Today we'll try to understand why it is so important to take care of the health of the colon. Inflammations, pathogens, stress and poor nutrition can put a strain on the health of this organ with consequences that do not only affect digestion. In fact, our mood, memory, immune system, heart and even liver depend on colon health. So let's see what we can do in everyday life to protect the colon and the microbiota, which is the set of bacteria that live in the colon.
Gut friendly foods
Some foods contain particular fibers with a prebiotic action, that is, capable of nourishing and promoting the good bacteria that populate the intestine. Among these foods we can mention avocado, which, in addition to supporting the microbiota, provides valuable anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity and cardioprotective substances (Bhuyan et al, Antioxidants, 2019). Other foods with prebiotic properties are asparagus, garlic, oats, chicory, onion, Jerusalem artichoke, banana, honey, barley, rye, soy and legumes (Davani Davari et al, Foods, 2019). And then here is a good news, even cocoa and dark chocolate are prebiotic and anti-inflammatory (Sorrenti et al, Nutrients, 2020)! As shown by recent scientific studies, the intake of prebiotics has led to improvements in the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease. Not only that, prebiotics reduce the presence of pathogenic bacteria and contribute to improving the functionality of the intestinal barrier, protecting against possible threats and allergens (Carlson et al, Curr Dev Nutr, 2018).
Extra virgin olive oil against intestinal inflammation
Extra virgin olive oil protects the intestine thanks to the substances it contains, such as oleic acid and phenolic compounds. In fact, oleic acid counteracts inflammation of the colon and phenolic compounds protect colon cells from free radical damage and improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (Cariello et al, Nutrients, 2020).
Turmeric against intestinal inflammation
Turmeric, thanks to its active ingredient curcumin, helps protect intestinal health. Indeed, curcumin supports the microbiota, is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory and strengthens the intestinal barrier (Burge et al, Int J Mol Sci, 2019). Turmeric also appears in a mixture of herbs and spices studied by recent Australian research, which has shown its validity in case of intestinal problems. The blend, which, in addition to turmeric, also included aloe, mint and red elm, improved intestinal barrier function and microbiota composition and also reduced gastric reflux (Ried et al, Nutr Res, 2020).
A healthy Colon, benefits
An inflamed and not perfectly functioning intestine does not only lead to digestive problems, pain, constipation and diarrhea, which in any case are conditions that worsen the quality of life. In fact, the health of other organs, such as the brain, also depends on the health of the colon. A healthy microbiota has been shown to produce short-chain fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory substances that are released into the bloodstream and improve insulin sensitivity. All these effects in turn help optimize the gut-brain axis and make the hippocampus and frontal cortex work better with benefits on information processing capacity, memory and attention (Dreher et al, Nutrients, 2021). Therefore, taking prebiotics that support the microbiota also helps to strengthen cognitive function. Not only that, prebiotics also act on mood, reducing the risk of anxiety and depression, and boost the immune system, even against the flu. In fact, taking prebiotics improved defenses and reduced symptoms and hospitalization in case of flu. Prebiotics reduce the risk of skin allergies, erythema and dry skin (Davani Davari et al, Foods, 2019). In addition, prebiotics are shown to protect the heart, helping to raise good HDL cholesterol and reduce the production of endogenous cholesterol (Davani Davari et al, Foods, 2019).
The link between microbiota and liver
Taking care of your microbiota also benefits the liver. While this connection may seem risky at first glance, recent studies have actually shown that an unbalanced microbiota paves the way for liver diseases, such as fibrosis, cirrhosis and tumors. Instead, restoring the microbiota and intestinal barrier led to a reduction in liver inflammation (Schneider et al, Nature Communications, 2022).