Gut Health – More Important than Ever

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I have blogged a few times about the importance of a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Poor digestion, consistently upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, etc are all signs of a dysfunctional GI tract. This is bad news bears folks. The food you eat can only be broken down and absorbed into it’s healthy(or unhealthy) constituents if the GI tract is working properly. Here are some really interesting pointers about your GI tract that I stole from a really good post on GI health at the precision nutrition blog.

  • The gastrointestinal system comprises 75% of the body’s immune system.
  • There are more neurons in the small intestine than in the entire spinal cord.
  • It is the only system in the body that has its own, independently operating nervous system, called the enteric nervous system.
  • If you stretched out the gastrointestinal system in its entirety, it would have the surface area of a regulation sized singles tennis court.
  • There are over 400 species of microbes living in your gut, totaling over 15 pounds of mass and containing more bacteria than there are known stars in the sky.
GI Tract

GI Tract

That is pretty intense. Just more evidence to show why eating stuff like sucralose, which could potentially destroy half the bacteria in your gut or more may not be a good idea. Why eating yogurt to restore or keep up the level of healthy bacteria is such a good idea. To quote myself,

“Intestinal flora is of utmost importance to health, as we know it contributes to digestion and absorption of nutrients, prevention of harmful pathogens like E. coli and salmonella taking root, and keeping the immune system in optimal condition”

This is something that we as consumers really need to start being more aware of. If you want to stay truly healthy you can’t just focus on eating from a list of “healthy” foods. What if some of those foods do not agree with you? What about food allergies, or even just low-level intolerances? Think about the people you know who have Celiac’s disease (gluten intolerance), when they eat wheat or other gluten-containing foods, they suffer serious repercussions. That is an extreme example, but pertinent none the less.

I also think it is really fascinating that more than 75% of the body’s immune system is in the GI tract. It makes sense if you think about it. As mentioned above the surface area of the GI tract is massive (covering an entire tennis court, maybe more), leaving plenty of opportunity for pathogens to find a way in. This is another reason why the stomach is so acidic, it destroys many microorganisms simply because they can not survive at that pH. There are also enzymes in the GI tract that help to detoxify antigens and xenobiotics (like prescription drugs!), assisting the immune system. So when you really think about it it makes a lot of sense for so much of our body’s defenses to be located in the gut, preventative action at its best! So take care of it, and try to allow in the least amount of problematic foods possible.

The most fascinating point to me was that the small intestine has more neurons than the entire spinal cord. Why? Doesn’t that seem crazy, our spinal cord is what relays messages from our brain to our bodies, yet the small intestine has more neurons? Bizarre. It is an area that interests me greatly and I believe we need a lot more research into the importance of the small intestine to the overall health of the body.

Small Intestine

Wrapping up, take care of your GI health. Eat yogurt if you can, take digestive enzyme, probiotics and hydrochloric acid if you need to, eliminate foods that upset your stomach, and be well.

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Posted on June 5th, 2009 by Brian St. Pierre


  1. Chris Says:

    Hey Brian,

    As I scanned the ingredients on Low Carb MD, I noticed that it contains sucralose. You have noted here that consumption of sucralose produces adverse effects in the GI Tract. Does this mean that Low Carb MD intake should be restricted for ultimate gut heatlh?

    Thank you for your help.


  2. Brian St. Pierre Says:


    While I am certainly not a fan of sucralose, and I encourage people to find alternatives, the data on it is still very new. Ideally we need some repeated human trials showing similar data to truly know if that happens in humans. Regardless, I still think it is best to minimize intake. Metabolic Drive is not a bad product, you do not have to stop taking it, but if you wish to eliminate sucralose from the diet, then it is not an option. One option is to design your own protein at something like, or Designs for Health makes a great product called Whey Cool. It is an awesome whey protein from grass fed cows, treated exclusively at low temperature. It is top of the line, completely free of artificial anything, but you pay the price for it. If you are interested, check it out here:

  3. Gut Check « Says:

    [...] up everywhere in the blog world, time to jump on the bandwagon!  I found 2 throrough articles at Brian St Pierre’s Training Blog and the Precision Nutrition [...]

  4. The Importance of Probiotics : The Home of Brian St. Pierre Training Says:

    [...] the past I have blogged all about why I think probiotics are so essential for optimal health (here and here). Due to this strong belief in there effectiveness I eat a 16oz Greek yogurt everyday. I [...]

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    You you should edit the page title The Home of BSP Training & Nutrition » Blog Archive » Gut Health – More Important than Ever to something more specific for your subject you create. I enjoyed the the writing all the same.

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