Your Complete Guide to Key Gut Health Terminology

There is a lot of lingo and scientific terminology in the health and wellness space which can make it overwhelming when you are trying to learn and add new practices to your life.

Here is a breakdown of some key terms you may have heard in the gut/digestive health world:

Conditions

Irritable Bowel Disorder: "Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term used to describe disorders that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract. Types of IBD include:

  • Ulcerative Colitis: "This condition causes long-lasting inflammation and sores (ulcers) in the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum."

  • Crohn's Disease: "This type of IBD is characterized by inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which often spreads deep into affected tissues."

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: "a widespread condition involving recurrent abdominal pain and diarrhea or constipation, often associated with stress, depression, anxiety, or previous intestinal infection."

Leaky Gut/Intestinal Permeability: "leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is a digestive condition in which bacteria and toxins are able to "leak" through the intestinal wall."

Candidiasis/Candida: "[candida] It’s a type of yeast that normally lives in small amounts in places like your mouth and belly, or on your skin without causing any problems. But when the environment is right, the yeast can multiply and grow out of control. The infection it causes is called candidiasis"

Underactive Stomach/Hypochlorhydria: "is a deficiency of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Stomach secretions are made up of hydrochloric acid, several enzymes, and a mucus coating that protects the lining of your stomach. Hydrochloric acid helps your body to break down, digest, and absorb nutrients such as protein. It also eliminates bacteria and viruses in the stomach, protecting your body from infection."

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): "occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus). This backwash (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of your esophagus."

Dysbiosis: "...also called dysbacteriosis) is a term for a microbial imbalance or maladaptation on or inside the body, such as an impaired microbiota."

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO): "It occurs when bacteria that normally grow in other parts of the gut start growing in the small intestine. That causes pain and diarrhea. It can also lead to malnutrition as the bacteria start to use up the body’s nutrients."

Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet: It’s an elimination-focused diet. Its goal is to cut inflammation-causing foods to reset your body’s immune system. The idea is to reduce inflammation in your body and put your autoimmune condition into remission with better eating habits.

  • It’s often aimed at treating a “leaky gut.” It’s thought that autoimmune conditions may be caused by small holes in your intestines. These holes can allow food to be released into the rest of your body and trigger your immune system to react. By eating only foods in the AIP diet, you help heal this leaky gut.

  • It’s rooted in the paleo diet, but it’s even more restrictive.

  • It promotes vitamin- and nutrient-rich foods and also emphasizes foods with omega-3 fatty acids.

Diets:

GAPs: "GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. It’s a term that was invented by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who also designed the GAPS diet...The GAPS diet is a strict elimination diet that requires its followers to cut out grains, pasteurized dairy, starchy vegetables and refined carbs."

Low FODMAP: FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, which are short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are poorly absorbed by the body, resulting in abdominal pain and bloating... low FODMAP diet cuts out many common products that contain certain foods. The principle behind the diet is to give the gut a chance to heal, especially if you have GI problems like IBS. "

Anti-Candida Diet: "The candida diet is a strict diet that eliminates sugar, gluten, alcohol and some dairy products. Candida diet proponents believe these foods promote candida overgrowth."

Specific Carbohydrate Diet: "It is based on the theory that by eliminating most carbs (primarily grains, starches, dairy, and sugars) and allowing only specific carbs that require minimal digestion, it can reduce inflammation and make eating enjoyable for people with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders."

Food Combining: "The laws of food combining can vary somewhat depending on the source, but the most common rules include the following:

  • Only eat fruit on an empty stomach, especially melons.

  • Don't combine starches and proteins.

  • Don't combine starches with acidic foods.

  • Don't combine different types of protein.

  • Only consume dairy products on an empty stomach, especially milk."

Antibodies and Immune Health:

Immunoglobulin E (IgE): "are antibodies produced by the immune system. 

If you have an allergy, your immune system overreacts to an allergen by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. This reaction usually causes symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, or on the skin."

igG: "a class of immunoglobulins including the most common antibodies circulating in the blood that facilitate the phagocytic destruction of microorganisms foreign to the body, that bind to and activate complement, and that are the only immunoglobulins to cross over the placenta from mother to fetus"

igA: "a class of immunoglobulins including antibodies found in external bodily secretions (such as saliva, tears, and sweat)"

Gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT): "Gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is a component of the mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) which works in the immune system to protect the body from invasion in the gut."

Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT): "The mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT), also called mucosa-associated lymphatic tissue, is a diffuse system of small concentrations of lymphoid tissue found in various submucosal membrane sites of the body, such as the gastrointestinal tract, nasopharynx, thyroid, breast, lung, salivary glands, eye, and skin."

Food and Supplements

Fermentation (fermented foods): 'Fermentation in food processing is the process of converting carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms—yeasts or bacteria—under anaerobic conditions."

Probiotic: "denoting a substance which stimulates the growth of microorganisms, especially those with beneficial properties (such as those of the intestinal flora)". Most people are familiar with probiotics in supplement version or in probiotic-rich foods or fermented foods.

Prebiotic: "a nondigestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines."

L-glutamine: "L-glutamine can be produced naturally in your body. In fact, it is the most abundant amino acid in the blood and other body fluids"

Digestive Enzyme: "are a group of enzymes that break down polymeric macromolecules into their smaller building blocks, in order to facilitate their absorption by the body."

Digestive bitters: "Digestive bitters are herbs that support digestive function by stimulating bitter receptors on the tongue, stomach, gallbladder and pancreas. Their primary effect is to promote digestive juices such as stomach acid, bile and enzymes to breakdown food and assist in the absorption of nutrients"

Other:

Bristol Stool Chart:"is a medical aid designed to classify faeces into seven groups."

Gut Microbiome: "...is the totality of microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi, and their collective genetic material present in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT)

(Gut) Mucosa: "one that lines body cavities and passages (as of the gastrointestinal or respiratory tract) which communicate directly or indirectly with the outside of the body"

Gut Microbiota: "...is comprised of all the bacteria, commensal, and pathogenic, residing in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT)."

Gastrointestinal tract: "The organs that food and liquids travel through when they are swallowed, digested, absorbed, and leave the body as feces. These organs include the mouth, pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. The gastrointestinal tract is part of the digestive system. Also called alimentary tract and digestive tract."

Bile: "a bitter greenish-brown alkaline fluid that aids digestion and is secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder"

Chyme: "the pulpy acidic fluid which passes from the stomach to the small intestine, consisting of gastric juices and partly digested food."

Hydrochloric acid (HCL): "an aqueous solution of hydrogen chloride HCl that is a strong corrosive irritating acid, is normally present in dilute form in gastric juice, and is widely used in industry and in the laboratory"