Intestinal Flora

When we talk about health “absence of disease and being fit” our intestines are by far the most important part. There are two main reasons. First, it transforms food into useful nutrients; fats, carbohydrates (sugars), proteins, vitamins, and minerals which can be processed by our body. Secondly, it contains so much brain cells that it has almost a brain of its own. There is constant communication between our brain and the intestines. They influence each other. That’s why we feel butterflies in our belly, get nauseous from fear or feel a knot in our intestinal.

Within our intestines, we have about 1,5 kilo of bacteria. They form a personal composition more unique than our fingerprint and live in symbioses with us. They eat the fibers we can’t digest and produce short-chain fatty acids that contribute to our health and immune system.  This is why eating food that contains fibers improves our health. Human is an omnivore and can eat almost anything to survive. When we compare the food of an Eskimo with that of a bushman this becomes very clear. Our environment dictates our food pattern and our intestinal flora will adapt to it, over time.

In our modern western society, a shortage of food is no longer a problem for survival. It has actually become a threat to our health. When we eat now we also want to enjoy the food. And as we now know our brain and intestines communicate with each other, stimulating this process. For many people, it has become a daily struggle not to get overweight because of all health problems attached to it. We read everywhere “eat healthily”, but there are many different opinions. 

The problem here is that everybody is unique, so no standard food advice can ever work. By eating a good combination of food that contains carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals gets you a long way. But to be sure, have a look at your feces. When this relief comes daily (without difficulty), gives a relieving feeling, is sausage-shaped, does not stick to the pot, has a brown color, you actually do not need to wipe and it does not stink. Then you are eating all your body needs. To know if you drink, enough look at the urine. Daily urine should have a light yellow color, transparent and without a strong smell. Keeping the weight is a matter of lifestyle not of diets. Also, a little fat is not bad. Fat makes our bodies more resilient and forms an energy resource in case of illness.

One more remark. Most people more or less starve themselves when they go on a diet. The body, however, has learned over many thousands of years how to react to these circumstances and created a survival mechanism. It will build fat reserves in good times and slow down metabolism in bad times. So when we starve ourselves this system will react and slow down metabolism, but when food becomes available again it maintains a slow metabolism until the fat reserves are back in place. So in order to maintain weight and health, you need to change your lifestyle in small steps rather than turning things upside down.

We now have a better understanding of our intestines and the nutrients we need, but why do we need to eat actually? To live we need energy. Not only for moving but also to maintain body temperature, breathing, thinking, healing, recovering, growing tissue and muscles, and even to digest. Our body cells produce this energy but can’t do that 24/7.  The body (cells) needs to rest and ‘sleep’ to heal and recovers from previous work.  Energy is just like money, you can spend it only once. So if you work and party all the time eventually you will become sick. Your immune system and self-healing/recovering capacity will get less energy because of this and as a result function badly.

In order to have a happy intestinal which produce enough energy, it is wise to keep the following in mind;

  • Most importantly; eat regularly, enough and not as much as you like
  • Eat mostly local food because its nutrients fit the conditions of your climate
  • Chew well and actually pay attention to what you eat, feel the texture
  • Try to eat your last meal at least four hours before you go to sleep.

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