process nutrients, it is important to feed yourself a healthy diet, and avoid triggering cravings that take you off plan. High fibre foods that are beneficial for your microbiome have the bonus of being more filling so can also help you stay on plan.
Immune System Health
Did you know that 70% of your immune system resides in your gut microbiome? The Gut is your body’s first line of defence against illness and helps make sure that pathogens do not enter your bloodstream and trigger the rest of your body’s immune response.
90% of your body’s production of Serotonin, the hormone which contributes to positive moods, takes place in the gut! Bacteria in the gut also produce another neurotransmitter called GABA, which helps manage feeling like anxiety and fear. This means that a healthy gut can impact your mood and mental wellness… the expression ‘gut feelings’ and ‘trusting your gut’ could be true!
Brain/ Cognitive Health
The gut is often called the ‘second brain’, but maybe it should even be called the ‘first’ brain, as it sends twice as many signals to the brain as vice-versa, through a highway called the vagus nerve, also known as the ‘gut-brain-axis’ which affects how we feel and how we process information.
Since most of our energy comes from food, you want to have a healthy gut microbiome to efficiently process that food and give you the energy you need to perform at home, work, and your whole life.
It’s a fact
You have more bacterial cells than human cells throughout your body. These bacterial cells interact constantly with your body and what you feed it to process food, fight disease, and moderate your overall health.
Let's Get Busy!
So, improving your gut microbiomes is kind of getting gusty right? No pun intended, but we are going to give you the low down on how to improve the health of your gut…
Get whole foods, fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, and whole grains into your diet. Eat the rainbow, introduce colourful fruits and vegetables, and make sure there is variety. At The Six Pack Revolution, all of these are incorporated into our diet plans.
Avoid Processed Foods
We are a world away from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, we now live in a society that survives on takeaways and fast food for convenience. Packed full of artificial ingredients, these food choices affect the overall well-being of our gut microbiomes.
Cut down on unnatural sugars. We are not talking about the natural sugars produced in fruits. We are talking about processed white sugar that you add to your tea and coffee
The microorganisms in your gut microbiome feed on a special type of fibre called ‘Prebiotics’, which we cannot digest but bacteria in your gut use as food. It helps them to multiply and perform their normal functions like processing nutrients or delivering energy to the body. Prebiotics are typically found in things like chicory root, garlic, onions, asparagus, bran, and oats, but it can be hard to get the 5g+ that is recommended**.
These are the healthy bacteria*** that are present in yoghurts, and fermented foods like Sauerkraut and Kombucha, but can also be added to your diet through dietary supplements. Look for multiple strains of probiotics and ideally > 4 billion cultures.
Some fibres do not have a ‘prebiotic’ effect but help in moving food and waste through your digestive system and keeping you regular. A healthy diet rich in whole grains and vegetables such as the Six Pack Revolution plan is ideal, but in some cases, you may need a little extra ‘help’ and a fibre supplement can make a significant difference. According to anthropologist and “Rewild” author Jeff Leach, fibre “is the single most important ingredient for improving the diversity of the microbiome”.
Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds in fruits, vegetables, herbs, teas, and dark chocolate. They may increase healthy gut bacteria and support healthy cognition.
Other ways to improve your gut microbiome health are lifestyle changes such as reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, not smoking, getting plenty of exercise and movement, as well as spending time outdoors… all of which reduce stress which can be a major contributor to microbiome issues.
A word from The Founder
“I see so many of my Six Pack Revolution participants struggle with digestive health. We all know BALANCE is my mantra – and a balanced digestive system creates a feeling of well-being and overall happiness.
That is why it was so important to provide a pre and probiotic complex as part of my Six Nutrition range.
– Scott Harrison