The gut – our largest immune organ
Our gut not only has many astonishing characteristics, but with a length of 8 metres and an internal surface of 400 square metres it is also the largest organ in the body.
One of the most important functions of the gut is to absorb nutrients from food and to pass them into the blood circulation system. 40 tonnes of food pass through our gut during our lifetime. The cells in the gut renew themselves so quickly that every day 0.25 kg of cells die off and are replaced with new ones. And many people do not know that 60% of all defence cells (white blood cells) are found in the gut-associated immune system.
Probiotics – benefitting your gut flora
The word ‘probiotic’ roughly means ‘for life’. The World Health Organization defines probiotics as living microorganisms that have a positive influence on health if they are taken in sufficient quantities. The term ‘probiotics’ was coined more than 100 years ago by the Russian Nobel prizewinner Ilja Ilyich Metschnikov (1845-1916). He observed that Bulgarian farmers consumed a large amount of dairy products that had fermented as a result of microorganisms, such as yoghurt, and this had a positive effect on their health. Probiotic microorganisms include, for example, certain lactic acid bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. In the gut, probiotics are part of the gut flora.
Prebiotics – nutrition for the gut flora
Prebiotics are food components which cannot be digested by humans and which produce a targeted stimulation of the growth and/or activity of certain types of bacteria in the gut. They are, so to speak, nutrition for the gut flora. One important member of the group of prebiotics is inulin. It is a naturally occurring substance which is extracted from chicory, for example.
Micronutrients & co. – small but significant
Vitamins and trace elements
Vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, copper, folic acid (folate), vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 contribute to normal functioning of the immune system (including the gut-associated immune system). Vitamin A, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), biotin and niacin contribute to maintaining the normal mucous membranes (e.g. the intestinal mucous membrane). Vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), zinc, selenium, copper and manganese contribute to the protection of the cells against oxidative stress.
Phytonutrients Many phytonutrients are responsible for the diversity of colours in fruit and vegetables. These include, for example, carotenoids oder bioflavonoids, which are found in sources such as yellow peppers, orange carrots or red grapes. Depending on the type of phytonutrients, these have very different positive effects on the human organism.
Everyday tips to keep your gut healthy
Get regular exercise! A lack of exercise makes the gut sluggish and slow-moving. Sports such as jogging and aerobics – and even regular walks, etc. – ensure that slow-moving intestines get into training and help to restore their effectiveness.
Take time out for yourself! Too much rushing around invariably means too little time for regular meals and visits to the toilet. This kind of behaviour will not agree with your gut in the long term. For this reason, be sure to plan your mealtimes and visits to the toilet into your daytime routine. Take time to enjoy your meals. Ideally, you should eat several small meals, in peace and without any distractions.
Plan in some time for relaxation as well, for example using relaxation techniques such as autogenic training, and make sure that you get enough sleep.