The Ecosystem in your Gut
You probably don’t think about it in your daily life, but you have an incredibly advanced ecosystem in your intestine. It helps you digest your food, absorb nutrients and keep illnesses away. The immune system, the digestive function and the intestinal micro-flora form the basis of a well-functioning ecosystem. The foods passage through the different sections of the digestive system is intricately choreographed in a system, where all details are attuned and follow a predetermined pattern, which secures an optimal nutrient absorption and living conditions for the micro-flora. And when the micro-flora has optimal conditions, so does our immune system. A well-functioning ecosystem in the intestine is essential for our quality of life and our survival. A modern way of life can take its toll on the ecosystem, and that may lead to an unfavorable
unbalance. But luckily there is a lot that you can do to take care of your ecosystem and make sure it is in balance. And it is essential to maintain the balance in the micro-flora, so take good care of it!
How does the system absorb nutrients?
The main part of the nutrient uptake takes place in the small intestine. The small intestine has a collective surface area of 300 square meters, and is rippled and covered by villi. When food reaches the small intestine, the digestive enzymes have split the food into the smallest possible components, which are now ready to be absorbed. The intestinal mucosa only allows special “carrier proteins” to pass through. These proteins bind themselves to the nutrients in the intestine, and carry them through the intestinal wall. This mechanism prevents potentially harmful substances from being absorbed. This fine balance can be disrupted in different ways, e.g. by harmful substances mimicking harmless substances, and hypersensitivities as celiac disease and lactose intolerance can make the intestinal wall thin and penetrable. Fungal infections such as an overgrowth of Candida or a large consumption of alcohol or chili can cause microscopic penetrations in the intestinal wall, and these allow harmful substances, pathogenic bacteria and undigested food particles to enter the system, which causes an inflammatory reaction. This usually has vast consequences for the body.
The role of the microorganisms in the nutrition
Not all carbohydrates can be used by the intestine. A large part of the carbohydrates in vegetables consists of plant fibers, which are difficult to digest and therefore they are undigested when they reach the small intestine. Lactic acid bacteria on the other hand, thrive on plant fibers, which they convert to organic acids that benefit the intestine.
Depending on the species, the lactic acid bacteria also produce B-vitamin, K-vitamin, substances, which are toxic to pathogens, and a wide variety of beneficial substances.
This way a healthy intestinal flora helps to ensure a far more efficient use of the food, than the body is capable of doing on its own.
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