Image: CC--NIAID 06/16/2016 - Do you realize that metabolic and emotional stress, hormonal imbalance and food sensitivities all impact digestion? Many individuals believe that once they stop eating gluten, digestive disorders will disappear. Nothing could be further from the truth as we take a closer look at gastroenterology and the link between the gut and brain.

The adult gut has between 10 trillion and 100 trillion bacteria that make up the microbiome or surface of the intestines. The goal for digestive wellness is to be sure that there are more GOOD bacteria than BAD bacteria in the microbiome. Food choices, antibiotic use and lifestyle play an important part in creating that balance. Endocrine disrupting chemicals in plastics, along with artificial sweeteners all influence the bacteria or microbiome levels.

The bacteria content of the gut begins at birth. A vaginal delivery results in a microbiome from the mother while a cesarean section produces a microbiome from everyone who handles the infant. Gut bacteria levels are also influenced by breast feeding versus the use of infant formula.

Diets deficient in fruits and vegetables mean less antioxidants are consumed so free radicals can destroy digestive and immune function. In addition, fruits and vegetables provide fiber for bacteria to grow on. Current research from the Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates high fiber diets yield more bacteroides bacteria growth that helps control body weight. Low fiber diets result in more firmicute bacteria which produces weight gain and can lead to obesity.

Microbiological safety in fresh produce continues to gain prominence in the media. Fresh cut, RTE (ready to eat) produce in convenient packages leads the way in food safety recalls. Fruits and vegetables are prone to microbial contamination from irrigation water, soil, fertilizers, insects, animal feces and field workers during pre-harvest processing. After harvest, the washing and sanitation procedures lack oversight. Remember to wash all raw fruits and vegetables to minimize food poisoning potential.

Listeria monocytogenes is one of the leading causes of death from food borne illness. It is found in raw milk, cheese, and packaged deli meats. Flu-like symptoms can last days to weeks, and in pregnant women listeria infection can lead to miscarriage.

Noroviruses make the news regularly, especially on cruise ships. Common food sources include raw produce and shellfish such as clams, mussels, scallops and oysters. Symptoms begin as early s 12 hours after ingestion and the malaise disappears 3 to 4 days later.

Salmonella continues to plague many with chills, nausea, joint pain and headaches beginning 12 hours post ingestion. Eggs, poultry and raw produce are major sources of salmonella.

Probiotics are an important addition to the celiac diet for balancing the bacteria levels in the GI tract. They should be taken WITH food to reduce the degradation in an acid stomach. Research has shown that urinary tract and vaginal infections have an improved management rate when lactobacillus and bifidobacterium multi-species probiotics are used.

Probiotics are live bacteria which have been shown to reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. They also reduce intestinal permeability and influence serotonin and melatonin production in the gut.

So since the human gut contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in our body, keeping a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut is critical for digestive wellness. welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).