The same man who proclaimed “Let food be thy medicine” over 2,000 years ago knew that health starts in the gut. We like to think modern medicine is so much more advanced than ancient knowledge and wisdom, but it’s only in the past decade or so that we are beginning to understand with our modern scientific tools how right Hippocrates was! Current research reveals that gut health is critical to our overall health, and that unhealthy gut flora leads to a wide range of diseases including diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, autism spectrum disorder, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and other autoimmune diseases. Finding ways of supporting intestinal health and restoring the integrity of the gut is becoming one of modern healthcare’s new frontiers
The brain really is the boss of you! It’s the body’s most important and complicated organ, but it’s basically 3 pounds of mostly essential fatty acids (read more on this in next month’s newsletter) nestled between our ears. The brain and gut are connected via the Vagus nerve, which is the cranial nerve that runs from brain to abdomen and an information highway where transmitters race up and down 24/7 giving and receiving messages. Have you ever had that “butterflies in the stomach” feeling when nervous, excited, or dreading something? That’s a great example of the brain connecting to the gut. And have you ever considered that your nagging anxiety, depression or anger is the gut affecting the brain? The information highway runs both ways, with the gut considered to be the Second Brain when in fact, it dictates much more of our mental, emotional and physical health than we could imagine before!
Our gut (which runs from the mouth to the “back exit”) is home to approximately 100 TRILLION microorganisms—or 10 times more bacteria that all the human cells in the entire body. You could say we’re more bacterial than human! And even more amazingly, the skin has it’s own bacterial colony. Yes, you have bacteria covering your outsides too, with a totally different PH balance! (more on the health of the skin in my blog link)
Good vs. Bad Gut Flora: For our internal environment to be stable, and immune system to be functioning optimally, we need a balance of good vs. bad bacteria, in the 85% to 15% ratio. Maintaining the right balance forms the foundation for good health—physically, mentally and emotionally. The balance of the gut flora dictates digestive function, protection from infection, regulates our metabolism and controls more than 75% of our immune system. Research is revealing that the composition is closely related to early brain development and consequent behavior. The flora makeup is also very different in lean vs. obese, so this is a major area to look at when struggling to lose weight. Learn more in this little tutorial here.
What symptoms are associated with an unhealthy gut? The most noticeable are bloating, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, stomach pain after eating, inability to lose weight, food sensitivities and skin issues. Less noticeable are anxiety, depression, brain fog (inability to focus) and anger issues – these can be signals that all is not well below.
Pictured are some of the things that are just a part of the “normal” modern life for most of us, but can cause very poor digestive health. We could also add to this list: too much caffeine and alcohol as well as toxins in our environment. But unmanaged stress can overwhelm our lives and deplete healthy gut bacteria, thus weakening our immune systems response to illness.
SO WHAT DO WE DO NOW? Luckily, you have options and you can once again take charge and be the CEO of you and your family—through the Power of Regeneration. Your body is rebuilding itself all the time! Hour by hour, day by day, monthly and yearly, and is capable of changing for the better if given the right building blocks through the energy you consume. Here are some changes that you can make to promote gut health and really make a difference in your health. Intestinal bacteria need to eat, and based on your diet unhealthy bacteria with either be inhibited or will overwhelm the system.
1. Consume More Plants. These are your high fiber and antioxidant super foods. Studies show that people who consume a more plant-based diet have a much healthier micro flora composition than those who eat the more typical western diet of higher meat and processed food content. Antioxidants in the form of whole foods fight free radical damage in the body so that cells can become stronger over time.
2. Add Fermented Foods. This process preserves the food and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Think pickled veggies including sauerkraut, whole greek yogurt, kombucha and strong aged cheese. Here’s a great tutorial from Wellness Mama about doing this yourself at home! (think science experiment if you have kids!)
3. Change Over to Healthy Fats. Nuts and seeds, avocados, extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil, real butter and coconut oil. The fatty acids in coconut oil are antimicrobial, anti-fungal and antiviral. Essential fatty acids (Omega-3s) are what the brain needs to function properly, and the body doesn’t produce these, they must be consumed!
4. Fix More Real Food, Real Ingredients. If consuming a mostly processed food diet full of white flour, soy, corn, and sugar, not only will your metabolism be affected, but your gut health as well - and we know that means your immune system, your organs, and your emotional and mental health.
5. Make Water Your Main Drink. Water cleanses the system and doesn’t interfere with the ph balance of the gut, and helps to maintain a healthy metabolism and regular elimination.
6. Cut Way Back on Sugar. Sugar fosters an environment in the gut for an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria. Have it as an occasional treat, not an everyday item.
7. Minimize the Use of Hand Sanitizers. And harsh soaps, especially deodorant soups! Our environment has become too clean and our health is suffering because of it. These harsh cleansers disrupt the skin mantle, and the chemicals seep into our systems (the skin is a sponge—works both ways) interfering with our hormones and immune system. Just soap and water, please!
If you need help navigating a path towards wholeness and healing, consider partnering with me as your Integrated Health and Nutrition Coach! My role is to educate, motivate, and keep my clients on track to reach their health and lifestyle goals. I really believe this is the missing piece in transforming one’s health for a lifetime, not just a season and not just for that next 15 pounds. As the CEO of your life, your most important job is to learn how to keep yourself healthy in body, soul and spirit so you can have the energy and focus you need for family, work, community and play. Find out more about my Health Coaching Programs and contact me today!
Be Well - Carol