Gut health, gut flora, probiotics, these are all “buzz words” floating around the health community these days. More and more people are realizing they should be adding probiotics to their supplement regiment, but what is this all about and why is it important?
What is the BIG DEAL about gut health? How does it affect me?
- Brain Health you have two nervous systems the Central (brain and spinal cord) and the Enteric (your gastrointestinal tract). These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. Did you know your gut and brain were that connected? Just think – do you get butterflies in your stomach with you are nervous? or have you had an upset stomach when you were angry or stressed? That is your brain talking to your gut. It is a two way street, so, what do you think your gut tells your brain? Your gut can cause mental illness, attention disorders, anxiety, depression, and has even been linked to autism.
- Immune System - Your gut is the body’s primary contact point with the world. Everything you swallow – good and bad – arrives there first. It may surprise you to learn that 70% of your immune system is in your gut. When the digestive system is working properly it serves as a barrier to bacteria, viruses and pathogens of all kind. If you find your family suffering from “24 hour flus” this is a big indicator that their digestive system is not working properly.
- Diabetes – recent studies in Denmark show evidence suggesting that there is a link between metabolic diseases and bacterial populations in the gut, regardless of the individuals BMI. They noted that levels of bad bacteria were much higher in patients with diabetes. If you or someone you know is suffering from diabetes, been told they are pre-diabetic, or hypoglycemic, this is an indicator of poor gut health. Do you suffer from “light headed ness” between meals or first thing in the morning?
- Obesity – Proper gut health will likely help you lose weight. It has been proven that the make-up of gut bacteria in lean vs. obese people tends to differ. According to Dr. Mercola and his arcticle on the gut brain connection, this one of the strongest areas of probiotic research to date. When the digestive system is working properly it serves as a barrier to bacteria, viruses and pathogens of all kinds.
- Your skin - We know that a compromised gut (or unhealthy gut) can contribute to a permeable gut (leaky gut) and therefore inflammation. Inflammation spreads differently for every person. For some it can manifest as IBS, poor vision, headaches, or an autoimmune disease; for many it has a direct effect on the skin. that is also a fellow blogger at arla Hernandez a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com she states “ that I have seen this with my clients. Even when there are no obvious digestive symptoms, I will still work on supporting the gut, and there is always an improvement in the skin.”
Why might you have poor gut health?
Lots of things can alter the good and bad ratio of bacteria in our system leading to poor gut heath:
- - rich in sugars and carbohydrates processed/ refined food, caffeine, alcohol, rancid oils and fats.
- - physical, emotional, mental.
- alters cortisol levels, creates stress and weakens the adrenals.
- Even the birth control pill which was used by 67% of young women ages 18-24 in 2008 effects gut health. Read more here on (Why You Should Avoid Hormonal Birth Control)
- Without the proper ability to digest our food thoroughly, this will create toxins and contribute to the load of bad bacteria in our system, adding to the cycle.
- Even healthy food can be damaging if one is reacting to it. Listen to your body, if you are feeling bloated, have heartburn, or other “side effects” from eating certain foods, give your body a break from those foods while you heal your gut
What Can you Do?
5 Easy Steps to Improve Your Gut Health:
- Reduce refined sugars and grains – “Bad bugs” love sugar! We do not want to feed the bad bacteria; they
stop the good bacteria from multiplying. Sugars and refined grains feed the
growth of yeast like Candida. Cutting out
these refined foods (or reducing them greatly) from our diet is a major step
towards winning the battle of gut health. It has been proven the "picky eaters" aka kids that just like plain noodles, chicken nuggets, and other bland/white foods have an over population of bad bacteria that is "craving" these highly refined sugary foods. Fix the gut and you will find hope in changing your child's eating habits.
- Drink less with meals - this
one might surprise you, I know it surprised me. Water dilutes the hydrochloric
acid (HCL) in your stomach. HCL helps
aid in digestion and is the 1st line of defense in our stomach to
fight off bad bacteria and pathogens. Try to drink 30 mins before or after
eating, or sip bone broth, kombucha, or raw milk.
- Homemade bone broth – there is a reason your grandma made you soup when you were not well, and I bet she made it from scratch too! Use the broth in soups, stews, or to boil veggies making them super foods. Drink it warm in a mug with or between meals. My husband and I love sipping warm broth from a mug; it is very comforting and tasty. This frugal homemakers BFF, is healing and soothing to the gut. It is a cheap and easy, and when made properly is a powerhouse for gut-healing gelatin and nutrients.
- Fermented Foods – I cannot say enough about fermented foods. They are a natural way to help your stomach break down what you eat. It boosts good bacteria and when you prepare them properly, or buy the right brand they are SUPER tasty! We enjoy these on a daily basis: kefir (no sugar added), yogurt with live and active cultures (no sugar added), kombucha, lacto-fermented pickles (affiliate) http://amzn.to/Hk6xQm, and sauerkraut (affiliate) http://amzn.to/1a3w0o1. Incorporate at least one of these fermented foods with every meal; it will make a notable difference. For example have some kefir or yogurt with breakfast (we put it in our green smoothie), drink kombucha with lunch and have sauerkraut or pickles with dinner.
- Take a supplemental Probiotic – the last of the five easy steps in taking a supplemental probiotic. In our house we take very few supplements because we like to get our nutrition from our food. However, fermented cod liver oil and probiotics are the two that we do take. Due to the Standard American Diet (SAD), chlorinated water, and the overuse of antibiotics, we need to be proactive in order to repopulate our gut with good bacteria. Taking a probiotic can help with this. I have heard only good things from these brands. Every person is different so you might have to try a couple before you find the one perfect for you:
|photo via guthealthyfoods.blog.com|
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil Supplement
I hope you find these 5 easy ways to improve your gut health helpful. Practicing these in our house has made a huge improvement in not only our typical "gut" type symptom, but mood, energy, weight, and especially skin have improved.
To your health!
Yuppie Farm Girl