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Take Care of your Gut

Updated: Mar 3

For those of you who know me, you already know how passionate I am about the microbiota. The new training course I just completed on the subject has confirmed to me its importance from a health perspective. So obviously, I can't resist sharing some basic notions with you to help you better understand why it's important and how you can take care of it. After some definitions and explanations (I promise I'll try not to bore you too much with my biochemistry 😜), I'll reveal all my practical tips.



What is microbiota ?


The microbiota, also called the microbial flora or microbiome, refers to all microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.) present in a specific environment. There are several microbiotas in the body: skin, lungs, vagina, intestines, stomach, mouth. Here, I will talk to you about the one in the intestine because, indeed, it is the one that has the most impact on our health.

 

So, where exactly is this intestinal microbiota located? Here's a little explanatory diagram I created for you.



 

As you can see, the microbiota is literally in our intestines (here i am gonna talk about the one in your colon). It is in contact with a layer of mucus, produced by mucus cells, which are located among the cells forming the intestinal membrane. Its main role is to prevent pathogens and other not-so-nice molecules (endotoxins, poorly digested nutrients, etc.) from reaching the intestinal membrane. The microbiota helps maintain this mucus layer, notably thanks to bacteria called "mucus producers," which "help in the production of mucus through various mechanisms (which I'll spare you here)." And the thicker this mucus layer is, the better it is for your health. Next, we have the cell membrane, which forms a kind of "skin" that separates the inside from the outside of your intestine. And finally, outside the intestine are immune cells.


What is leaky gut syndrome?


The cells of the intestine are linked together by what are called tight junctions. It's a bit like the zipper on a pair of pants. They allow small molecules useful for metabolism (amino acids, fatty acids, glucose, etc.) to pass into the blood and block large molecules (poorly digested nutrients, endotoxins, pathogens, etc.). And all this forms what is called the "intestinal barrier." On the other side of this barrier are our immune cells: in case a villain manages to pass through our barrier, they are on the lookout, ready to neutralize it. The body is so well made!

 

Well, that's the theory. But in practice, and especially with the current lifestyle (stress, shift work, lack of sleep, industrial food, medications, additives and preservatives, etc.), our defense system is a bit weak. Indeed, the microbiota becomes impoverished, the mucus layer thins, the junction proteins no longer fulfill their role, thus leaving the door open to the passage of not-so-nice molecules. The immune system reacts (or overreacts), creating inflammation. That's what we call intestinal hyperpermeability or leaky gut syndrome. And that's just the beginning! Because this intestinal hyperpermeability is one of the causes of metabolic disorders (type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome,...), food intolerances, autoimmune diseases, endotoxemia, dysbiosis, irritable bowel syndrome, SIBO... I'm just giving you an exhaustive list of the festivities because it's long. Anyway, you've understood, this ecosystem is essential to your health.




What is dysbiosis ?


Dysbiosis is the result of an imbalance of the species that make up the microbiota. This can be because:

 

  • You have few different bacteria and/or few bacteria in number for each group of -bacteria.

  • You have an excess of certain bacteria that prevents others from being present in your intestine.

  • You lack dominant species such as lactobacillus or bifidobacteria, which are probiotics.

  • You have a strong presence of pathogenic or inflammatory bacteria and/or a decrease in anti-inflammatory or protective bacteria.


 

Okay, that's all well and good, but what do we do?



1/ Put prebiotics on the plate

A prebiotic is food for our good bacteria 🥗 and will therefore have a beneficial effect on our health. To know:

 


Fiber: eat vegetables!!! (a little subliminal message to my dad 😜), You also find them in fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. There are some super fibers like inulin (chicory), FOS/XOS GOS/MOX (asparagus, leek, artichoke, psyllium, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion, salsify, lima beans, green banana, lentils...) β-glucans (oats and barley) and resistant starches (cooked starches eaten cold) that are known to have a very beneficial action on the good bacteria of the microbiota. Be careful if you suffer from FODMAP sensitivity, some of these fibers can increase your bloating.



Omega-3: and yes, they are not only anti-inflammatory. Their prebiotic claim is now scientifically validated. They are found in small fatty fish in a form that is directly available and protected from oxidation by the fish matrix. And in flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, rapeseed oil, flaxseed, camelina, and walnuts, in the form of a precursor (alpha-linolenic acid). They influence the composition of the microbiota, increase the production of short-chain fatty acids (see next paragraph), and interact with immune cells to protect the intestinal barrier. Finally, they would even have a role in the famous gut-brain communication.



Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs): acetate, propionate, butyrate. They are produced by the fermentation of fibers and certain amino acids by bacteria. So the more fiber you eat, the more you increase your production of SCFAs 🤗. You can also find "MCT oil" in organic stores. It is an oil that comes from coconut oil where only SCFAs have been isolated. No need to empty the bottle... an excess of SCFAs is deleterious. Again, it's all about balance 🙂🙃. The microbiota likes particularly the butyrate, but the others also bring benefits. Studies recognize their beneficial effects on intestinal health in general:

  • Anti-inflammatory action,

  • Health of the mucus layer,

  • Protection against cancer, distal ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease.

  • They also have interesting effects in metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and obesity because they decrease appetite (by stimulating GLP1 and Peptide YY), help control blood sugar, and improve insulin sensitivity.



Polyphenols: antioxidants but not only! Especially resveratrol, quercetin, and anthocyanins. So where do we find these?


Resveratrol: Unfortunately in very small quantities in food.

Japanese knotweed, red grapes, red wine (easy on the bottle 😜), cocoa and dark chocolate > 70%, blueberries, berries and pomegranate.


Quercetin: red onion, red apple, broccoli, tea, garlic, red and purple berries, black grape, dill and green beans.


Anthocyanins: red-purple-black fruits and vegetables (keep the skin to eat them), purple sweet potatoes.


2/ Seed ourselves with Probiotics


A probiotic is a living microorganism that, when ingested in sufficient quantities, has a beneficial effect on health. Those in supplements are mainly of the lactobacillus and bifidobacteria genus. But they are also found in food: whole yogurts, kefir, kombucha, fermented products (vegetables, tofu, miso, sauerkraut...).


3/ But also
  • Chew and eat slowly.

  • Use spices: prefer turmeric, ginger, parsley, cinnamon, garlic, and onion (garlic and onion are not recommended if you have a FODMAP sensitivity).

  • Choose organic products: avoid any artificial additives and preservatives, as well as added sugars.

  • Avoid all sweeteners.

  • Sleep between 7 and 8 hours per night.

  • Practice physical activity regularly.

  • Have meals at fixed times.

  • Smoking and drinking alcohol destroy the microbiota, cause dysbiosis, inflammation, and disrupt immunity.

  • Avoid industrial foods as much as possible.

  • Keep a close eye on your vitamin D level.



 

 

 

 I can already hear you saying, "Why bother? Just take probiotics as a supplement, or even better, a symbiotic." A symbiotic is a combination of probiotics and specific or nonspecific prebiotics. Parenthetically, I respond: if it were that simple, what am I doing here?!? 😳

 

Firstly, a probiotic, or symbiotic for that matter, generally contains dead bacteria. And even if they were live bacteria (which is the case in probiotic supplements that must be refrigerated), the capsule must still be gastro-resistant for the bacteria to arrive alive in your colon... There is nothing more effective than bringing in good, live bacteria daily through your diet.

 

Secondly, if you want your good bacteria to stay and thrive in your colon, well, you need to feed them properly 🤷‍♀️. And that's your diet!

 

Thirdly, taking probiotics may not necessarily be the appropriate treatment for you at the moment. For example, if you have a lot of bloating, taking probiotics can sometimes increase the symptoms. Also, in some cases, you will need to cleanse the intestines before reseeding them.

 

Finally, different strains of bacteria have more or less specific functions. So depending on your symptoms, you will need to favor certain strains over others. I also think that the current challenge would be to create a patient-specific prebiotic.


Know that you can have an analysis of your microbiota composition done in some specialized laboratories. These tests are a goldmine of information for us therapists 🤩.



Extract from the Bacterial Functional Gut Test (BFGT) report carried out by the Intus laboratory.


 

Well, you have all the keys to cultivate your garden 🦠.



 

Sources :

International journal of molecular sciences, Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on the Gut Microbiota. Lara Costantini, Romina Molinari , Barbara Farinon and Nicolò Merendino. 31 October 2017; Accepted: 1 December 2017; Published: 7 December 2017.


J. Appl Microbiol, Fermentation of prebiotics by human colonic microbiota in vitro and short chain fatty acids production: a critical review. T.J Ashaolu, J.O Ashaolu and A.A.O Adeyeye. Mars 2021.


Formation Le microbiote et son écosystème : les incontournables de la santé. Véronique Liesse. 2024.

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