Our gut health is the foundation to wellness and vitality. Our intestinal tract separates our internal environment from the outside world. Our intestines are quite amazing, covering a surface area of around 400 metres square it allows for the absorption of nutrients; lined with epithelial cells which are selectively permeable our body knows which molecules to let and which to keep out.
Importantly, our gut is also host to many trillions of varying microbes which keep our gut in good order. Microorganisms help to eat ‘bad bacteria’, produce nutrients such as B12, assimilate nutrients, keep the integrity of our gut lining as well as regulating the immune system. It is important we look after our beneficial bacteria and feed them foods they need to reproduce.
If our microbiome is of poor quality this can lead to dis-ease, especially within the autoimmune bracket. When the structural integrity of our lining breaks down molecules and organisms can ‘leak’ into our bloodstream creating inflammation and a variety of symptoms. Causes of damage include: candida overgrowth, poor intakes of beneficial bacteria, poor stool transit times which allow food to sit in the colon and ferment creating an overgrowth of bad bacteria (as well as other inflammatory digestive disorders), long-term use of antibiotics, NSAIDS, alcohol and allergies, including gluten.
Candida albicans is part of our natural microbiome but it can overgrow especially in acidic conditions due to a high sugar intake; this fungi grows branches which permeate our internal membranes and creates holes for substances to leak out and also creates inflammation. NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and alcohol damage linings, again causing perforations and in serious cases bleeding and ulcers. Antibiotics kill all types of bacteria, including our good bacteria which keeps our bad bacteria in check; candida albicans particularly likes to take advantage of such a situation. Gut transit times are important as old rotting stagnant food creates an overgrowth of bad bacteria.
It is vital our blood stays ‘clean’ and our immune system will deal with these intruders. Compare the effects on a small scale, for example, if you get stung by a bee our immune cells are signalled to the site to digest the sting creating swelling, redness and pain. You could imagine a similar process happens when invaders are found in our bloodstream and so inflammation on a systemic scale. The body will always try and remove toxicity either via the skin, lungs or intestines so you could imagine that manifestations of inflammation could include digestive issues, skin disorders such as excema or even frequent colds as the body attempt to rid the 'intruders'. Long-term leading to inflammatory autoimmune diseases such as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. And breaks in our intestines can let all sorts of molecules through, still seen as 'intruders' and often, food molecules that escape can cause allergies and intolerances.
Further still, new research suggests that affective disorders such as anxiety caused by excessive cortisol can cause inflammation in the digestive tract too, especially our gut and brain are linked!
Whilst research is now on board with the idea of a healthy gut being a main foundation to health our Elders knew this too. Hippocrates said ‘All disease begins in the gut'.So very worth while building a strong gut!
I like to think of our gut as the soils of our Earth, we are ruining our soils with intensive farming methods and depleting the natural bacterias, these bacterias play a vital role in helping plants to assimilate nutrients, keeping the plants healthy from dis-ease as well producing nutritionally dense foods. I list a few tips to boost your gut health below:
Eat foods that feed your good bacteria so they can repopulate, these are called probiotics and food sources include a range of fibres; they particularly like onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, chicory, oats and apples.
Or eat foods which replenish bacteria by eating them directly in the forms of fermented foods such as: kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi and kombucha.
Support overall gut healing by making sure you are obtaining sources of vitamin A (yellow/orange foods), Vitamin C (fruits), Vitamin D (sunshine) and Zinc and vitamin E.
Eat a variety of proteins so the body has the amino-acids it needs for repair, found in: meat, poultry, fish, legumes and bone broth.
Include a variety of oils such as olive oil, hemp oil, avocado, flaxseed, coconut and oily fish.
Try to drink a glass of hot water with a couple of drops of lemon, each morning and drink water away from meal times to keep stomach acid strong.
Digestive conditions can affect the absorption of nutrients such as B12, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc so please book a consultation should you feel you are suffering from ‘leaky gut’ or any of the symptoms.