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DOES ALL DISEASE START IN THE GUT?

You probably heard above statement many times if you come across article or webinar presented by natural health practitioner. “All diseases begin in the gut” is first suggested by Hippocrates, Greek doctor known as ‘father of Medicine’ over 2500 years ago.

Today many scientific research confirmed that this statement is true and that: at least 90% of all health problems and diseases today begin in the gut’.


Gut is another term for digestive system. Gut includes group of organs responsible for digestion that starts in the mouth following oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small and large intestines, and rectum. Gut health refers to the overall balance and well-being of these organs as a unit.


The length of the gut is 8.5 m long, while surface of the gut is approximately surface of the 6 double bed sheets. We need this huge surface for food to be properly digested to the microscopic size nutrients. Nutrients are absorbed by the bloodstream for delivery to every cell of the body. For this reason, digesting food can take anything between 12 and 48 hours from the moment you swallow it to the moment it ends up in the toilet.


When your gut is not functioning properly the activities of the other body systems might be compromised because digestive, immune, nervous, and endocrine systems all communicate and interact with one another. On the other hand, when gut is balanced, we experience vibrant energy, the immune system is strong, mind is sharp and our skin is glowing.


Chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, anxiety, depression, autism, autoimmune disease is all connected to our gut health. Even common complaints like fatigue, constipation, eczema, pain, are directly linked to gut inflammation and dysfunction.

This is because of dramatic changes in our way of living in last 100 of years due to technological advancements, our busier and more stressful life’s, higher exposures to environmental toxins from the air, processed foods and household cleaning products Basically, the cumulative stress of modern living takes a toll on our health, and especially on our digestive tracts.


Gut Microbiome

The most vital part of the gut is complex bacterial community known as gut microbiome.

Gut microbiome is populated with up to 1000 species of bacteria, viruses, yeast, and pathogens, commonly known as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria. There are not really good or bad bacteria, but some harmful microbial species that become dangerous once they outnumber the more beneficial ones. Gut microbiome is imbalanced when beneficial species exist in low numbers or are completely missing and opportunistic pathogens take over, what is called dysbiosis.


Research demonstrated that better diversity of the microbiome, with higher amounts of ‘good bacteria’ oppose to smaller amounts of ‘bed bacteria’ is associated with healthy gut and absence of illness.

These beneficial bacteria are easily influenced through your lifestyle, habits, and environment. Food, stress, chemical exposure, cleanliness, and where you live can all have major impacts on the microbiome. This in correlation previously mentioned, that last 100 years our gut health, actually our microbiome has been changed due to technological advances in food, technology, medicine.

Microbiota patterns vary from person to person due to different environmental conditions, such as use of medication, infections, and toxic exposure. In addition, hygiene, age, and genetics also affect the microbiome community.



When beneficial species exist in low numbers or are completely missing, opportunistic pathogens take over and can have a harmful effect on our health. Imbalanced gut microbiome can lead to multiple adverse effects on our body.

All of these microorganisms have important role in food digestion, vitamin and neurotransmitters production.


How much microorganism we have will affect our health as 70% of our immune system is produced in the gut. We rely on our gut to keep us nourished but also to keep us healthy and free of infection.

Although, we all have millions of microbial species in our gut, the precise makeup of this intestinal community differs from one person to the next. Everyone’s microbiome is 100% unique! There is no two people that have an identical microbiome - not even identical twins.


Intestinal Permeability- Leaky Gut

The mucosal lining of our intestines is only one cell thick. These cells make the gut barrier. Gut microbiome protects the gut barrier and ensures that the cell wall openings called junctions stay tight and healthy. Role of the junctions is to absorb nutrients and water from the food into the bloodstream.

Dysbiosis affects health of gut protective lining. Microbiome imbalance creates great environment for increased inflammation, which leads to gut lining becoming ‘leaky’. Compromised gut lining allows food particles and toxins to pass through the gut lining and get into the bloodstream, damaging our cells and impairing the function of our brain and other vital organs.


Digestive symptoms of Leaky Gut include:

Constipation,

Gas,

Diarrhoea,

  • Bloating

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS),

  • Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO),

  • Celiac Disease,

  • Food sensitivities,

  • Gastric Ulcers, Crohn’s disease

Every time toxins or pathogens enter the bloodstream, an immune response is triggered causing immune system dysregulation and consequently increased inflammation that often leads to the development of secondary inflammation in other parts of the body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to development of many chronic illnesses including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease…


Healthy Gut Supports Healthy Mind

There is a powerful connection between gut health and how we feel. The simplest way to understand the connection between your gut and your brain is recalling a time when you felt nervous before a presentation, an exam, or a date. You probably experienced butterflies in your stomach, nausea, stomach pain, or even diarrhoea.


Various research demonstrated that gut communicates with the brain and has a powerful influence over both, the physical condition of the brain and cognitive function. Maintaining healthy gut is vital for keeping your brain healthy and your mood happy! As mentioned in my previous article on Natural ways to reduce anxiety, we can say that gut and brain talk to each other via gut- brain access.


This communication network is maintained in two ways:

  1. Via Vagus nerve which begins in the brainstem positioned at the back of the head and travels down to the gut

  2. Through the gut microbiome.

When microbiome and gut-brain axis are disrupted, it may lead to a number of cognitive dysfunctions and mood disorders including anxiety and depression. Anxiety might be contributing to our gut issues, but there are likely gut issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that are causing and promoting anxiety as well.


Intestinal permeability and inflammation can affect mood and behaviour as inflammation could be transferred to the brain via gut-brain access. Chronic neuroinflammation is one possible cause of anxiety and depression. Neuroinflammation reduces the brain ability to activate our executive center in the brain, responsible for mood regulation and taking actions on thoughts and believes.



Symptoms of chronic neuroinflammation are:

  • Brain fog,

  • Fatigue,

  • Slow cognitive processing, and

  • Unclear thoughts.

People who experience anxiety and depression have inability to take action and get motivated to do every day simple tasks they did before. Multiple studies have demonstrated that people with depression and anxiety have different microbiota populations compared to those without the conditions.


Inflammation of the brain can have an effect on our ability to digest foods because it disrupts the communication between the gut and the brain. In addition, increased gut inflammation leads to compromised production of vitamins and reduced absorobtion of food, so we are not getting enough nutrients.


Therefore, finding the sources of imbalance in our microbiome that are fueling inflammation, can help with identifying underlying cause of anxiety. Mental health issues like anxiety needs holistic approach looking at psychological, physical, spiritual, and social imbalance in individuals affected. We cannot just look into one in isolation, we have to assess all root causes of the anxiety.

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hawkernicky1
Jul 05, 2023

I am trying to get others to understand the gut-brain axis and how they link together, from my research and reading up on the topic when I knew somethings were wrong with my system, and was not getting and assistance from the Dr I was with. She did however note down about my high anxiety levels, and told others it was all in my head. If only there was more information back then; I may have got the support and help I was seeking, and may have been able to avoid getting so stressed out, overworked, put so much pressure on myself, go through diet after diet, restrictive & distorted eating patterns; develop bad habits around these; be on the…

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Marijana Jovanovic
Marijana Jovanovic
Jul 06, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry that you had to go through all that. Unfortunately, orthodox medicine does not put many emphases on gut health, nutrition and lifestyle. On the positive note - your own experience with stress, anxiety and gut health guided you on your learning journey and helping others.

I am sure that your experience, passion and empathy are amazing attributes for a successful practitioner. If you ever want to chat about this topic that we are both passionate about, do not hesitate to contact me.

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