“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates
Thousands of years before modern medicine, Hippocrates realized and emphasized the importance of a healthy gut. Healthy gut, healthy life! However, our modern lifestyle is anything but innocuous for a healthy guy. A sick gut can be at the root of countless vague and lingering symptoms, some mild and annoying while others can be severe and debilitating. Some symptoms are easily connected to a dysfunctional gut such as diarrhea, gas, or bloating, but others seem completely unrelated, like headaches, joint pain, or flaring skin conditions. The truth is, numerous health conditions are linked to the status and well-being of the gut.
A key factor to maintaining gut health is having a plenty of friendly bacteria live within the large intestines. The gut is home to trillions of bacteria which make up part of a unique system called the microbiome. The microbiome contains not only bacteria, but yeast, viruses, and parasites. When the ratio of beneficial microbes becomes outnumbered by pathogenic bugs, our chances of falling ill increase. The way we live and eat can alter our microbiome ratio for the worse, killing the friendly bacteria, leaving us susceptible to diseases and poor health.
The following are detrimental to the health of the microbiome:
• Use of NSAIDs, antibiotics, and acid suppressing medications
• Autoimmune conditions
• Poor and imbalanced diet (lacking fiber and micronutrients)
• Low stomach acid production
• Environmental toxins
Unfortunately, not only do these components of modern life disrupt and destroy the healthy bacteria in our gut, they can also lead to degradation of the intestinal lining. This can result in a condition called “intestinal permeability” or more commonly known as “leaky gut.” It’s like having tiny holes being punctured in the walls of the small intestines. When this occurs, undigested food proteins, microorganisms, and toxins can “leak” into the bloodstream where they do not belong. This results in an immune response accompanied by chronic, low-grade inflammation. Long-term inflammation is at the root of all chronic disease; therefore, a healthy gut truly is essential for a long and healthy life.
The good news is you CAN repair and heal the gut.
- The first step improving a damaged gut is to remove exposure to potentially inflammatory foods and toxins. This means drinking filtered water and consuming organic produce and animal products.
- Try experimenting with an elimination diet to reveal possible sensitivities or intolerances to foods. Remove foods such as wheat/gluten, dairy, eggs, sugar, caffeine and alcohol from your diet for about a month. You might be amazed at how good you feel! Slowly reintroduce removed foods one at a time (allow for three days per food) and document how your body responds to each food. You can also go one step further and seek out a lab the does bloodwork to reveal food sensitivities.
- Avoiding taking certain medications when not needed (NSAIDs, acid suppressing medications or antibiotics) at your doctor’s discretion.
- Nourish your gut with a diet high in fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals to feed and sustain friendly bacteria. Due to its amino acid content, bone broth has been shown to be extremely healing for the intestinal lining, so drink up!
- Boosting probiotics in the diet is a great way to populate the gut with healthy bacteria. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, pickles, kombucha tea, sauerkraut, etc. You can also take a probiotic supplement daily.
- Do your best to identify and manage all life stressors (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) as chronic stress can reduce overall health, including the gut environment.
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Reference: Kresser, C. “9 Steps to Perfect Health – #5: Heal Your Gut.” ChrisKresser.com, 4 April 2019, https://chriskresser.com/9-steps-to-perfect-health-5-heal-your-gut/