Getting Gut Health On Track

Ok let’s talk gut health for a moment shall we? It’s a bit of a popular term these days, but what does it mean and how do we improve it?

Well, simply put, gut health is the state of your entire digestive tract, from stomach lining, to intestines, to gut bacteria. This isn’t just about digestion, the gut sets the tone for your immune system, your brain function, your skin and more. If your gut health is subpar then many things follow suit.

Your nutrient absorption abilities will take a hit if you have damaged intestinal lining, or an imbalance of the micro organisms that make up your gut flora. You may suffer with loose stool, constipation, reflux, upset stomach, and various digestive intolerances. Your skin may show the toll with ailments like excema, acne, or psoriasis. Your brain health may be affected, a variety of issues like autism and ADD have been shown to be connected with poor gut health (whether as a result or a cause, but research is showing that improvement occurs when gut improvement occurs). Weight loss or weight gain may be hampered as an imbalance of bacteria affects your glucose absorption, hormonal balance and more. Mood may be altered, as your gut bacteria both create and affect various nuerotransmitters.

I could go on…

So, how do we improve gut health? It’s the question for the ages. Research is still being done on the types of bacteria we need in abundance, and how to keep levels in balance. Understanding of “leaky gut” and at what point in maturation the gut lining becomes less permeable is growing. Knowledge of which environmental and nutritional substances positively affect your gut and negatively affect your gut is being consistently expanded.

But we do know a few things for sure:

  • We need prebiotics to properly feed gut bacteria. Prebiotics are undigestible fibers that bacteria love! Studies seem to show that it’s the healthy micro-organisms that best benefit from these fibers. You can get prebiotics in specially made supplements, and many fruits and veggies. Some probiotics even include prebiotic fiber in an outer layer of the capsule.
  • Most low nutrient processed food that is high in polyunsaturated fats and low in fiber encourages the proliferation of the “bad” bacteria, while making your gut more inhospitable to the “good” guys. Alcohol is particularly strenuous on gut bacteria balance.
  • Taking probiotics can add good bacteria to the gut. They are still being explored, but we know a few things about their ability to help the gut. Look up research on your particular ailment to see what strands are recommended for you. Then pay attention to the following
  1. Make sure your probiotic has a couple billion “live microorganisms”. If they aren’t live they aren’t gonna do a thing.
  2. Check to see if your supplement only covers one strand, like acidophilus. While this is a helpful strand, it is also the most easy to come by and isn’t going to do a whole lot for you. It’s the variety of good bacteria and the “battle” that ensues internally that we want.
  3. Those expensive refrigerated probiotics are not going to survive stomach acid and the high heat of your body to make it into the intestinal tract. You need certain types of encapsulation forms to ensure the strands make it where they need to go. Check into the type of encapsulation used before buying probiotics.
  • Antibiotics and many other medications are very harmful to gut flora. Do not take them as a prophylactic, they should only be used when no other option is available. A doctor educated on gut health will take this into account and help you balance your options.

 

In short, if your health is subpar, look to the gut first. Begin creating habits that benefit the gut and eliminating habits that harm it. I’m always open to chat about ideas that will benefit your particular situation. Reach out anytime.