Why Great Health Begins in the Gut
More than 2000 years ago Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, stated “all disease begins in the gut”. Although Hippocrates didn’t have the scientific research methods we have today, he recognised the connection between gut health and overall wellness.
More recently scientific research has confirmed this theory, linking a number of chronic illnesses to poor gut health, including autoimmune conditions, IBS, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic fatigue.
How your gut supports health
Our digestive system (‘the gut’) is responsible for digesting and absorbing nutrients from food ensuring our cells have the required energy and building blocks for normal function. It also provides an elimination pathway for waste, including potentially harmful metabolites formed during the metabolism of drugs, hormones and other substances.
The gut also has an important role in protecting your body from harmful bacteria and other pathogenic organisms that enter our digestive tract. Approximately 70% of your immune system tissue can be found in your gastrointestinal lining, serving the dual purpose of eliminating pathogens and forming a protective barrier to prevent them entering your system.
There is also an extensive number of microorganisms including good bacteria that colonize your gut. These guys have a symbiotic relationship with their host (you) and contribute to your overall health by regulating immune function, supporting digestive processes, maintaining the structure of your gastrointestinal lining, and interacting with your brain to influence appetite, mood, and stress response.
Signs your gut may be unhealthy
When your gut isn’t happy you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Maintaining a healthy gut
If you feel your gut needs some attention there are a few key things you can do to support healthy gastrointestinal function and improve your general wellness.
Check your diet
Food has a direct impact on your digestive function, gastrointestinal lining, and microbiota – therefore diet is key when it comes to gut health. Specific foods cause inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract and reduce microbial diversity, while others support gastrointestinal integrity, promote digestive motility, and provide nourishment for your colony of microorganisms. One of our favourite foods for restoring and healing the gut is bone broth – check out our recipe here.
Foods foods to avoid:
- Refined sugars including high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is a common ingredient in processed foods (especially sweets).
- Wheat gluten is highly inflammatory and implicated in digestive conditions including Coeliac disease.
- Artificial trans-fats including hydrogenated oils found in margarine, processed foods, and some vegetable oils.
- Refined carbohydrates which are processed and have had most of the natural fiber removed.
Foods to include:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables are rich in essential nutrients and contain inflammation fighting antioxidants.
- Dietary fibre helps eliminate toxins and feeds your good bacteria. Think fruit, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains.
- Protein from lean meat, fish, and vegetable sources supports production of digestive enzymes for digestive function.
- Essential fatty acids from oily fish, coconut oil, cod liver oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds fight inflammation.
- Prebiotic foods such as banana, beetroot, asparagus, legumes, watermelon nourish your good bacteria.
- Probiotic foods such as yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, and fermented vegetables help maintain a healthy and diverse microbiota.
Check your sleeping habits
Lack of sleep is associated with an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which has been found to adversely effect your microbiota. Cortisol is also inflammatory which can impair digestion and metabolism. The average adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, so make sure you’re getting enough z’s.
Stress is also associated with cortisol release which as discussed above can impair your gut function. Chronic stress is associated with a number of serious health issues so understanding how to manage your stress levels is important. Participating regularly in stress reducing activities such as exercise, socializing with friends, yoga, meditation, and stretching can be helpful for keeping your cortisol levels in check.
We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or contact us on 07 5322 5388 to book in with our qualified Naturopath Carly.