Gut health – the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the digestive tract – is finally starting to become recognized as a crucial part of health, immune system function, and weight loss. Gut health is important – your gut contains more bacteria than all the other cells in your body combined! We are technically more bacterial than human. The nerd in me thinks that’s pretty cool…
Optimizing and maintaining a healthy gut flora (“intestinal flora”) is critical to good digestion, immune system function, mental health, metabolism, and weight management.
Sometimes the gut is called the “second brain,” describing the communication between the gut and the brain. The gut houses its own “in house” nervous system, called the enteric nervous system (ENS).
The ENS and your brain communicate food intake, satiety, glucose and fat metabolism, and insulin secretion. They also trade hormones back and forth that affect your metabolism, your hunger levels, and your mood.
When the gut is unbalanced and unhealthy, a number of issues can emerge. Research suggests that having inadequate levels of healthy bacteria in your gut may contribute to over a hundred negative health issues, including
• Weight gain
• Difficulty regulating hunger and cravings
• Poor digestion
• Skin problems like eczema, cellulitis, and infections
• Yeast infections
• Nutrient absorption problems
• Low bone density
• Acid reflux
• Obesity and Diabetes
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome
• Leaky gut
Here are some common causes of poor gut health:
• Environmental toxins like herbicides and pesticides
• Sugar, alcohol, fried foods, and other inflammatory foods
• Processed foods and lack of “live” foods (vegetables, fruits, fermented foods)
• Infection (like H. pylori or E. coli)
• Excessive fructose (fruit sugar). Bonus tip: People who have trouble digesting fructose also often have trouble with other complex carbohydrates known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols).
The typical modern lifestyle – poor diet, stress, and medications – as well as external factors like environmental toxins and pollutants can ruin your gut flora.
The great news is that there is a solution to healing an unhealthy gut:
1. Eat a wide variety of live foods. At least half of your daily food should be fresh vegetables.
2. Supplement with a wide-spectrum probiotic supplement. There are hundreds of bacterial strains in your gut, but many off-the-shelf probiotic supplements contain only a handful (some only one or two!).
3. Eat traditionally (and properly) fermented foods:
• Kim chi
• Red wine
A healthy microbiome (healthy gut) is a balance between what’s there and what’s not there. Do your best with the controllable factors (diet, stress, organic produce, and medications). Minimize inflammation with healthy food, proper supplements (like omega-3 fish oil and probiotics), good sleep, and stress management.
If you need help or advice with creating a healthy diet or lifestyle, contact Dan DeFigio.