All health begins in your Gut.
You may think this is a bold statement but I believe it’s very true. We have been told countless times that ‘you are what you eat’, and it’s pretty obvious that if you eat lots of processed, sugary foods, you will gain weight, increase inflammation in your body and are at an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
However I am talking about the importance of your Gut for overall health, not just from the food we eat. The Gut is actually the most important part of our Immune System. All health begins in our Gut. Our Small and Large intestines total approximately 6 metres in length and along the walls of the intestines are huge amounts of immune cells.
Did you know that 70-80% of all the immune cells in the body are located in the intestinal walls? The Gut contains large amounts of lymphoid tissue, which in turn contains many immune cells such as T-cells, plasma cells and macrophages which all fight disease. Certain cells in the gut lining spend all their time releasing huge amounts of antibodies into the gut. The immune cells within the intestines don’t just stay there. They can leave and travel to areas where they are needed.
Our immune system is the body’s defence system against infections and foreign substances. It is believed that the reason for the large concentration of immune cells in the gut, is because our intestines are the main route of contact with our outside environment. This may be in the form of viruses, bacteria or even the food we eat.
We also have a lymphatic system that filters the blood and lymph nodes, which are found throughout the body, and produce white blood cells. The largest concentration of lymph nodes in the body is found along the Superior Mesenteric Artery, (a blood vessel that supplies the gut) where the head of the pancreas meets the duodenum. All within the gut.
Organs such as the Spleen, Bone Marrow, Thymus Gland, Liver and Adrenal glands also perform important functions in our immune response.
A lot has been said about the Gut-Brain connection and it has been found that a two-way communication occurs between the gut and the brain. There are actually more nerve cells in the gut than in the whole spinal cord. These nerve cells produce neurotransmitters, such as Dopamine and Serotonin in large quantities. These chemical messengers affect not only our mood, but also the motility of the gut, regulation of blood flow, absorption of nutrients and the gut’s immune system.
We are all familiar with having a ‘gut feeling’ about something or ‘butterflies’ in the stomach before a new job or exam, but research has shown that this is due to a communication between the gut and the brain in what is known as the Enteric Nervous system. The Gut has the ability to make decisions independently of the brain eg. Digestion occurs irrespective of the brain, and many of our emotions are influenced by the nerves in our gut.
Obviously factors such as lifestyle, genetics and our environment influence our health and it’s very easy to underestimate the importance of the gut in relation to our health. In Reflexology the gut is always addressed. It covers a large area on the foot and reflexes can be stimulated to increase nerve supply and circulation and stimulate an immune response. In Facial Reflexology, the immune system and hormones within the gut are also treated.
So next time you sit down for a meal, consider the food you are about to eat and how relaxed your meal times are. Every thing we put into our bodies, be it food or negative emotions, all have an impact, because ultimately, all health begins in your Gut.
Disclaimer: Please note that all information in this article is the opinion of the author and obtained through her research and knowledge and the above references. It is not meant to replace medical advice and a medical opinion should always be obtained for any health condition.
References: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/research/advancements-in-research/fundamentals/in-depth/the-gut-where-bacteria-and-immune-system-meet, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515351/, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5772764/, Gut and Immunity Webinar by Touchpoint Reflexology with Dorthe Krogsgaard and Peter Lund Frandsen.