Rob Corney is head researcher at biochemical diagnostic testing services company Gore BioScience. He is based in Leicester, Leicestershire.
You are what you eat. It’s an old saying, but it’s never been more relevant thanks to our growing understanding of how the health of your digestive system impacts so many facets of your life, ranging from a very fundamental sense of health and well-being right up to maximising training performance and positive body-composition changes.
If you’re someone who wants to get bigger or stronger or leaner then food for you is far more than something you eat for pleasure. You also eat for performance, which makes food equatable to fuel. And to take the analogy further, if you fill up a car with fuel it can’t efficiently burn, then at worst you won’t perform optimally. At worst, you’ll ruin the engine and the car breaks down.
Good and bad inflammation
If gut health is not optimal then inflammation can occur. Inflammation manifests in two forms: acute inflammation – which is natural and essential for adaptation and defending, repairing, healing and fighting – and chronic inflammation, which causes long-term damage, disease and illness. Inflammation has been deemed the root cause of all chronic illness and disease. This can include gastrointestinal disease, cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, allergies and sensitivities, pulmonary diseases and neurological diseases.
Inflammation can occur due to the immune system being triggered from a specific response. There are two branches to the immune system, which includes the innate (or first response) and the adaptive (or secondary response). The main role of the innate system is to eliminate non-specific foreign substances, while the adaptive immune system will be specific to the foreign substance and, if it has not encountered it before, it will build an immune memory. Inflammation is apparent in relation to gut health with the poor functioning of the gastrointestinal system.
Leaky gut syndrome
Firstly, it is key to ensure appropriate chewing so that smaller food pieces can be enzymatically broken down in the next stages of the digestive system. If there are an insubstantial levels of enzymes and/or hydrochloric acid then foods cannot be digested, which can cause diarrhea in the short term the degradation of the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract over the long run.
Once this happens then further inflammation of the gastrointestinal lining can occur, which can cause tight junctions in the intestines to separate. This results in ‘leaky gut’ where foods can enter the bloodstream and are treated as foreign invaders, thus increasing the immunological and inflammatory response.
The symptoms can be a on a very wide spectrum of complaints, from not seeing any positive body-composition changes all the way to poor digestion and nutrient absorption, serious pain and discomfort, lack of appetite and fatigue, and many other debilitating conditions. A vicious cycle is then created and food sensitivities can develop, because even food sources that have been appropriately digested can now leave the digestive system and enter the bloodstream.
Another important consideration when wanting to improve gut health are the bacteria, yeast or parasites that are found in the digestive tract. This area is still not fully understood but the research currently available shows a disruptive bacterial balance can lead to cardiovascular disease and obesity. In the short term it can result in excess gas, weakened immune system, and poor digestion along with nutritional deficiencies. Commonly, antibiotics can be one of the main causes of a disrupted bacterial balance. The best way to assess this is a stool test.
In summary, inflammation can occur in many forms and it is important that we first look to the foods that we consume on a daily basis and their reaction to the immune system when entering the blood stream.
Furthermore, bacterial balance is key and if not optimal can cause problems with nutrient deficiencies along with many other debilitating conditions. The best way to analyse this is through a food sensitivity test.