The Importance Of Gut Health
“All disease starts in the gut.” ~ Hippocrates
Gut health is the cornerstone of your health and immunity. Here is some food for thought, pun intended:
- Your gut really is your second brain, with over 95% of serotonin receptors located here.
- There is approximately 3kg of bacteria in the gut – that’s more bacterial cells than human cells. Did you know that we are actually 90% bacteria? Kind of gross, but mind blowing nonetheless!
Why is gut health so important?
Gut bacteria assist in food breakdown, help produce essential nutrients and allow for greater nutrient bioavailability (via pre-digestion). Without the right balance, nutrient production, absorption, digestion and assimilation is sub-optimal. This has powerful implications for health and vitality; immunity and protection from food allergies and intolerances; cognition, memory and overall brain health; natural detoxification pathways; growth in children and adolescents; exercise performance and recovery; weight loss ability; and the list goes on…
Why is my gut health not self-regulated?
There are many reasons why we now realise that the world we live in, our choices and our behaviours are no longer supporting our gut health. Here’s just a few:
- Poor nutrition
Prior to the recent revolution refined sugars, refined vegetable oils, trans fats and gluten were everywhere. These inflammatory foods kill good gut bacteria and allow bad bacteria to thrive. Our ancestors didn’t eat anything in a box, so why should we? Not to mention that our ancestors also had to ferment (i.e. preserve) their foods as they had little other choice. With the introduction of modern practices like refrigerators, canning and preservatives, the probiotic nature of traditional foods has been destroyed.
We live in a modern world. We are stressed, busy and chronically tired. We are constantly exposed to heavy metals and environmental toxins and our gut health just sometimes can’t compete.
- Modern medicine
Antibiotics, synthetic prescriptive drugs, the oral contraceptive pill (OCP)…Did you know that your gut health is passed down from your mother at conception? If your mother was ever on the OCP, it is highly likely that your gut health has been disrupted. The OCP acts like antibiotics and kills off the beneficial bacteria in the gut. If you are still taking the OCP yourself, it is time to learn another way of contraception. If you are taking the OCP to address an underlying issue, such as acne or painful periods, it is time to get to the root cause of the problem, rather than putting a Band-Aid over the top, and suppressing the initial problem further.
How do I know if my gut health is sub-optimal?
As Hippocrates said “all disease starts in the gut”, so too does all health. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms: unusual cravings, poor bowel or unexplained headaches, start healing your gut today. Burping, flatulence, bloating and excessive noises coming from your stomach are not normal.
Where do I start?
The best place to start is where you are comfortable, and here are a number of options to start your gut health journey. Please start gradually and build your intake over the next four weeks. It is not a matter of ‘more is more’ as you can create over growth of beneficial bacteria, when your microbiomes thrives as Goldilocks dose: not too little and not too much.
Fermented foods & beverages
Fermented beverages including apple cider vinegar, olive leaf extract and aloe vera offer exceptional gut health benefits. They are anti-microbial and anti-viral in nature and offer powerful immune and antioxidant support. The beneficial probiotic bacteria act to balance your microbiome, and create a healthy internal ecosystem.
Fermented vegetables are one of the easiest and most convenient sources of good bacteria. Fermented foods in general contain millions of beneficial microbes, which drive out pathogens and therefore protect gut integrity. In addition, the bacteria pre-digest our food, which means we have greater access to nutrients. There is actually 20 times more bioavailable vitamin C in sauerkraut than in fresh cabbage.
Bone broth is one of nature’s true superfoods. It is packed full of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus and provides gelatin and collagen for cell integrity and healing. While everyone will benefit from adding bone broth, it is absolutely essential for those with leaky gut, celiac disease, Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune conditions.
Kefir is a probiotic drink made from ‘grains’, which act like the starter culture in yoghurt. Traditionally the Kefir grains are added to milk and fermented via the lactose, or milk sugar. For a dairy free and vegan option, use coconut water to make coconut kefir.
Kombucha is made from a starter culture (known as a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast or “SCOBY”), sugar and tea. When double fermented, it becomes a fruity fizzy drink and a great replacement for soft drink, as hard as it may be to believe. To make your own, obtain a SCOBY from someone already brewing their own kombucha tea, purchase one from a reputable source or grow one from a bottle of raw (i.e. unpasteurized) kombucha tea.