While modern medicine may have only just recognised the complexities of the gut, we know that ancient medicine practices sought to rid pain and illness by working with the gastrointestinal tract, using herbs, natural elixirs and food as medicine.
If you have been following me, or any health professional for that matter, you would likely be familiar with the term ‘gut microbiome’ that refers to those 100 trillion cells of bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal tract, responsible for: digestion, nutrient absorption and production, toxicity blockages, and immune system regulation just to name a few.
When we talk about gut health we are essentially talking about the health and operation of the microbiome and its ability to modulate these processes successfully. For example, when the gut microbiome is impaired we experience discomfort such as bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, malformed stools, constipation/diarrhea, skin irritations including break-outs, and may even experience nervous system disorders such as mood swings and anxiety as a result of disrupted serotonin secretion. Unfortunately these have become common ways of being for many people, but I am here to remind you that they are most certainly not normal and could be signs of a severly damaged microbiome.
A healthy gastrointestinal tract can quite literally breathe new life into someone who had once been so accustomed to a heavy stomach, poor skin and a foggy mind.
You may be wondering how or why your gut microbiome would ever become damaged in the first place, well…
Dangers to the Gut Microbiome
Antibiotics & Pharmaceuticals
The over-use of antibiotics and prescription medication has played a large role in the depletion of our gut flora; killing millions of good bacteria in the pursuit of eliminating illness; and while these are necessary at times their impact on the beneficial bacteria in your gut cannot be ignored.
Chemical Exposure, Pesticides & Herbicides
There is no wonder that my great friend Cyndi O’Meara from Changing Habits is campaigning for the eradication of pesticides and herbicides from modern day foodstuffs; after witnessing the effects of farming chemical ‘round up’ on her own family and drawing a link between the killing of gut bacteria by exposure and fatal blood disease.
As discussed in my last blog post, Dr. Alessio Fassano is leading the charge in his research and exposure of the effects of gluten and processed carbohydrates on the health of the digestive system and the rising number of food intolerances that we are seeing today. His research has also drawn parallels between gut disbiosis and severe nervous system disorders and chronic illness. To read more please click here.
When we eat processed foods we are ingesting a number of food additives and chemicals a part of the ‘food-process’ that our genetic bodies were never equipped to deal with. As a result these can have a cumulative damaging effect on the bacteria of our gut and overtime can even re-modulate these bacteria to crave more unhealthy and potentially damaging foods.
Healing The Gut
There are a number of approaches and dietary strategies to follow if someone is looking to ‘heal their gut’. These can be quite stressful, not only for the body but also for the mind as they tend to exclude many foods that may cause inflammation in the gut. Instead of rambling on about each of these I suggest that you first take a trip to see your naturopath and have some tests done. Even if you are exhibiting clear signs of gut disbiosis in the expression of constipation and abdominal pain, it is best to get a very clear idea of what is going and from there tailor an approach that will work best for your unique body and your lifestyle.
Having said that however, I encourage all of my patients, whether they are exhibiting signs of discomfort or not, to take a strain of probiotics and focus on a diet of nourishing wholefoods, with the addition of some fermented foods such as high-quality fermented yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi or even kombucha. And while these may all sound very trendy, I will attest to the fact that a diet of nourishing, wholefoods should be the priority. When we feed the gut good, clean, healthy fuel it is of course more likely to function better; and so to anyone who may be seeking a little bit of support I suggest starting there, monitoring your progress and moving further if and when you are advised by your health care professional.
Remember, keep it simple and start with; just eating real food.