What you need to know:
- A new craze is cropping up online about the gut’s health and lately, content creators on TikTok and YouTube are amassing a huge following by sharing insights about what Enders classified as the ‘most underrated organ’.
- Some of the people who share such content may not be professionals, which is why before taking in anything they say, speaking to a nutritionist or medical doctor will help in vindicating their posts.
In 2014, a German medical doctor and author, Giulia Enders, published a book titled –Gut; Inside Story of World’s Most Underrated Organ. It was received quite well and has so far been translated to about 30 languages. While the humour in it is unmatched, the lessons therein about the gut are memorable and important.
Years later, there seems to be a twist to that. The gut is not sold short. A new craze is cropping up online about the gut’s health and lately, content creators on TikTok and YouTube are amassing a huge following by sharing insights about what Enders classified as the ‘most underrated organ’.
Some of the people who share such content may not be professionals, which is why before taking in anything they say, speaking to a nutritionist or medical doctor will help in vindicating their posts.
Healthy Nation spoke to Abigael Kabui, a nutritionist passionate about the gut’s health, to help in elucidating all these fuss about the gut. “Your gut is your second brain,” she says.
Rightfully so as a reviewed article published in science based publication, WebMD, shows that the name given to this second brain is ‘enteric nervous system (ENS)’. Another article published on the Harvard University website shows that the brain communicates directly with the gut system –elaborating that when someone falls sick because of a certain food, they will try to avoid the place where they got it from.
“If your gut is not okay, you are generally not happy. Also, did you know that serotonin, a happy hormone, works in the brain yet it is produced in the gut?” Poses Abigael.
She explains that gut health is the overall well-being and proper functioning of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the stomach, small intestine, large intestine and colon. For it to be healthy, it is influenced by complex interactions between the microbiota (the community of microorganisms living in the gut), the gut lining, the immune system, and various factors such as diet, lifestyle and stress.
“When the gut is healthy, it maintains a balance of beneficial bacteria, supports the proper digestion and absorption of nutrients and helps defend against harmful pathogens. A healthy gut also contributes to overall well-being as it has been linked to various aspects of health, including mental health, immune function and even chronic disease prevention,” she explains.
Abigael notes that for a gut to be healthy, it should have a balance of bacteria in a ratio of 85:15, the good, trumping the bad. But, in our daily lives, we disrupt the functioning of the gut, which destroys the good bacteria. However, there is a solution and it is found in probiotics.
“A probiotic is a live microorganism, typically bacteria or yeasts, that when consumed in adequate amounts confers health benefits on the host. These beneficial microorganisms can colonise the gut and interact with the existing gut microbiota, promoting a healthy microbial balance,” she explains.
Some of the foods that contain probiotics are yoghurt, buttermilk, apple cider vinegar and some types of cheese.
Abigael, like Giulia Enders, is on a mission to preach the gospel of the gut and how to maintain it. After her studies, she came up with a food probiotic called Sauerkraut that is still in the process of review by relevant authorities in the country. It is a portmanteau of two German words, sauer, which means sour and kaut —cabbage. According to an article published in the New York Times, this food probiotic originated from China during the building of the Great Wall.
The masons lived on cabbage and rice. They used wine made from rice as a preservative to ferment the cabbage during winter, which forms the present day Sauerkraut. “This is cabbage fermented under certain temperatures in a certain environment for a number of days. When all conditions are in place, the product has lactobacillus bacteria with a number of strains, which is the good bacteria that we are looking for,” she explains.
She says people should not just use probiotics in their gut because they want to, advising that seeing a nutritionist is ideal.
“It is first important to note that you need to first eliminate what is causing your gut issues. This is where our nutrition knowledge also comes in line. After eliminating, you can now introduce the probiotics into your diet,” she says
Apart from ensuring there is a balance between the good and bad bacteria, Abigael explains that using probiotics helps in easing digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhoea.
“Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, leading to issues such as antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. Taking probiotics during and after antibiotic treatment may help restore the natural gut microbiota and reduce the risk of such complications.”
She advises that to check the right probiotic, you have to ensure that the bacteria strain is present in it.She advises that apart from getting probiotics to improve your gut health, there are other alternatives that you may explore.
“A nutrient-rich and balanced diet is crucial for promoting gut health. Consuming a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats provides essential nutrients and fiber that support a healthy gut microbiota.”
“Engaging in regular physical activity has been linked to improved gut health. Exercise can help stimulate gut motility and promote a diverse gut microbiota. Chronic stress can negatively impact gut health by altering gut motility, increasing inflammation and disrupting the gut microbiota,” she adds.
Abigael says incorporating stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga or engaging in hobbies can help reduce stress and promote a healthy gut. She also notes that sleep deprivation can affect the gut microbiota, increase inflammation and impact digestion.