Therapists talk a lot about balance, but what exactly do we mean – especially in relation to the gut?
Balance, out of a clinical setting, means different things to different individuals – your interpretation of balance may look a million miles away from your partners etc
So why is it important?
Our bodies and functions are very tightly regulated by numerous control mechanisms to ensure that our functions remain within specific parameters. These parameters can be heavily influenced by diet and lifestyle and once we create an imbalance, there can be many knock on effects – considering we are a web of interconnections.
Imbalance in the microbiota
Within the human intestines lies a complex community of up to 10,000 bacteria. Some are permanent residents and some just transit through resulting from foods or supplements.
The microbial community is active in numerous roles including:
The gut microbiota can make various vitamins, particularly vitamin K which is crucial for regulated blood clotting and bone health and certain B vitamins.
The microbiota has the ability to modify the structure and properties of bile acids – which help digestion and absorption.
Gut microbiota metabolise polyphenols from fruit and vegetables prior to absorption
Research suggests the gut microbiota is significantly involved in the development of diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease, to certain cancers, to diabetes and obesity and can influence gene transcription.
The intestinal barrier
A single layer of cells forms the actual barrier between the contents of our intestines and the inner layers of the gastrointestinal tract.
The mucosa (the innermost layer) connects directly with digested food and consists of 3 layers including the epithelium lining. The integrity of this lining is protected by the mucosa and is crucial in maintaining the regulation of immune cells that lie beneath (approximately 70% of your immune system is located in the gut).
Sustained compromised barrier function, sometimes referred to as leaky gut, can lead to intestinal inflammation, excessive invasion of antigens and immune activity and has been associated with numerous health conditions including IBS, IBD, SIBO, Allergies, Arthritis, Chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson disease and Autoimmune conditions.
The intestinal microbiota has demonstrated a role as a critical moderator of epithelial-immune cell communication with the epithelium acting as a translator between the microbiota and the immune system.
Barrier integrity in the intestines is a reflection of the health of the gut and of the community of bacteria that inhabit it, with studies implying that probiotic supplementation can improve mucosal barrier function and support overall health.
Is your microbiota in balance?
Functional testing allows up to map the community of bacteria in an individuals gut and also examines function through specific markers of digestive activity.
By providing a comprehensive view of the overall health of the gastrointestinal tract and offering valuable insights into GI imbalances, stool testing can influence the identification and support the addressing of root cause imbalances and quantify specific, targeted interventions.
Bron, Kleerebezem, Brummer. et al. ‘Can probiotics modulate human disease by impacting intestinal barrier function?’. British Journal of Nutrition (2017): 117, pp.93-107.
Martini, Krug, Siegmund. et al. ‘Mend your fences: the epithelial barrier and its relationship with mucosal immunity in inflammatory bowel disease’. Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology (2017): 4 (1), pp.33-46.
Rowland, Gibson, Heinken. et al. ‘Gut microbiota functions: metabolism of nutrients and other food components’. European Journal of Nutrition (2018): 57 (1): pp.1-24.