3 things you need to know about Green Tea and Gut Health
I’m here researching how green tea can help to increase our well-being, and I bumped into a study that talks about green tea and gut health. I discovered having a healthy gut means more than being free from bloating, heartburn, and irregular BM. Rather, gut health is essential to your overall health.
Our ‘gut’, internal ecosystem, is called ‘the second brain’ as it functions independently from the brain. The intestine is about 10m long, and the same size as one and a half tennis courts when it’s spread out. It is a habitat for 100 to 1,000 trillion bacteria, the total of which weighs about 1.5 kg to 2 kg (3 lbs. to 4 lbs.) A human body is made of about 60 trillion cells. Bacteria in the intestine outnumber human body cells.
More than 30,000 bacterial species exist in this ecosystem. This intestinal ecosystem is named “flora” as they look like a field of colorful flowers when observed with a microscope. Healthy intestinal flora consists of bacteria that are 20% beneficial to human health, 10% harmful, and 70% ‘neutral’, which becomes troublesome when the harmful bacteria overgrows.
Why internal flora ecosystem matters
The intestine is more than digestive system. Microbes form a fascinating internal ecosystem by interacting with each other and the system itself.
- Our intestine controls 70% of the immune system in our human body. A healthy intestine means a strong immune system.
- The exact arrays of bacteria vary person to person, like each fingerprint is unique to an individual. The microbiome composition is associated with temperament.*1 Certain strains of bacteria are associated with certain aspects of human health—mental as well as physical. Treating internal flora may represent an opportunity to intervene with mental health disorders.
- Our intestine synthesizes Serotonin, which is used to transmit messages between nerve cells. As it is known as the “happy hormone”, Serotonin contributes to a sense of well-being. Serotonin also regulates mood, appetite, emotions, motor, cognitive, and autonomic functions. It is estimated 90% of Serotonin is made in the digestive tract.*2
Gut imbalances have been linked to a variety of health problems: chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances, anxiety, depression, allergies, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, autism spectrum disorder, and more. Some researchers acknowledge supporting the integrity of intestinal health is one of the goals of this millennium’s pharmaceutical field.
3 things in modern life style that contribute to imbalanced gut flora
- Drugs such as antibiotics, birth control pills, NSAIDs
- Poor diet–high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and toxins, and low in fibers
- Chronic stress
Intake of antibiotics causes profound loss of diversity in the composition of gut flora. A study found repeated intake of antibiotic increases the risk of development of type 1 diabetes.*3
3 steps to restore and protect your gut integrity
- Remove food toxins from your diet along with intestinal pathogens that may be present.
- Feed your friendly bacteria by eating “fermentable fibers” and fermented, probiotic foods: Fermented and cultured foods—the diversity of your gut bacteria may matter more than any one individual strain. Eating as many different fermented and cultured foods as possible will produce the best result.
- Drink green tea and manage stress.
Protect your precious ecosystem from “pollutions” by avoiding excessive drugs and additives in foods. Think what you eat feeds and grows intestinal bacteria. “Fiber” is the “ice cream” for beneficial bacteria in the intestine. All dietary fibers are resistant to digestion in the small intestine, meaning they arrive at the colon intact and feed your friends residing in the area. “Fermentable fibers” support the growth of indigenous intestinal bacteria, and yield large amounts of short-chain fatty acids, which protect lining of gut among other beneficial functions, and decrease gut pH, which creates a healthy environment to nurture friendly bacteria.*4,5
When you take antibiotics or prepare for a colonoscopy, what you eat and don’t eat in the first few days following the procedure will have a big impact on how quickly and well intestinal bacteria recover. Eat probiotic foods, and feed your “new friends” with plenty of nourishment by eating fermented and cultured foods and fiber-rich foods.*6
3 best food sources to nurture your gut health
- “Fermentable fibers” include Pectin, B-glucans, guar gum, inulin, and oligofructose. Foods that are rich in fermentable fibers include flax seed, chia seed, beans, legumes, oats, barley, fruit, and vegetables.
- Fermented and cultured foods include Kefir, yogurt, miso, kim-chi, natto, sauerkraut, and other naturally pickled vegetables
- Green Tea is good for colon health:
Green tea is good for gut health for 3 reasons:
- Catechins restore a good balance in intestinal flora: According to a study done in Japan, a daily intake of green tea resulted in increased beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and improved the intestinal balance. Also, the pH of the intestine was corrected to mild acidity, which is the best environment for beneficial bacteria to grow. The study also reported that the Catechins in Green tea kill malicious bacteria in the intestine, such as Staphylococcus and Helicobacter Pylori, but not beneficial bacteria. Another fascinating fact is that the effect continued while people continued ingesting green tea, and the balance was lost as soon as people stopped taking green tea.*7
- Stress is the enemy for good gut flora. The relaxing effect of green tea may have also been contributing to the positive result.
- Green tea powder or leaf provides fiber. When the whole leaf is ingested either as leaf or powder, the green tea leaf provides one half gram of fiber for every gram consumed. That is equivalent to the fiber in a 23g sweet potato—a piece 2 inches in diameter and 1 inch long.
More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates said “All disease begins in the gut.” Today, April 22, is Earth Day—we celebrate the planet’s environment and raise awareness on what we can do to protect the ecosystem. It is great to remember each one of us also relies on internal ecosystems for wellness. May 19 is the annual World IBD Day, and May 29 is the annual World Digestive Health Day. There are a lot of things we still don’t know—the only thing we can say for sure is that health issues are interconnected and affecting each other. So, start where you can today—drinking green tea every day can be the first step toward a healthier you.
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- “Gut microbiome composition is associated with temperament during early childhood.” Christian LM, Galley JD, Hade EM, Schoope-Sullivan S, Kamp Dush C, Bailey MT Brain Behav Immun. 2015 March
- “Microbes help produce serotonin in gut” 2015 April California Institute of Technology
- “The dynamics of the human infant gut microbiome in development and in progression toward type 1 diabetes.” Kostic AD, Cell Host Microbe 2015 February
- “Fiber”, Linus Pauling Institute
- “Effect of fiber source on short-chain fatty acid production and on the growth and toxin production by Clostridium difficile” May T, Mackie RI, Fahey GC Jr. Cremin JC, Garleb KA October Scand J Gastroenterol 1994
- “Foods to restore your intestinal flora” Scientific American
- “The influence of tea catechins on fecal flora of elderly residents in long-term care facilities.” Y Hara, M Honda Annals of long-term care 1998