The gut is key to establishing all round health. For anyone that has a chronic disease, allergies, depression or autoimmune disease, the first action they should be taking is to improve gut health, but why?
The gut microbiome is at the centre of all immune processes. It contributes to both physical and mental wellbeing. It does this in a number of ways:
It assists in digestion of the food we eat
It contributes to the body's availability of vital vitamins and produces much of the body's B vitamins
It is the main manufacturing site for serotonin, the body's feel good hormone and so will improve mood
It also manufactures the hormone GABA, the calming hormone. If you are stressed or anxious, chances are you have low levels of GABA.
It provides fuel for the cells of the gut to ensure they remain healthy, therefore contributes to the prevention of bowel cancer
It helps the immune system function properly.
It reduces inflammatory processes in the body. Inflammation is one of the main drivers for chronic diseases such as Diabetes and heart disease.
The danger is that we tend to think in terms of good bacteria and bad bacteria, the fact is we have all sorts of bacteria, fungi and parasites in our gut, some are bad if they are allowed to grow in big numbers, but it is thought that all have a function within the system. These "opportunistic bacteria' grow when numbers of beneficial bacterial species are reduced. If we have a poor diet, if we take antibiotics and if we are born with a poor microbiome we are more likely to have health issues. Bacterial diversity in a baby's gut is reduced by C-section births and poor dietary intake in pregnancy, although the reasons as to why we have poor dietary intake might not just be about what we eat, but also about what nutrients we can absorb, which means if you have a poor microbiome before pregnancy, even if your diet is rich in nutrients, your body won't be able to absorb them fully. Its a vicious circle!
The microbiome is a huge topic to cover as its health can be cited in pretty much every illness known to man. For the next few weeks I will be blogging about some of the biggest diseases we have to tackle in the modern world and their connections with the bacteria you have or don't have in your gut, with details on which probiotic might help according to actual clinical trials.
In the meantime here are some tips for keeping your gut on track!
Eat lots of fresh vegetables and some fresh fruit. Make sure you eat the colours of the rainbow
Don't eat too many starchy foods such as potatoes, rice and pasta. When you do eat them, cook and cool them to make cold potato salad, pasta salad or rice salad as cooling converts them to resistant starch which good bacteria love! (see later blog posts for why!)
Reduce sugar intake. Pathogenic bacteria and candida (thrush) thrive on sugar.
Reduce wheat/gluten/bread intake. As well as being highly processed carbohydrate that is rapidly converted to sugar in the body, the pesticides used to dry wheat out on harvesting, particularly glyphosate (Round Up) act like an antibiotic and kill your good bacteria and affects the structure of cell membranes in the gut. This video explains this perfectly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5EcxzZDLf8. Gluten also contributes to leaky gut (see later blog).
If you have to take antibiotics, use a probiotic to help your gut recover. Probiotics don't necessarily replace what the antibiotics kill, but they allow the gut to build up it's army again after the treatment has finished. Leave a two hour gap between the probiotic and the antibiotic (night time is usually the best time for this as it allows the bacteria to grow over a long period of time before its time to wake up and take the next dose). Alternatively a strain called Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast probiotic and is not killed by antibiotics (antibiotics only kill bacteria!) so it can be taken at any time. A good example is S8 Floractiv https://www.bioceuticals.com.au/product/preview/SB-Floractiv
Eating well is not always easy, but once you experience the benefits of a healthy gut microbiome you will realise that nothing tastes as good as you feel!