The human gastrointestinal tract (GI) is an essential part of the body. Within this complex system exists approximately 100 trillion bacteria, 300-500 bacterial species, and 2 million genes. Collectively the bacteria that resides in the GI is known as microbiota, It may seem contradictory, but microbiota has an integral role when it comes to the importance of gut health.
At birth, the intestinal tract is completely sterile. It becomes populated with bacteria through maternal feeding and environmental factors. The intestinal microbiota found in a newborn GI tract are proteobacteria and actinobacteria. The presence of these bacteria is influenced by factors such as gestational age, natural vs. c-section birth, and exposure to antibiotics.
By the time a person is 2.5 years old, the composition of the microbiota present in the gut wall resembles that of adult bacteria (firmicutes and bacteroidetes). It’s estimated around 60 tons (equivalent to 120,000 lbs) of food passes through the GI tract during the average lifetime.
Despite the complex ecosystem of the GI tract, it maintains a constant environment until the later stages of life. This is often the result of physiological and dietary changes. In addition to age, there are other factors that influence an individual’s gastrointestinal health.
Out of these factors, diet has been shown to have a significant impact on GI microbiota and overall gut health. For example, studies have shown fiber and foods high in resistant starch or in non-starch polysaccharide fiber, leads to an environment that is strong and promotes the production of different bacteria in the human gut.
The idea of bacteria being beneficial to the human body may seem contradictory, but there are many crucial health benefits.
Due to certain receptors at the epithelial level, the body is able to determine good microbiota bacteria from harmful pathogens. A good example of this would be E. coli and the physiological effects that result from an increased presence in the digestive system.
Chemical and physiological changes within the GI tract can lead to various digestive disorders. Inflammatory diseases and infections that occur in the digestive system are often the result of altered bacterial composition. This change is known as dysbiosis. Dysbiosis can then lead to several different gastrointestinal disorders, including the following.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS)
SImilar to improving your physical health, improving your GI health requires you to create and maintain healthy eating habits. Studies have shown that diets containing a proportional balance of fruit and vegetables and low in meat contain lead to diverse microbiota. The following are some foods that are healthy and will help you create better digestive health.
Related Article: Healthy Eating Habits
Foods Rich In Fiber: helps to provide energy, nutrients, and vitamins to microbes which help maintain gut balance.
Fermented Foods: creates a protective lining in the intestines, which shield it from pathogenic invaders such as salmonella and E.Coli.