Gut Health & Digestion
Your gut is the centre of your immune system. The rest of your body is protected from the toxic environment in your gut by a lining that is only ONE cell thick. The gut is a hollow tube that passes from the mouth to the anus. Anything that goes in the mouth and isn’t digested will pass right out the other end. This is, in fact, one of the most important functions of a healthy gut; to prevent foreign substances from entering the body. An unhealthy gut is when the intestinal barrier becomes permeable (i.e.“leaky gut syndrome”), large protein molecules escape into the bloodstream. Since these proteins don’t belong outside of the gut, the body mounts an immune response and attacks them. Studies show that these attacks play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases.
Your gut contains trillions of good and bad bacteria. Good bacteria help to process your food, produce nutrients and fight disease. Balance is the key word when it comes to gut health. When your gut bacteria is in a balanced state, about 80-85% of bacteria are good and 15-20% are bad. You feel great, your body is strong and nimble, you rarely get sick, your energy level is consistent, your bowel is working perfectly and you feel vitality.
10 Signs You Have an Unhealthy Gut
- You have digestive issues like bloating, gas, stomach pain, diarrhoea or constipation, nausea and reflux
- You are chronically tired, poor memory and concentration (feeling foggy), ADD or ADHD
- You have food allergies or sensitivities
- You suffer from anxiety or depression
- You experience mood swings, irritability
- You have skin problems like eczema, rosacea, acne
- You have blood sugar imbalances and diabetes
- Autoimmune disease, malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies
- Frequent infections – low immune system function
Your gut eliminates toxins produced as byproducts of your metabolism, which your liver then passes into bile. If things get backed up when you are constipated, you will become toxic and your health will suffer.
How does the modern lifestyle directly contribute to unhealthy gut flora:
- Low-fiber, high-sugar, processed, nutrient-poor, high-calorie diets cause all the wrong bacteria and yeast to grow in our gut.
- Studies have shown that drinking alcoholic beverages excessively can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in your digestive tract.
- Overuse of medications that damage the gut or block normal digestive functions – like acid blockers, anti-inflammatory medication (Aspirin, Advil), and overuse of antibiotics, steroids, and hormones.
- Undetected gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or low grade food allergies to foods such as dairy, eggs or corn cause “leaky gut” immune response to certain foods.
- Chronic low-grade infections or gut imbalances with overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, yeast overgrowth, parasites, or even more serious gut infections.
- Toxins like mercury and mould toxins damage the gut.
- Lack of adequate digestive enzyme function, which can come from acid-blocking medication use, or zinc deficiency.
- Stress, which can alter the gut nervous system, causes a leaky gut and changes the normal bacteria in the gut.
Researchers have found links between imbalances in the gut microbe and the most wanted list of health problems from obesity and diabetes to autoimmune diseases, autism and depression. They have also found evidence that first world eaters may have brought this upon themselves through overuse of antibiotics, processed foods and anti-bacterial sanitisers.
In functional medicine, we believe that every system in the body is connected. Your digestive and hormonal systems, for example, aren’t independent of one another. At the centre of it all is a properly functioning digestive system. The gut is the gateway to health. The first step I take with all of my patients, regardless of their diagnosis, is to heal the gut. I use a system called The Restore Program, which is a simple 4-step approach to repairing the gut and restoring the body’s balance.
Step 1: Eliminate anything that is inflaming the digestive system
Step 2: Heal the digestive system with the right types of foods
Step 3: Introduction of probiotic rich foods-restoring beneficial bacteria
Step 4: Stress reduction
Related health issues
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Coeliac disease
- Diverticular disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Eat both prebiotic and probiotic whole foods. Probiotics include – raw sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and kefir. When looking for probiotic-rich foods, avoid vinegar-based and/or pasteurized varieties since these elements kill good bacteria. Prebiotics, differently to probiotics, feed and support the growth of good bacteria. Raw onions, garlic, dandelion greens, raw honey, bee pollen, artichokes and bananas are some of the best prebiotic foods to add to your diet.
Stay hydrated. Water is needed to keep bacteria and waste moving through your digestive system, which will help prevent constipation and bloating. Try to drink filtered water wherever possible.