What in the GUT?
As I have been contemplating my blog post topic for today, I feel compelled to touch on a topic that is near and dear to my heart right now. Our oldest son has had some health hiccups the past 6+ months, including an H.pylori infection, parasitic infections and now SIBO. It seems hard to believe that an otherwise, healthy, thriving, bright young man, would be plagued by what seems to be an endless sea of illnesses, but it also got me thinking about what impacts our gut micro biome and how it gets messed up in the first place.
I preach all the time about the impact of a healthy gut micro biome on immunity, detoxification, inflammation, mood and hormones and how important it is to ensure that we cultivate, support and nourish this very important organ in our body.
It is fascinating to realize that there are 100 TRILLION microbes in our gut…there is 3 pounds of bacteria that live in our intestines AND that there are 1,000 known bacterial species living in our gut, although only about 150 typically predominate at any one time. Amazing!
It is worth sharing some physiology to help understand how gut health really impacts the entire body. If you have ever heard the term, “leaky gut”, this represents when the tight junctions of the small intestine (where the bulk of absorption of our food takes place) is compromised. This can be related to stress (hello 2nd brain!), infections, medications (like antibiotics), toxins (food, personal care products or environment), abnormal blood sugar values (insulin resistance, diabetes, etc) and/or inflammation from foods like sugar, gluten and dairy. This permits undigested food particles to ‘leak” into the bloodstream and generate inflammation, which can lead to food sensitivities. Additionally, you become susceptible to autoimmune disorders, like psoriasis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis as well as many others. This is an over-simplification, but provides the basics for this blog post.
Sometimes Western med helps their patients make this connection between leaky gut and autoimmune disorders and sometimes it does not. This is where a functional approach to gut health really trumps Western med. No pun intended, because I am largely anti-political in my blog posts, LOL!
So, what can you do to help support the integrity of your gut in a pro-active way?
- Consume more healthy fats (anyone that follows me knows that I preach the value of a high quality fat diet!) and less processed carbohydrates. Healthy fats keep our blood sugar stable, keep our energy levels consistent and can help with losing body fat. The moniker “eat fat, lose fat” is contrary to dated Western medical dogma, but still really important.
- Eat more high quality fiber from fruits and vegetables, which feed our good gut bacteria and helps balance the short-chain fatty acids to help support a healthy gut lining.
- Consume more probiotic rich foods…these are some of my FAVORITE foods to eat daily, including fermented veggies, organic yogurt, Kombucha (watch the sugar), brined olives and many others. You do not need to consume copious amounts for these to be effective. These fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacterias due to lactic-acid fermentation. And, yes, you can consume probiotics, but you also want to ensure you are getting some food sources of probiotic rich foods, too. Balance is key!
- Select pre-biotic rich foods, these are foods that gut bacteria enjoy eating to support their growth and activity. Examples are: onions, garlic, chicory, raw asparagus and leeks.
- Consider intermittent fasting (if you follow me you know how much I LOVE this strategy), giving our bodies a break from digestion, supporting the process of autophagy (clean up of dead, diseased or unneeded bodily debris) and helping torch fat stores!
- Drink filtered water. If you fully appreciated all the CRAP heavy metals in our water supply, like chlorine, fluoride and other heavy metals, you would want to avoid drinking municipal water. Remember that these toxins further disrupt the gut micro biome and even impact brain physiology and functioning. Aim for 1/2 your body weight in ounces of filtered water daily
- Enjoy wine, coffee, tea or even chocolate. These foods support a healthy balance of gut flora and help reduce inflammation and provide healthy anti-oxidants. Interestingly enough, there’s a great deal of research that supports the use of dark chocolate, including an Italian study that patients that consumed the largest amount of flavonols (one category of polyphenols) from cocoa and chocolate showed heightened cognitive function. Another study by Spanish researchers, demonstrated that inflammation and intestinal permeability were reduced in those that consumed 1-2 glasses of red wine daily.
So, it helps to have some perspective about how HUGELY beneficial a healthy gut is for our bodies, minds and spirits.
And, as for my oldest son, we are on the process of healing and will be continuing to implement protocols and strategies to get him back to better health soon.
If you love this post, let me know because I will likely let it be a focus for the next month or so.
Resources to learn more:
I am a huge fan of David Perlmutter’s, MD, book, Brain Maker and Dr. Josh Axe’s Eat Dirt. Both are really helpful resources for clients. And the Complete Guide to Fasting by Fung & Moore is truly the definitive text, in my opinion, on the benefits of this as it applies to your health.