Gut Over Matter!
“All disease begins in the gut” ~Hippocrates.
With over 100 trillion bacteria lining our intestinal tract it’s no wonder the importance our gut health plays in influencing our overall wellbeing.
Stuck in a Rut?
Dysbiosis is the term used to describe a microbial imbalance within our body systems. Symptoms of dysbiosis are plentiful and range from digestive disorders, nutrient deficiencies, and even psychological imbalances. Here is a list of some symptoms connected to poor gut health:
~frequently passing gas
~food sensitivities (gluten, soy, dairy, etc.)
~prone to yeast infections
~mental fog and irritability
~skin conditions (cystic acne, psoriasis, eczema, etc.)
~poor nutrient absorption leading to nutrient deficiencies
Causes of microbial imbalances also vary. Some of these factors include age, prolonged antibiotic use, chronic stress, exposure to a toxic environment (e.g mould, fungus, heavy metals, chemicals), consumption of contaminated food or water, travel bugs/ parasites, a low fibre diet, overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g asprin, ibuprofen, diclofenac, oxaprozin), excessive animal protein, diet high in refined sugar, hormonal imbalances (e.g use of hormonal birth control, use of steroid hormones), and also genetics.
Roles of the Gut
Your gut is a very busy system! It plays many important roles in keeping your body in tip-top shape. Here are some examples of how your gut bacteria is working hard to support your wellbeing!
*Digestion and Metabolism- Gut bacteria synthesizes vitamins B & K and produces short-chained fatty acids. It helps break down food particles, aids in the absorption of nutrients, promotes daily bowel movements, strengthens lining of the intestines against leaky gut syndrome, and helps in weight management.
*Immune System Support- Gut bacteria acts as a line of defence against foreign pathogens. Approximately 70% of all immune cells are found in the gut, they produce antimicrobial substances. Bacteria helps protect against auto-immune disorders (e.g type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, pernicious anemia).
*Acts as a “Second Brain”- The gut contains over 100 million neurons (brain cells), it is known as the Enteric Nervous System. The gut and the brain carry a 2-way communication line, the vagus nerve connects the gut to the Nervous System. All the neurotransmitters in the gut produce the well-known “gut feeling”.
*Mood Regulation- Over 80% of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut. Serotonin promotes feelings of happiness, motivation, and willpower. 50% of dopamine is made in the gut. Dopamine regulates body movements and pleasure centres of the brain.
Power Charge Your Gastrointestinal System!
Just like there are many factors that can deplete your beneficial gut bacteria, there are also ways in which you can support a healthy gut flora. Here are some tips on power charging your GI System!
*Fermented Foods- Through the fermentation process probiotics, vitamins, trace minerals, and enzymes are created. Some great fermented foods to incorporate into your diet are kefir (fermented milk), kombucha (fermented tea), sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), pickles, yogurt, raw cheese, and natto (fermented soybeans).
*Natural Diet- High fibre intake and limited processed foods are ideal for supporting your gut flora. While probiotics are the actual live bacteria in your intestinal tract, prebiotics are the food substances that feed the good bacteria. Load up on your veggies (organic when possible) and don’t forget the fruit!
*Supplementation- High dose probiotic supplements (30-50 billion) are ideal for recovering gut bacteria after a treatment of antibiotics. Lower doses are beneficial for the maintenance of good gut health. Supplementation is not a replacement for a healthy diet but rather an additive to an already healthy lifestyle.
*Stress Management- Cortisol is the hormone released during times of stress. When stress becomes chronic, it reeks havoc on our Digestive and Intestinal Systems. Learning to manage stress is therefore a crucial part in our overall wellbeing. Some techniques for stress management are deep breathing, meditation, exercise, journaling, and spending time in nature. Everybody has a their own preference for how to cope with times of stress, don’t neglect your body’s need to rest!
Fun (Gut) Facts!
~Our total microbiota weighs approximately 3-5 lbs
~At birth, a new born baby’s micro-biome is colonized by the mother’s own bacteria (through a vaginal delivery and breast feeding)
~Plant-based diets help promote optimal gut health because of their high fibre content
~We have approximately 100 trillion bacteria in our bodies, that’s more than human cells!
~Trusting your ‘gut feeling’ may be more accurate than we thought!