How to care for your GUT – the second brain
We pretty much know these days how important our gut health is. 80% of our immune system is in our gut. The studies show the more diverse our gut microbiome, the more cognitive ability we have. The gut microbiome contributes to the development and the function of
- Immune system
- Metabolic system
- Nervous system
There are about 100 trillion bacteria that lives in our digestive system. We can almost say we’re controlled by our bacteria!
Have you ever felt like you were coming down with something after a stressful week?
Do you feel anxious or depressed and noticed that you have been eating junk foods for a while?
How about feeling lethargic after the weekend of eating out a lot?
I understand that drawing a connection between your gut health and your overall health may seem far-fetched. But research is emerging in the areas of gut microbiome and how it affects so many of our body systems. There are still so many things to discover about our gut health.
So, how about all the food intolerances you may experience? Are you on low FODMAP diet? Can you tolerate fructose, and lactose? How about gluten?
Do you suffer from any anxiety or depression? Any digestive problems such as diarrhoea, bloating, cramps or constipation?
There could be many things that is going on that stems from the health of your gut. Unfortunately, avoiding the trigger foods forever is not the solution here. Because often times, those foods have certain health benefits for your body. By limiting those healthy foods, you can put your gut in even more compromised state.
So, repairing your gut integrity is the first thing to focus on.
Have you heard of ‘leaky gut’? This term is used when the intestinal wall that protects certain substances from getting into your bloodstream becomes ‘leaky’.
In a healthy gut, the tight junctions that hold the intestinal wall lets necessary micro and macronutrients through, so they can get absorbed into your bloodstream.
But when the tight junction gets leaky, it lets the microbes, toxins and certain protein into your bloodstream that can causing problems.
What are some of the things that causes the ‘leaky gut’? There are number of causes such as
- Chronic Stress – yes, the stress hormone cortisol can alter gut permeability and barrier function and even change the gut microbiome composition.
- Medications – antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Nurofen, Advil, Voltaren, steroids, antacids and birth control pills.
- Infections such as parasites, candida overgrowth or Small Intestinal Bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Toxic foods – alcohol, processed foods, any foods that causes allergies or sensitivities
Some of the health conditions that have been associated with leaky gut are
- Type 1 diabetes
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Asthma and the list goes on. . .
So how do we heal the leaky gut? What are the steps to make sure all the supplements and nutrient rich foods you are consuming is actually getting absorbed properly in your gut?
1. Remove anything that could be contributing to the leaky gut. This could be certain foods, or any of the listed cause mentioned above (chronic stress, medications, or mould). This may take a while, sometimes we are surrounded by something that is so obvious, but we don’t think about it. This step is very crucial because no amount of probiotic or healthy eating is going to work if you keep putting in the offending food. I often explain this situation as if you have grazed arm. Instead of leaving it alone for it to heal naturally, you keep scratching the wound over and over. Making it impossible for the wound to heal. This is a similar concept with your gut lining and the offending foods.
2. Restore Once the offending cause have been removed, it is time to restore the gut microbiome. There are a number of strategies to do this. For example, you may need to increase your hydrochloric acid level to aid digestion. You may need to supplement with digestive enzymes if these have been depleted. Some of the microbiome may take a long time to be restored, especially if you have been taking antibiotics for a prolonged time.
3. Re-inoculate Next, it is time to reintroduce the healthy microbiome into your gut and restore the beneficial bacteria. This is the time to take prebiotics, probiotics and eat variety of fruits and vegetables to increase the microbiome diversity. Eat as many different varieties of foods as you can as each food produce different bacteria.
4. Repair Lastly, we will repair the intestinal barrier of the gut so that it can absorb all the nutrient which is essential in health. Glutamine (amino acid) has been reported to have positive effects on the lining of the intestinal wall. For example, bone broth contains very high level of glutamine as well as most animal products. Other sources of glutamine are broccoli, lentils, spinach and tofu. By sticking to healthy eating habits, soon your gut will be able to heal the damage that was caused.
5. Re-introduce Once that gut has been fully repaired we can look at reintroducing some foods into your everyday diet. This may take a while but it is a necessary step. You may have noticed that some of the offending foods or intolerances you had against are actually considered ‘healthy food’ (think garlic and onion!). Avoiding these foods can worsen your symptoms by reducing the microbiome diversity. By following these steps, you will be able to enjoy some of the foods you were once intolerant.
If you need any assistance with your gut health, please get in touch!