While Hippocrates coined the phrase, “all disease begins in the gut” thousands of years ago, current research is finding there’s much truth in this ancient piece of wisdom!
If you think your intestinal tract is only responsible for digestion and waste elimination, think again… your gut also plays a big role in immune system function, the synthesis of essential nutrients, and balancing neurotransmitters important for brain and mood health.
It’s even been referred to as our second brain by experts in the health professional community.
It’s all about the health of our gut
Your intestines are home to billions of bacteria, collectively known as the microbiome. Some of these bacteria are beneficial and some are not, but the balance between the two is really key to normal digestion, proper absorption of nutrients, and promoting a healthy intestinal environment.
Currently, with our immunity at the forefront of our minds, this balance of bacteria is also a determinant of our immune system strength.
The integrity and structure of the intestinal walls is also extremely important when it comes to good gut health – and our health overall.
The gut lining is a permeable barrier designed to allow certain molecules, like broken down nutrients from food, to crossover into the bloodstream for absorption and use in the body. But, the gut lining should also keep harmful molecules, like toxins and pathogens, from being absorbed.
When the gut lining is compromised, it may become thin, inflamed, too permeable, and unable to regulate which molecules should and should not be crossing into the bloodstream. This is known as impaired intestinal permeability or Leaky Gut Syndrome.
A leaky gut allows large food particles, chemicals, and toxins to actually ‘leak’ into your body where they can wreak havoc! Your immune system then swings into action as it identifies these as foreign invaders and launches an inflammatory attack.
This type of inflammation is different than the heat, swelling, and redness you associate with an injury. That’s acute inflammation and it’s pretty obvious when it’s happening.
Instead, we’re talking constant chronic inflammation that, over the course of longer periods of time, is thought to be the root cause of a lot of diseases.
How to determine the status of your gut?
When we test for food sensitivities, we get a really good understanding of how permeable your gut is. If there are a lot of reactive foods on the list, we know your gut barrier has become leaky.
We can also see leaky gut on the Organic Acids Test, a urine test that can measure different metabolites from bacteria and yeast that damage the gut and negatively shift the microbiome.
Do you suffer from:
● bloating and gas
● constipation or diarrhea
● rectal itching
● nasal congestion
● sinus problems
● bad breath
● skin rashes/eczema
● athlete’s foot/jock itch
● fungal infection of the nails
● chemical sensitivities
● chronic fatigue
● difficulty concentrating/brain fog
● sugar cravings
● recurrent urinary tract infections
● yeast infections
● joint pain
● anxiety, irritability or depression
Not every single disease can be traced back to gut health, but a lot of them can. For example, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, mood disorders like depression, and autoimmune diseases are all linked to inflammation and poor gut health or a compromised gut lining.
What type of things are harmful to the gut?
A number of things can contribute to poor gut functioning, including:
● An unhealthy diet, high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and unhealthy fats, like fried foods and trans fats (chips, peanuts, store-bought cookies, cakes and crackers).
● Maltodextrin a corn-derived food additive
● Gluten also contributes to impaired gut lining in those sensitive to it.
● Excessive alcohol consumption.
● Long-term use of prescription and over-the-counter medications.
● Antibiotics are used to rid the body of bacterial infections, but unfortunately, they do not discriminate and end up wiping out the population of good bacteria too.
● Frequent use of NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and Aleve, can impair the lining of the stomach and intestines.
● Stress can also cause inflammation throughout the body including your gut.
The Anti-inflammatory diet
It’s been well documented that our gut thrives when we follow an anti-inflammatory diet.
Eating a diet rich in whole foods, with a focus on fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fats. The best source of omega-3 fats are; nuts, fatty fish, like salmon, and pastured animal products. If you don’t eat fish or grass-fed animal products, it’s important to take a good quality omega-3 supplement.
Regularly eating fermented foods, like raw sauerkraut and kombucha, can help boost the number of good bacteria in your gut. Probiotic supplements can also help support the number and balance of bacteria in your gut. We also like to make sure you have a huge diversity of bacteria, so rotating and layering probiotics works best to create great gut health.
Bone broth, hydrolyzed collagen and mucilagenous herbs like; marshmallow root, slippery elm and aloe can help promote an intact and healthy gut lining.
Don’t Forget to Weed Your Microbiome Garden. It’s Spring and it’s the best time of year to be thinking about cleaning up your gut! Be safe, wash your hands often, stay home as much as possible but get outside for walks.
Happy Spring, Happy Easter, Stay Healthy,
Dr. Rebecca Sagan, ND and Dr. Pinter, ND