In the beginning was the intestine. From a developmental point of view, the human organism evolved from the digestive tract. As the oldest system of organs, our digestive system is also the basis of our health and well-being. One essential part of keeping your gut feeling good is a sufficient supply of the right micronutrients. The intestine’s role is to absorb vital nutrients, not just for the rest of the body, but for itself as well. Feeding your gut the right nutrients is important for intestinal health. But what does our gut need to be happy? Read up on our top five nutrients for a naturally healthy gut.
1. Intestinal mucosa: be good to your gut with these supplements
The intestine is the largest contact surface between your body and the outside world. Roughly four to six meters long and only a few centimeters in diameter, the human intestine has a much larger surface area than we imagine. Its many twists and turns, combined with the intestinal villi, tiny, finger-like projections that line the intestine, increase the total surface of your gut, making it almost the size of a tennis court. Without these villi, it would be impossible to achieve the immense surface area needed to absorb all the vital nutrients that we need on a regular basis. To take care of the intestinal mucosa itself, make sure it is well supplied with vitamins A, riboflavin, niacin and biotin, which help to maintain healthy mucosa.
2. Intestinal bacteria: feed your flora
The intestinal flora is a fascinating phenomenon. As unique as a fingerprint and with a population of around 100 trillion, your flora grow in one of the most densely populated places in the world. As many know, intestinal flora has a big say in matters of health and well-being. So it is all the more important to keep the “good guys” amongst our microscopic housemates happy. Intestinal bacteria are especially fond of soluble dietary fibers, which are primarily found in plant-based foods such as flaxseed, psyllium, chicory, apples and citrus fruits (citrus pectin).
3. Bittering agents: bitterly needed?
For our digestive system, bittering agents are anything but a bitter pill. To help us understand the importance of bittering agents for our intestine, we first need to bring two completely different organs into play: the liver and its auxiliary organ, the gallbladder. Both organs play an important role in the daily management of the digestive process (e.g. fat digestion). Selected plants that are rich in bittering agents, such as artichokes, can stimulate the liver-gallbladder system. Ultimately, a well-functioning liver-gallbladder system also supports our gut in carrying out its daily digestive duties.
4. Nutrition: be kind to your gut
An estimated 30 tons of food and 50,000 liters of fluid pass through the human intestine over the course of 75 years - along with countless pathogens, toxins and supposedly useless substances. Small wonder, then, that the composition of the chime – the mass of partly digested food that passes daily through the intestine, has an influence on the contact surface of the gut. Diverse, unprocessed, organic, locally grown and primarily plant-based – this is what a gut-friendly diet should look like. Sugar, fatty meat, alcohol and ready meals, on the other hand, should all be avoided as much as possible for the sake of our intestines. The last in particular often contain artificial additives that can damage the intestinal flora.
5. Digestive activities: are you ready for a workout?
We tend not to appreciate the benefits of a well-regulated digestive system until things start going wrong. In addition to nutrition, our activity levels also affect our digestion. This is bad news for couch potatoes, who have a higher risk of digestive problems. The good news is that you don’t have to engage in strenuous exercise every day to get your gut going. Regular, compact exercise units (special abdominal exercises such as air cycling or leg scissors, abdominal massages) are a good way to take care of your gut by stimulating intestinal activity in a targeted and gentle manner.
Conclusion: Basic and natural intestinal care is not very complicated. A gut-friendly diet, exercise and all the proper nutrients are important for keeping our sensitive digestive tract and its diverse ecosystem happy and healthy. Here is an overview of the top gut-friendly nutrients and where to find them:
Nutrient Found in
- Vitamin A/beta-carotene: eggs, butter, cheese, liver, carrots, spinach, apricots, mangoes
- Vitamin B2: milk, dairy products, cereal germ flakes, lean meat
- Niacin: lean meat, fish, coffee, peanuts, mushrooms
- Biotin: egg yolks, yeast, soybeans, nuts, oatmeal
- Bittering agents: dandelion leaves, chicory, endives, artichokes
- Dietary fiber plant-based foods: such as flaxseed, psyllium, pulses, whole grain products, black salsify
Franz, M., Gruber, K. 2007. Wunderwelt: Eine Geschichte des menschlichen Körpers. Verlagshaus der Ärzte, 1st edition.