The Power Of A Healthy Gut
Updated: Feb 2
As many of you know, my digestion has been the source of much on and off distress over many years of my life. While I found the greatest relief by going gluten and dairy free after discovering an intolerance, my digestion in the time since, has still not been without challenge and discomfort and at times, pain. As I began the journey to heal my body of my newly discovered thyroid autoimmune condition last year, I first needed to address my still, not-so-great digestion.
This foundational approach of treating the root cause (by first treating digestive dysfunction) before healing an autoimmune condition– is a common approach, especially for functional and naturopathic doctors and nutritionists, who know that without properly functioning digestion, we cannot expect to ever find health and vitality.
Without proper digestion we can't be sure that we are adequately going to assimilate the nutrients from the food we are eating, no matter how healthy we eat and no matter what supplements or medications that we take. Through the process of my own personal journey, I have and I continue to learn so much about digestion. That is why I decided to start this comprehensive series on gut health, to not only pass along my research findings but to also offer my professional advice on how to take care of our gut through nourishing and supplementing intentionally as well as information on both traditional and none traditional remedies, to hopefully bring you healing.
Our digestive system is such a magnificent and fine tuned machine. Inside our gut right now there are literally trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms doing their thing. It may sound a bit gross, but this brew of bugs officially known as the microbiome, plays a surprisingly important role in your overall health.
Our microbiome is our very own tiny ecosystem. Over a trillion microorganisms, our own community of bacteria inside us. These bacteria reside in our guts, brain, skin, lungs, mouth and nasal passage and far outnumber our cells, making us more bacteria that cellular!
The gut is a complex, individualized structure that effects our entire health
By simply treating our gut right, we can help our body in whole slew of ways. A healthy gut is really the key to a healthy body and mind. It influences reduce our risk of excess body weight, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, mood disorders, and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
While everyone's microbiome is unique, like fingerprints, healthy microbiomes have a few basic things that define them. They have diverse strains of bacteria, higher levels of health promoting bacteria and other microbes, and lower levels of the unfavourable ones.
We are meant to have a perfect equilibrium of good and bad bacteria. The problem is that a poor lifestyle and diet, riddled with stress, eating in hurry and not chewing, taking copious amounts of antibiotics, eating chemically enhanced and poor quality food (like a western diet that is low in sugar, heavily processed foods, and large meat consumption), using antibacterial soaps, eating non-organic vegetables and meat is literally like feeding the opposition and helping them grow strong inside us. Eating this way encourages war within your very own community.
When the delicate balance gets thrown off, "bad" strains of microbes multiply. Some experts believe that this shift may lead to a leaky gut, where out of control bacteria and other microbes get int the bloodstream. This bacteria then travels around and triggers inflammation throughout the body. Studies have found that the balance of the gut bacteria can also contribute toward obesity, poor immune function, learning difficulties and diabetes.
What the scientists Know
More than 2,000 years ago Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, understood that many diseases begin in the gut. While gut health took a back seat in the medical community for few centuries, today it's making a big come back. The current research really got going in 2008 when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) started the Human Microbiome Project. NIH got samples of microbe and then sequenced the microbes DNA', which paved the way for research on bacterial differences between healthy and unhealthy people, as well as research into research into possible treatments using probiotics and fecal transplants.
While research is in it's infancy, there have been some findings:
People with conditions like schizophrenia and autism have gut bacteria that are different from the bacteria in people without those conditions.
Research found that certain kind of bacteria may speed the progression of Alzheimer's, according to research in mice published in Nature.
Research shows that a person's blend f bugs may also play a role in whether he/she develops allergic diseases.
A 2016 study in the Beneficial Microbes revealed that taking strain of the probiotic Lactobacillus improved adult acne more than a placebo. Eczema isn't the only skin condition that a balanced microbiome may help.
Thankfully, most of us can stack our flora in our favour without popping probiotics or considering a fecal transplant. To shift our individual microbiome, we need to think outside the box when it comes to which foods we think make us happy and which don't. Next post we will delve deeper into how to love on our gut by nourishing intentionally.