How Can You Be Proactive About Your Bowel Health?Digestive Health
By Joy Stephenson-Laws and the pH Healthcare Professionals
A healthy gut is critical for your overall health, energy levels, fighting off diseases, properly absorbing healthy nutrients and eliminating toxins. The average small intestine length ranges from 9 to 15 feet, the large bowel is about 5 feet. Both parts of the intestinal tract have large surface contact with the outside world, much greater than the skin or the lung surfaces. So as you can imagine, taking care of your gut is extremely important.
You may experience symptoms like bloating, unspecified minor pains, nausea, diarrhea, increased flatulence, constipation and possible food intolerances if you have poor bowel health.
So how can we actually check our bowel health?
Typical bowel testing includes various x-rays with or without contrast material, CT scans, MRI, ultrasound, stool microbial and parasite testing, upper gastrointestinal endoscopy (gastroscopy, duodenoscopy) and lower intestinal tract endoscopy (colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy).
Recent developments in bowel health testing
Rapidly expanding research and wide availability of probiotics have triggered research for chemical markers to identify early bowel disease. We learned probiotics alone may not be sufficient to heal bowels. Bowels also need other nutritional environments in order to foster growth of beneficial bacteria while inhibiting other harmful bacteria or fungus growth. Recently, we wrote about the need for prebiotics in order to provide a more favorable intestinal environment for beneficial probiotics to grow.
There are tests now that may identify when conditions in your bowels start to become abnormal and cause clinical symptoms and diseases down the road. A specialized GI test not only provides insight into the bacteria, or gut flora, of your digestive system, but identifies parasites, assesses levels of digestive and absorptive functions as well as potential issues with gut inflammation and immunology.
What are the focus areas of these newer intestinal health tests?
- Infection: Identity of harmful bacteria and parasites is critical to evaluate bowel health. Pathogenic types e.g. Campylobacter, Clostridia, certain toxins containing E. Coli, Shigella, Salmonella, H pylori or parasitic infections such as giardiasis, amoeba, pin or tape worms may be detected.
- Inflammation: Markers may indicate gut inflammation. The presence of white blood cells and possibly bacterial or viral infection (defenders in bacterial inflammation), immune system and allergic markers (as a response to food allergens, or other environmental toxins) are all evidence of inflammation.
- Microbial diversity: This gives a better understanding about a variety of beneficial bacteria and their distribution in the intestine. Generally, more diverse and evenly spread beneficial bacteria are most desirable for optimal health. This has special importance for antibiotic users. Antibiotics deplete normal flora like Bifidus and Lactobacillus bacteria. Abnormal types and distributions of gut bacteria are associated with numerous diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, general body inflammation markers, alteration of the immune system, metabolic disorders, body weight and fat distribution, insulin sensitivity and type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel disease, autism and numerous acute and chronic disorders.
- Digestion and Absorption: If bowel wall integrity has inflammation or other damages, this can lead to increased permeability “leaky gut” syndrome, which causes loss of absorption of important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids. In addition, harmful agents may increasingly cross the intestinal wall barrier.
Be proactive, and check your gut health before you get sick. Knowledge is power!
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.