Back problems are the most frequent cause of activity limitations in working-age adults. The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that about 85% of Americans experience back pain by age 50. More than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 experience frequent back pain. Two-thirds of American adults will have back pain during their lifetime. Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old.
Each year 13 million people go to the doctor for chronic back pain. It is estimated that the condition leaves 2.4 million Americans chronically disabled and another 2.4 million temporarily disabled. Back pain is the second most common reason why individuals in the United States seek medical care from their primary care physicians. Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com).
Hippocrates said this more than 2,000 years ago, but we're only now coming to understand just how right he was. Research over the past two decades has revealed that gut health is critical to overall health, and that an unhealthy gut contributes to a wide range of diseases including diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, autism spectrum disorder, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.
In fact, we believe that supporting intestinal health and restoring the integrity of the gut barrier will be one of the most important goals of medicine in the 21st century.
A very interesting eye opener from Dr. Rodriguez's desk.... to your good health !!!
The human gut is the natural home for a large and dynamic bacterial community that we generally and generically call the intestinal flora. The huge importance and relevance of our bacterial population has been well documented. Our intestinal microflora has major functions including metabolic activities like salvage of energy. Intestinal flora can harvest usable energy from otherwise end products of digestion. This is the case of digestion of non-soluble fiber from the diet into short chain fatty acids like butyric acid. Unlike many cells in the body that use glucose as their main source of energy the intestinal mucosa cells use this essential fatty acid as the main source of energy for growth and differentiation. They also offer protection against invasion by alien microbes.
Microflora also retrieves absorbable nutrients and helps produce important elements such as vitamin K. Our intestinal bacteria actually promote human health playing an important role in the prevention of some diseases like colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.
At birth our intestines are sterile territory, but right after birth bacteria start entering the digestive system, and within a few days colonization is well underway. Speed and quality will vary by type of delivery (birth canal vs caesarean section) and also breast vs formula feeding will significantly affect the microbial pattern.
The first bacteria in a baby are going to be critical in the expression of genes of epithelial cells, create a favorable environment for themselves and will prevent the growth of other bacteria later in life. All this together will determine the final composition of the permanent flora in adults.
From the first days to the end of our lives, we continually create, modify and depend on our intestinal flora. Many species evolve and adapt to live and function in the human intestine. Our gut contains from 300 to 500 different species of bacteria. Our stomach and small intestine contain very few microbes and many of them are just in transit from the upper gastrointestinal system. Acidity, bile and pancreatic secretions kill most of the organisms that come in through our mouth.
One of the most important functions of the gastrointestinal tract is the propulsive motor activity that carries, in a sweeping effect, all of the intestinal content in the direction of the end of the tract. This function is called peristalsis and impedes the colonization of bacteria in the upper tract. On the other hand, the large intestine has a much slower speed of transit and allows a complex and dynamic microbial ecosystem. It is important to point out that when we exercise or very simply walk, we stimulate peristalsis, and that in turn, supports a healthy and sterile upper GI tract.
It is very important to know and understand that the microbial content and digestive byproducts that transit the colon should not and do not enter in direct contact with the intestinal wall. When healthy, the intestinal wall is covered by villi which are small elongations from the wall into the lumen of the intestine; it resembles velour where if you put a drop of water on the small plush fibers it will prevent the water from actually touching the fabric. This is a very important function because this way bacteria and partially digested foods do not come into direct contact with the intestinal wall cells. These microscopic villi when long and very close together create a functional, plush barrier that has unique metabolic activities that depend on energy, cell differentiation and integrity created by the functional interactions between the microflora and dietary fiber.
In our next chapter we will explain how sophisticated the energy production process inside our digestive tract is and you will understand the importance of diet, intestinal flora, abuse of antibiotics and the problems that the malfunction of this system might bring.