Why Caring for Your Small Intestines Is Vital to Your Health + Tips
6 minute read
The small intestine is a long and winding tube connecting your stomach and your large intestine. As the longest part of your digestive tract, the small intestine is responsible for most of the digestion that takes place in your body.
The small intestine is also the place where water and some fats, as well as minerals, are absorbed. While size doesn’t always matter, it does when it comes to the small intestine. The health of this organ is essential for efficient digestion and your overall health.
Small Intestine, Big Business
Food enters the small intestine after it leaves your stomach. This organ is so large it’s divided into three parts.
The duodenum is the section where bile and enzymes break down the food. The partially digested food then travels to the jejunum and then the ileum, where nutrients are absorbed into your bloodstream. These sections are lined with mechanisms called villi that absorb nutrients. These are also prone to damage very easily.
Common disorders of the small intestine include Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, intestinal obstruction, and bacterial overgrowth. Food allergies, diets low in fiber, certain medications, and eating too much sugar and dairy all contribute to problems of the small intestine. Inflammation can cause the villi along the intestinal wall to shrink, which prevents nutrients from being absorbed.
Having a damaged small intestine not only interferes with digestion that can lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea, gas, bloating, or constipation, but it can have a devastating effect on your health. Without proper nutrient absorption, you can become malnourished and your risk for disease and illness will increase.
If left untreated, any condition causing damage and inflammation to the intestine can lead to cancer.
The Best Foods to Promote Small Intestine Health
Since your small intestine deals largely with the food you eat, your diet has a big impact on the overall health of this organ. Obviously, if you have certain food allergies, it’s best to avoid the allergens and prevent any unnecessary upset or damage to your small intestine.
There are certain dietary changes you can make that will ensure your small intestine stays healthy and disease-free.
You have trillions of bacteria living along the entire length of your digestive tract, and these good bacteria help to promote digestion and protect your gut. Food allergies, poor diet, stress, and antibiotics can cause depletion of your natural bacteria. When this happens, bad bacteria can grow and your risk for infection and disease increases.
If particles other than nutrients are allowed to enter your bloodstream, widespread inflammation occurs, and this is linked to serious diseases including autoimmune disorders. The best way to address this is to restore balance to your gut bacteria by adding probiotics to your diet. This restores gut balance, prevents inflammation, and allows for your gut to heal.
When it comes to probiotics, a high-quality and clinically proven supplement will be a great place to start. Choose a supplement that has a high CFU count as well as diversity among the bacterial strains.
Each strain performs certain functions, so you want the most strains possible to get the most benefits for your gut. You can also add probiotic foods to your diets, such as organic yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, and miso.
Probiotics will replenish your natural gut community and promote intestinal health. These beneficial bacteria also produce nutrients like B vitamins, which are beneficial to your health.
When it comes to getting the most out of your probiotics, it helps to incorporate prebiotic foods into your diet. These are foods that serve to feed your beneficial flora, and they’ll encourage their growth and benefits.
The best prebiotic foods to feed your gut bacteria include:
♦ Dandelion greens contain inulin, which increases the numbers of friendly bacteria in your gut. It also contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant protective compounds.
♦ Garlic, which promotes the growth of Bifidobacteria, is beneficial in preventing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
Onions and leeks both contain compounds that reduce oxidative damage and stress to the intestinal wall, which supports a healthy environment for your bacteria. Leeks also help to breakdown fat to help make bacteria easier to digest.
♦ Asparagus promotes the growth of several strains of gut bacteria, and it also contains compounds that protect against cancer.
♦ Bananas also contain inulin, which promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria and helps to prevent bloating.
♦ Oats contain beta-glucan, which is a healthy grain for bacteria as it promotes their growth and works to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol, both of which can trigger inflammation if they become excessive.
♦ Apples work to improve fat metabolism, which allows bad bacteria to thrive. They also contain pectin, which increases the presence of fatty acids that feed and benefit your good gut bacteria.
♦ Flaxseeds support bacterial growth by feeding and nourishing your microbiome. They also contain anti-cancer agents and promote healthy bowel movements.
The Bottom Line
Reducing stress, getting more exercise, and following a balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains are all ways to encourage intestinal health. Despite this, intestinal permeability and leaky gut can occur, which is where the additional support of probiotics comes in to play.
Widespread inflammation, autoimmune disorders, chronic diseases, and nutritional deficiencies are all common with intestinal damage so it’s important to make small intestinal health a priority.
It may have small in the name, but your small intestine has big responsibilities in your body. As the largest part of your digestive tract, you want to take care of it and promote health and functionality.
With the right preventative care and lifestyle changes, you can promote its health, protect it from disease, and ensure that it contributes to your healthiness.