Lets talk about Your Gut.
As a nutritionist, one of the places I often start with clients is to improve their gut health.
Our gut microbiome can contribute to many issues, it is often overlooked but plays a very large part in our overall health.
The gut is so much more than the path through our digestive system
Our gut or our large intestine is lined by billions of living bacteria, we have 10 times more live bacteria in our gut than we have cells In our entire body, these bacteria make up our microbiome
Why is this important?
Our microbiome is actually responsible for about 2/3’s of our immune system, our gut communicates with our nervous system and plays a very large piece in hormone regulation, the majority of our serotonin (our happy hormone) is actually made within our gut.
So our gut health does largely impact our mood and mental being, it can play a significant role in depression and anxiety
It is within our gut where we digest and absorb our nutrients from the foods we eat. So if we have issues going on in our gut we may be missing out on a lot, and not fully getting the benefits or the nutrients we are eating no matter how "clean or healthy" our diet may be...
Our gut is responsible for elimination and detoxification
There are a lot of things that we face on a regular basis which may weaken or effect our gut negatively:
For example when we take antibiotics our gut lining is wiped clean of these bacteria the good and bad, When we drink chlorinated water our beneficial bacteria are also destroyed.
We are exposed to disruptive strains of bacteria in spoiled foods, travel, airborne bacteria and animal products. Consuming a lot of animal products from conventionally raised livestock (given antibiotics) can contribute to us hosting a significant amount of antibiotic resistant bacteria (which can reduce our bodies ability to use antibiotics when we truly need them to fight infections etc)
Physical stress, poor digestion such as lacking in digestive enzymes and lacking in stomach acids, a sedentary lifestyle, overeating, under chewing, binge drinking, birth control, pharmaceutical drugs in addition to antibiotics, hand sanitizers all have negative impacts on our gut health
What does an Imbalanced Gut look like?
The bacteria we house that are not beneficial can contribute to a lot of discomfort if they make up the majority of our bacteria. These particular bacteria create yeast and feed off of sugar, dairy, refined foods, alcohol, refined grains and again conventionally raised, antibiotic fed animal products and meat
When we host a lot of these non beneficial bacteria, they repopulate and take over the majority of our gut lining. In other words we have more potentially harmful bacteria than beneficial bacteria. This imbalance is referred to as a Disbiosis.
Ideally we should host mostly the good bacteria, naturally we will always be in contact with others but should be resilient to them because we host a strong colony of beneficial bacteria that contribute to a strong immune system.
If we have a disbiosis (an imbalance in beneficial and harmful bacteria) we may experience some of the many uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, gas, food intolerances, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, skin rashes, acne, irregular bowel movements, brain fog, depression, irritability, candida overgrowth, yeast and other fungal infections, among more
In an extreme case we can develop Leaky Gut which is a condition where we actually have permeability or small holes in our gut lining
Our large intestine along with the rest of our digestive system is actually completely separate from the rest of our body, it is a hollow tube from the mouth to anus with no contact to the insides. Anything we bring in is passed through, the nutrients are absorbed through our cells and carried through our blood stream and the remains are eliminated.
So as you can imagine having leaky gut or holes in our large intestine causes a whole host of serious health concerns when particles that should be eliminated escape through our lining and end up where they should not be! Toxicity, severe food allergies, hormonal imbalances, autoimmune and neurological diseases may be a result.
Fortunately there is a lot we can do to heal and feed a healthy happy gut to prevent disbiosis, leaky gut, fungal infections, potential depression and all the other possible negative impacts of a neglected gut
How to keep your gut loaded with beneficial microflora?
Nourishing your microbiome starts with eating real whole foods to feed "the good guys", reduce yeasts and sugars to starve out potentially harmful bacteria’s
We can feed our beneficial bacteria to make them stronger with prebiotics or prebiotic fibre
Simply increasing our dietary fibre is huge, fibre is found in whole plant based foods, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruit - this fibre is food for our good flora
In addition to prebiotics or fibre we can take probiotic supplements or eat probiotic foods.
By this we are actually consuming new living strains of bacteria that strengthen our microbiome
probiotic foods include anything fermented – saurkraught, kimchi, kombucha, natto and organic unsweetened yogurt to name a few
We can also take probiotic supplements which are highly recommended especially to take along a course of antibiotics and many other medications to rebuild destroyed bacteria
We can absolutely reduce our intake of sugar, processed foods, opt for grass fed animal products in place of conventionally raised meat in our diets.
We can make more of an effort take antibiotics only when necessary.
Reconsider our birth control options. Support antibiotic use, birth control and other medications with probiotic supplementation. We can also make an effort to reduce stress and improve our digestion with proper chewing and mindful eating.
Contrary to our love of sanitization and obsessive hand washing, actually exposing ourselves to more dirt, germs, nature and sunshine strengthens our gut microbiome and our immune system!
Think of taking care of your gut through a 4 way approach:
1. reduce offenders - foods that contribute to gut inflammation and yeast (sugar, refined foods, beer etc) consider your exposure to antibiotics and medications
2. strengthen your current good bacteria with prebiotic fibre through a whole foods diet
3. repopulate your gut with new beneficial bacteria with probiotic foods and supplements
4. manage stress, get outside
In a nut shell that’s gut health and how to host a thriving microbiome to improve your immune system, digestion, mood and mental health!
I hope this has been a helpful intro to gut health for you! If you need support rebalancing your gut microbiome or just want to explore some of this deeper please do not hesitate to reach out!