The Why and How of Gut Health

All Disease Begins in the Gut

The why and how of gut health is an important topic.  In fact, experts in the health profession often refer to our gut as our second brain.

Hippocrates coined the phrase, “all disease begins in the gut” thousands of years ago.  And current research finds there’s much truth in this ancient piece of wisdom!

Your intestinal tract is not only responsible for digestion and waste elimination.  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 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.  However, the balance between the two is key to normal digestion, proper absorption of nutrients and promoting a healthy intestinal environment.

The structural integrity of the intestinal walls is also extremely important when it comes to good gut health — and our health overall.

Your 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.  However, your gut lining is also designed to keep harmful molecules, like toxins and pathogens, from being absorbed.

A compromised gut lining 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 “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 clearly obvious when it’s happening.

Instead, we’re talking about constant chronic inflammation that, over the course of longer periods of time, is thought to be the root cause of a lot of diseases.

Not every single disease can be traced back to gut health, but a lot of them can. Heart disease, Diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s and mood disorders such as depression, are all linked to inflammation and poor gut health or a compromised gut lining.

What Type of Things Are Harmful to the Gut?

There are numerous reasons that can contribute to poor gut functioning, including the following:

  • An unhealthy diet, high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and unhealthy fats, such as fried foods and trans fats.
  • 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, can impair the lining of the stomach and intestines.
  • Stress can also cause inflammation throughout the body, including your gut.

How to Care for Your Gut Health with Diet

Care for your gut, and your gut will care for you!

It’s well documented that our gut thrives when we follow an anti-inflammatory diet.

This includes the following:

  1. 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 (for example, 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.
  2. Regularly eating fermented foods, like raw sauerkraut and kombucha, helps boost the number of good bacteria in your gut.  Probiotic supplements may also help support the number and balance of bacteria in your gut.
  3. Taking bone broth or hydrolyzed collagen supplements to help promote an intact and healthy gut lining.  (Recommended reading from my blog: Bone Broth: Health Elixir or Not?)
  4. Eliminating toxins such as alcohol, processed foods and refined sugars.
  5. Making time to de-stress and relax.

Good gut health is all about balancing the bacteria and promoting a structurally intact intestine.  Therefore, your daily diet is a major determinant of a healthy microbiome.

So how about you — are you having gut issues?  Have you tried an anti-inflammatory diet?  If not, what is one suggestion from this blog post that you think you might incorporate into your life today?

And if you’ve tried eating an anti-inflammatory diet and/or you have any lifestyle recommendations, please share them below.  As always, we’d love to hear from you.

Categories: Alzheimer's Disease, Blog, Depression, Diabetes, Gut Health, Heart Disease, Inflammation, Leaky Gut, Lifestyle, Mood, and Obesity.

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