Go with your gut

Lorna Lawless

Gut health, the words increasingly thrown around on blogs, medical journals and in the food industry. If we have good gut health it can have positive effects on our entire body from psychological to physical health.

Having a strong healthy gut helps to build a stronger immune system. The health of your gastrointestinal system is extremely important to your overall well-being. It has the ability to affect your body’s vitamin and mineral absorbency, hormone regulation, digestion, vitamin production, immune response and even more importantly your overall mental health. Sometimes the gut is referred to as the “second brain” by medical professionals due to the evidence of the connection between gut health and brain health.

The human microbiota consists of a wide variety of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other single-celled organisms that live in the body. The microbiome is the name given to all the cells insides these microbial cells, in other words, the name given to the combined genetic material in a particular area of the body. Every human has between 10-100 trillion of these cells in their body. Our microbiome is influenced by factors from birth which then change throughout our lives. Some suggest that modern lifestyles deplete or reduce the diversity of our gut cells for example antibiotics designed to kill specific bacteria could potentially kill good ones too.

Now that we have the background lets discuss the gut microbiota, which Dr. Rodney Berg, of Louisiana State University Microbiology and immunology department stated that, this gut microbiota can have “profound effects on the anatomical, physiological and immunological development of the host”. This gut microbiota contains over 3 million genes, making it 150 times more genetically varied than the human body according to a report done by ‘Medical News Today’. It also added that gut microbiota of each person is totally unique. It can contribute to how an individual digests food, fights disease and even their mood and psychological processes. As well as absorbing energy from food, gut microbes are essential for us to take in nutrients.

There is strong evidence to show that the gut could be keeping you awake at night. Dr Michael Breus a clinical psychologist of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine agreed that this could be a major possibility. “There is no question in my mind that gut health is linked to sleep health, although we do not have the studies to prove it yet. Scientists investigating the relationship between sleep and sleep-related physiological functions in a number of different ways: shifting circadian rhythms, altering the body’s sleep-wake cycle, affecting hormone that regulate sleep and awakeness.” Dr.Breus suggest taking probiotics (a live bacteria) because there is a study published in Frontier of Behavioural Neuroscience that suggests that this could have a significant effect on quality of non-REM and REM sleep (rapid eye movement i.e deep sleep).

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London also believes gut health is related to our moods. The professor stated to the Guardian that “We know that people who live with depression and people who sleep poorly both have abnormal microbes in the gut, which would suggest there is a very real connection between all three.” “If we can also look after the gut, this may have an impact on both sleep disturbances and mood disorders.”

Now how can we improve our gut health? Within the Irish industry, gut health medicine is a relatively new phenomenon. The consumption of probiotics taken daily in order to promote gut health but also to improve IBS symptoms has changed the game for many people.  A new product called Symprove has been advertised through online influencers but also many medical professionals in Ireland. According to their website, Symprove is a unique, liquid formulation containing four strains of live and activated bacteria which are delivered to the gut to support the microbiome. The 4 strains of naturally occurring bacteria are grown on an extract of germinated barley. Due to Symprove’s water-based formula, the stomach doesn’t recognise it as food and this means the bacteria passes straight through without activating digestion and therefore reaches the targeted areas of your gut alive and ready to thrive.

An independent study at UCL London shows that Symprove is clearly able to survive, thrive and colonise in the gut better than other products tested. Symprove is also gluten and dairy free. It comes in two flavours Original and Mango and Passion Fruit. It’s recommended to do a 12-week programme, then you should feel the results. It is available to buy 12 weeks from their website for approximately €180 or Meagher’s Pharmacy do a deal on their website.

Alflorex is the second probiotic Irish pharmacists recommend to improve Gut health. Alflorex is the only product in Ireland that contains the unique 35624 culture. It was voted winner of best gastrointestinal product for 3 years in a row at the Irish Pharmacy OTC Awards. The naturally occurring bacteria used in this product is one of the same bacteria’s passed by mothers to their babies at birth. This product also is globally recognised gold standard in scientific research. It’s a go-to for individuals suffering from IBS or any constant stomach upset. Alflorex comes in capsules you take with water. Alflorex can be bought in most pharmacies for approximately €29.95.

Research into gut health is still developing but it’s clear from studies already there, it is essential to look after your digestive system. If you want to improve your digestive system with food alone, focus on fibres and greens to improve its health naturally. Avoid processed foods where possible and just become more aware of what you are putting into your body because it affects you physically but also can have a massive psychological effect.


Lorna Lawless

Image Credit: Symprove.com