An unhealthy diet, environmental pollution, increased stress, infections and the intake of antibiotics can throw the intestinal flora off balance. More and more people are realising that the intestine is much more than "just" a digestive organ and want to support it positively. Find out how you can actively promote your intestinal flora and how it can even act as a protective shield against the Covid-19 virus.
What are the functions of the intestine?
In adults, the intestine is an approximately eight-metre-long digestive tract and also represents the largest contact surface with the outside world. Everything we eat - be it liquid or solid, healthy or unhealthy - passes through the oral cavity and the oesophagus into the stomach, and finally into the intestine. It is in the intestine that the decision is made as to whether the food components are absorbed and further processed or excreted. In addition, important messenger substances such as serotonin, dopamine and melatonin are produced in the intestine itself, depending on the composition of our intestinal flora.
What leads to a disturbed intestinal flora and how can I detect it?
We often only appreciate a healthy intestine when this digestive tract causes us problems and we have to struggle with a bloated belly, gastrointestinal problems such as constipation or diarrhoea, being overweight or with frequent infections. Many diseases such as autoimmune diseases, poor skin condition, respiratory problems, concentration difficulties, insomnia, fertility problems, joint and muscle pain, and many other non-specific complaints can indicate a disturbed intestinal flora.
Intestinal flora is a community of up to 100 trillion microorganisms that shape the internal environment in the intestine. The diverse tasks of these microorganisms are elementary for our health. Their balance is of great importance.
Intestinal flora and immune system
The intestine is of enormous importance for the entire immune system. Today we know that 70 % of all the body's defence cells (lymphocytes) are located in the intestine. The main task of the lymphocytes is to recognise and eliminate enemies such as viruses and bacteria - for example, by producing antibodies. Antibodies are central components of the immune system because they mark viruses, bacteria and other enemies as dangerous. In addition, the lymphocytes release messenger substances (cytokines) when needed and thus also call other immune cells into action to protect the body from disease.
If the intestinal flora is disturbed, harmful bacteria and pathogens can enter the intestine unhindered and disturb the balance. The immune system and good bacteria are therefore in constant exchange to maintain the defence. In the case of a bacterial imbalance, there is a miscolonisation (dysbiosis) and the intestinal mucosa can become more permeable, so that inflammations can spread more easily and weaken the body.
Unfavourable eating habits, such as the intake of too many saturated fatty acids, too much sugar, but also antibiotics, are decisive for the development of dysbiosis.
The composition of the intestinal bacteria is different for each person and changes in the course of life due to lifestyle and environmental influences.
The microbiome (composition of microorganisms in the intestine) and its function are becoming increasingly important in research, so that scientists are gaining more and more knowledge in this field. Although many areas are still unexplored, we already know that the composition of microorganisms in the gut can be influenced.
Influencing factors include age, gender, genetic predisposition and most importantly, diet! With a balanced diet and the selection of the "right" foods, you yourself can make a contribution and influence which intestinal bacteria colonise your intestine. More on this later.
Protective shield against corona
Recent findings have shown that the condition of the intestine at the time of an infection with Covid-19 apparently has a significant influence on whether, for example, the disease breaks out or how severe it is. Dysbiosis (poor colonisation of the intestine) can make the intestinal mucosa permeable. For this reason, viruses could also enter the body through the otherwise impermeable intestinal wall and worsen the infection, according to microbiologist Heenam Stanley Kim from Korea University in Seoul. This is supported by an observation from industrialised countries, where inhabitants often eat a low-fibre diet and comparatively often had a severe Covid-19 disease progression. With a healthy intestinal flora, the corona virus apparently cannot penetrate the intestinal mucosa.
What can I do for a healthy intestine?
During a stay at Lanserhof, the promotion of intestinal health plays a decisive role. Because the aim of the Lanserhof cure is to build up a strong intestinal flora in order to stay healthy and vital for a long time. In ordert o achieve this, nutrition is the "be-all and end-all", because our bacteria feed on what we give them through our diet. Therefore, here are a few more hints and tips on how you can positively support your intestinal health in everyday life:
- Chew thoroughly and take your time when eating! This makes it easier for your intestines to absorb the food.
- Drink alcohol, coffee and black tea only in moderation.
- Avoid unnecessary stress and make sure you have regular, conscious rest periods.
- Eat at regular times and pay attention to your feeling of hunger.
- Avoid drinking too much liquid while eating.
- Make sure you drink enough fluids during the day, preferably still water or unsweetened teas.
- Consume mainly unprocessed foods, such as fruit and vegetables.
- Avoid convenience foods. Our bodies often cannot cope with the additives they contain, and discomfort can occur.
- Avoid high-fat and high-sugar foods.
- Eat enough fibre-rich, whole foods such as whole grains, oatmeal and flaxseed.
- Make sure you get enough exercise.
- Take probiotics, prebiotics and resistant starch. These are found in certain foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, cooled potatoes as well as supplements.