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. Size does matter when it comes to the small intestine. The health of this organ is essential for efficient digestion and your overall health.
Food enters the small intestine after it leaves your stomach. Despite the name, 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.
The Best Foods to Promote Small Intestine Health
Since your small intestine largely deals with the food you eat, your diet has a significant impact on the overall health of this organ. There are certain dietary changes you can make that will ensure your small intestine stays healthy.
You have trillions of bacteria living along the entire length of your digestive tract, and these good bacteria help 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, disrupting the healthy balance in your gut.
An imbalanced gut reduces the integrity of the gut wall allowing particles other than nutrients to enter your bloodstream, causing widespread inflammation. The best way to address this is to restore balance to your gut bacteria by adding probiotics to your diet.
When it comes to probiotics, optimal digestive support will come from a supplement with a high CFU count as well as diversity among the bacterial strains. Each strain performs certain functions, so you want the most strains possible. 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 foods 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 number 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 break down 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.
For optimal gut health, it is also best to avoid any allergens to prevent unnecessary upset or damage to your small intestine.
Reducing stress, getting more exercise, and following a balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains are all ways to encourage intestinal health. Even with the best intentions, a gut imbalance can occur, which is where the additional support of probiotics comes into play.
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 so that it contributes to your overall health and well-being.