“Gut health” is a term that is being used increasingly in scientific literature, health magazines and blogs, and is even making its way into everyday conversation. But what really is gut health? It’s a term that does not really have an agreed upon definition. Perhaps the simplest definition is the absence of gastrointestinal (GI) illness or disease and presence of proper functionality.
Gut functionality has perhaps a little clearer meaning. At BioZyme®, we’ve defined gut functionality, a main component of gut health, as the following:
- The ability to sustain or rapidly restore the optimal balance between the digestive, absorptive, and protective roles of the gut, which are required to support animal health and performance.
The digestive role of the gut has long been known and refers to the ability to break down feed. Absorption refers to the movement of nutrients, including water, from the intestine into the blood. Protection refers to the gut’s responsibility to act as a barrier against potentially harmful entities that may be trying to enter the bloodstream. Reduction in this protective role, or barrier function, has been associated with many common diseases and ailments.
The absorptive and protective roles of the gut are akin to the yin and yang concept in Ancient Chinese philosophy. The concept describes how seemingly opposite forces are actually complementary and interdependent in nature. Yin represents the dark or negative principle, while yang represents the light or positive principle. You’ve probably seen the circular yinyang symbol before, with its opposite colored teardrop-shaped halves, usually white and black, wrapped around one another. The symbol also has a small circle of the opposite color nestled within each half, which represents the inter-dependence of opposite forces.
The same concept can apply to absorption and protection.
The gut needs to be able to readily absorb some molecules or compounds while making sure to keep others out. Ideally, we want to maximize absorption as much as possible so that more nutrients can enter the bloodstream and be utilized by the animal. However, we can’t just open the flood gates and let everything into the blood, nor can we lock the flood gates and not let anything in.
One way the intestine can fulfill both these roles is by regulating the size of the molecule allowed across the intestinal wall. Generally speaking, good molecules, like nutrients, are small and bad molecules, like pathogens, are large. To work optimally, the gut must increase absorption of the good, small stuff while supporting the protective barrier against the bad, large stuff. Feed additives like Amaferm ® , BioZyme’s proprietary prebiotic, can often help with that task. In fact, Amaferm is researchproven to increase absorption of nutrients by up to 30% while maintaining an optimal barrier function.