There is no question that the “gut” has been getting a lot of attention in the media these days. As a society, we are finally starting to pay attention to the importance of our digestive system and the possible damage we have been causing in our bodies over the past few decades.
Do you know what the “gut” really is?
Most of us hear this word and don’t really understand what it entails or why we should really care.
The gut, as we hear it in everyday chatter, refers to the lower half of our digestive systems (stomach to food exit). In reality, the gastrointestinal tract encompasses much more than that and includes the mouth, esophagus, and supporting organs.
So, why all the fuss these days?
Doctors and holistic health professionals are starting to shed more light on the damage our current lifestyles and ways of eating are bringing to our bodies. Science is developing and we are learning more than ever before about the importance of our digestive system on our overall health.
Our whole state of health starts and ends with the health of our digestive systems.
Yah, I know that’s a big statement, but it’s a fact. Our digestive tracts are an integral part of almost every process in our bodies. Some of the most important tasks include:
- Create and mobilize enzymes used for processes throughout body
- Regulate nutrients in our blood
- Create hormones for use around the body
- Regulate nerve impulses sent throughout body and the brain
- Make vitamins vital to our health (vitamin K and B)
- Ensure proper elimination of food waste
- Healthy and well functioning immune system
Almost every disease, ailment, or pain begins with problems in our guts.
Do you suffer from anemia and low iron? Something in your intestines is not breaking down your food and absorbing the tiny iron particles into your blood as it should.
Do you suffer from joint pain or headaches? Issues with absorption in your intestines or the physical structure of your gut lining could cause inflammation that spreads throughout your body.
Do you suffer from seasonal or food allergies? Food particles in your gut could be absorbing into your bloodstream before they are broken down enough to be used by your organs and cells. This causes your immune system to kick into high gear and get into fight mode essentially causing your body to fight against itself and treat certain foods as “allergens”- such as gluten or lactose.
Do you suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues? The bacteria in our intestines are responsible for creating enzymes and hormones that are sent to our brains to signal how we should feel. When our gut is damaged, these “happy hormones” are not triggered the same and can cause many different issues and emotions.
The list is ENDLESS. Any ailment can be traced to what is going on in your digestive system. Among those listed above, some other common symptoms of a damaged gastrointestinal tract are:
- Leaky Gut Syndrome (When there are holes in your intestinal lining allowing larger than normal food particles to pass into your bloodstream and wreak havoc on your body)
- Headaches and migraines
- Inflammation in joints and muscles
- Digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea
- Nutrient deficiencies and related diseases
- Low energy
- Low drive and mental capacity
- Depression and anxiety
- Mood swings
- Skin problems, eczema, rosacea
- Weak immune system
- Weight gain
So, before you start taking drugs to mask your symptoms, take a serious look at the health of your digestive system and start healing from the root of your problems.
Now that you have a better idea of how important your digestive health is. Let’s look at ways to help you get back on the right track with healing and looking after this essential part of your body.
Things to REMOVE from your life today:
- Antibiotics (the main killer of good intestinal bacteria)
- Other pharmaceuticals (prescription and over the counter)
- Anti-bacterial anything (we are made of bacteria and need to welcome it into our bodies)
- Environmental toxins (exhaust, chemical scents, cleaners)
- Food toxins (GMO, pesticides, chemical sprays, preservatives, additives….)
- Excess stress
- Sugar (a huge contributor to damage in our gut)
- Rancid or hydrogenated oils and trans-fats (anything deep fried)
- Acidic foods (meat, dairy, coffee, tea, soda…)
- White, refined wheat products
- Any foods you are allergic too or cause you digestive upset
- Very spicy foods– even if your stomach can tolerate them
Things to ADD into your life today:
- More vegetables and legumes
- Fiber from real foods
- Daily relaxation
- Replenish the diversity of bacteria in your intestine (see below)
- Get enough sleep (varies for everyone- you know what is right for you)
- Eat meals slowly and focused (no distractions)
- Supplement or focus on vitamins and minerals that you are deficient in (get tested)
If you suspect your issues are rooted in the gut (which almost all are), invest in your health and a trip to a holistic doctor or naturopath to begin investigating what your specific body will need to start healing. It’s different for everyone!
Once you have figured out what nutrients your body needs more of or what is not quite functioning correct in your digestive tract, you can start the process of healing the damage that has been caused. After you heal, which can take months or even years, you will be able to go back to a life of balance and moderation. Focus on healing and then building a new relationship with lifestyle and food habits that support the health of your system and body as a whole.
One key addition during the healing process involves replenishing the damaged bacteria in your system. You are no doubt hearing about and probably already tried taking some form of probiotic and/or prebiotic.
These bacteria are involved, either directly or indirectly, in absorbing every nutrient we need from our foods. They are also involved in hormone and enzyme creation as well as providing important vitamins within our bodies. Having enough good guys is mandatory in order to keep everything “in check” in our guts. If we are out of balance with one or more strains of bacteria, this is when huge issues and infections can take place as the “bad” guys take over our intestines. Keeping a healthy supply and diversity of bacteria is extremely important.
A probiotic is essentially a family of “good” bacteria that we want more of in our bodies.
A prebiotic is the food in which the “good” bacteria eat to stay alive. They are essentially fibers found in plant foods that do not break down/digest in your stomach or small intestine. They stay intact and flow into the large intestine where your bacteria uses them as food.
You need to include both in your diet in order to have a successful gut bacteria content. Without the prebiotic, your probiotic bacteria will starve and die. Yes, of course you can take both of these in an easy to ingest supplement purchased from your health care practitioner or health food store. They are NOT all created equally so please do your research ahead of time or ask a professional. For a great guide take a look here.
If you are like me and don’t care for taking pills or supplements, you’re in luck! There are many ways to add both probiotics and prebiotics into your daily diet.
Sources of probiotics:
Sources of prebiotics:
- Raw garlic
- Raw or cooked onion
- Wheat bran
- Chicory root
**Important note: Probiotics and prebiotics are easily damaged and broken down by cooking or heating. Be sure to consume both in a raw state for the best and most effective benefits.
Now it’s up to you!
You have the power to change your health for the better. Take this information, do you own research and talk to your doctor or naturopath today about your digestive health.
Please contact me if you have any questions or would like more information. I am more than happy to help and point you in the right direction if you need it.
Love & Guts,