The intestine is an organ with various vital functions that are necessary for the functioning of our body. Various diseases can affect it and have consequences both for our daily well-being and for our immune system. A persistent inflammatory state can even lead to more serious diseases, such as cancer. Therefore it is necessary to act at the first signs of discomfort. In this article, we will begin with a brief review of the main intestinal functions in order to understand the effects of these diseases on the intestine. We will then look at the different diseases that can affect the gut. In the second part, you will find out what you can do to improve your condition and feel better.
The main roles of our gut
The gut is an essential organ for the proper functioning of our body. It is an organ that absorbs nutrients from food. When it is damaged, deficiencies are bound to develop.
The gut is also a protective organ, a barrier towards the outside world. It plays this role thanks to the mucous membrane and the mucus that lines this mucous membrane, but also thanks to the intestinal microbiota, i.e. the bacteria that are present in the intestine. Our gut protects us by preventing certain undesirable substances from entering our body. It acts as a barrier against toxins in the food we eat, toxins from the poor digestion of food and toxins produced by intestinal bacteria.
The gut also has a role in regulating our immune system. So when things go wrong in the gut, it is common to see pathologies appearing away from the gut, related to the immune system. We can then have either excessive or too weak immune reactions.
Finally, the gut is an organ of nutrition. This means that our intestinal microbiota produces nutrients, vitamins, particularly from the B and K groups, as well as neurotransmitters. When the gut is not functioning properly, the intestinal flora is often damaged. This leads to an increased risk of deficiency and a decrease in the neurotransmitters produced by the gut.
The main diseases of the intestine
Celiac disease or gluten intolerance
Celiac disease affects the small intestine. It is an autoimmune disease, which means that it involves the immune system. Our body produces antibodies against the intestine itself, which causes the intestine to break down. Our intestine has folds, called villi. In case of aggression, these folds will be destroyed, atrophied. This will cause deficiencies due to poor absorption, but also holes in the intestine, which will become porous and let more toxic substances through.
This disease, also called gluten intolerance, is not just a sensitivity to gluten. The consumption of even a small amount of gluten causes an immediate response from the body. It is therefore necessary to completely eliminate gluten from the diet.
Celiac disease is more common in people who already have an autoimmune disease. On the other hand, if you get celiac disease when you don’t have any other autoimmune diseases, you are more likely to get another one. It is therefore important to act on the ground to prevent and help the body to recover.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the digestive system and can affect both the small and large bowel. It is an inflammation that usually does not affect the whole intestine, but only a part of it. If the inflammation can be reduced and the situation restored to normal, the intestine can recover and regain its normal integrity. But if this inflammation continues, there is a risk of progression to more serious pathologies and the need for an operation to remove a piece of the intestine, the inflamed part. The disadvantage is that after the removal of a part of the intestine, the intestinal surface is reduced and the work in the intestine will not be as effective. This often leads to absorption and transit problems, which can be more or less serious.
Diverticula are more likely to occur in the large intestine. The large intestine has a different shape from the small intestine. It is not composed of villi, but of convolutions which are less marked and form arches. When there is a diverticulum, a pouch forms in the mucosa. This pouch is not pathological as such, but material passing through the large intestine may get lodged there and circulate less well. This material is the result of the normal fermentation and putrefaction of the food we eat, and can cause inflammation by remaining stored in the diverticulum. This is called diverticulitis. It can be uncomfortable at first, then become painful, and eventually develop into more serious diseases, such as cancer. It is therefore necessary to act globally on the diet and the digestive system to limit the risks.
Ulcerative colitis is a severe inflammation of the colon and rectum, causing the mucosa to bleed. The first step is to reduce the bleeding by helping the mucosa to heal. Then the inflammation must be treated without allowing it to continue, so that the situation does not develop into more serious diseases such as cancer.
Bowel cancer is most often found in the large intestine for several reasons. Firstly, the large intestine contains the most fermented and putrefied material, which can cause inflammation. It is also in the large intestine that this material will remain the longest, especially if the person is constipated. There is also more anaerobia, i.e. a lack of oxygen, which is more important in the large intestine than in the small intestine. All these factors are conducive to the development of cancer.
It is important to pay attention to the contents of your plate to prevent the risk of developing intestinal cancer:
– Be vigilant about the amount of protein you consume.
– Regulate the consumption of sugars and carbohydrates that promote hyperglycaemia.
– Limit certain factors that maintain the inflammatory state and the aggression of the tissues, such as alcohol and carbonated drinks.
– Be careful with nitrites, which are widely recognised today as increasing the risk of cancer; this is particularly true with red meat and cold meats (charcuterie).
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a disease without being one. It is an excessive reactivity of the intestine that causes painful contractions and disturbances in transit. In many intestinal diseases, these symptoms can be found: pain, constipation, diarrhoea, etc. Very often, there are disturbances in the intestinal microbiota that promote inflammation.
A few dietary adjustments and new habits can help to prevent these diseases and to feel relieved. This is what we suggest you discover in the second part of this article.