It’s harder to think of a hotter topic right now in both the science and natural medicine world than gut health! It’s as if the world has caught up with what natural medicine practitioners have known for a long time that ‘disease starts in the gut’.
The gut is a complex community of bacteria that is a delicate balance between the “good” and the “bad”. There are six main areas that play key roles in the health of our microbiome and each needs to be functioning optimally in order to maintain our health and wellbeing: diet, enzymes, bacteria, barrier, immunity and the Enteric Nervous System.
What’s the best diet for good gut health?
Many people make food choices that may be detrimental to their digestive health. For instance, a diet high in carbohydrates can often result in a dysbiotic gastrointestinal tract (GIT).
A gluten and dairy free diet is preferable and our top picks for good digestion would be foods such as bone broth, fermented vegetables, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids and sprouted seeds like chia and flaxseed.
Foods that don’t work so well for our gut are highly processed foods, refined foods like wheat, sugars and artificial sweeteners and refined oils and fats.
Where possible it is also advised to stay away from antibiotics (said to take up to 1 year to heal the gut after a course), hormones including the birth control pill, steroids and acid blockers. These can literally be like a bomb going off in the gut!
Let’s get those enzymes working.
In a healthy system, our digestive organs secrete acids and enzymes that break down nutrients to make them small enough for ready absorption by the body.
While many people think they have too much stomach acid, the reality is that most people don’t have enough. Around 90% of people produce too little stomach acid. Stomach acid (aka hydrochloric acid or HCL) production can be inhibited by stress, eating too many processed carbs, nutrient deficiencies, allergies, and/or excess alcohol consumption.
Our body's ability to produce enzymes also decreases over time so we recommend supplementing with the following products:
Quantum Nutrition Health – HCL
Premier Research Labs – Digestase-SP
Healthforce Superfoods - Digestion Enhancement Enzymes
When choosing a product, look for the 3 main types of digestive enzymes:
- Amylase breaks down starches and carbohydrates into sugars.
- Protease breaks down proteins into amino acids.
- Lipase breaks down lipids, which are fats and oils, into glycerol and fatty acids.
You can also try 2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar in water 20 mins before meals to get the digestive juices flowing.
So what should a healthy microbiome look like?
The more we learn we about our microbiome, the more we realise the importance of the balance of flora in the GIT. An imbalance can be related to pathological bacteria which causes a huge impact on the gut and other organs and in particular our immune systems.
We can restore the balance with use of anti-microbials such as Wormwood, Black Walnut, Berberine, Bearberry and Baptisia plus a good probiotic and lifestyle changes.
What are the barriers to pathogens?
There are three main lines of defence in preventing bacteria from getting through the gut barrier. The first being immunoglobulin A (IgA) which binds to bacteria in the gut to keep it in the digestive tract therefore causing less damage.
The second line is the mucous; the physical barrier between the gut lumen and epithelial cells. This prevents bacterial adherence to the epithelial cells.
The third is the epithelial cells which have selective permeability. When the gut lining is compromised ‘leaky gut’ occurs which is when the tight junctions between the epithelial cells can become opened allowing foreign particles to penetrate the gut barrier. Once these enter the blood stream they cause inflammation in the body which can cause auto-immune conditions and disease.
Many nutrients can support the mucosa including L-Glutamine, deglycyrrhizinated Licorice, Marshmellow and Slippery Elm. High dose Turmeric can also be a great anti-inflammatory here.
Our favourite products here include:
Bioceuticals – Intestamine Powder
Quantum Nutrition Health Turmeric
Akesi Bio-Fermented Turmeric Tonic
Are we immune?
Did you know that around 60-70% of the immune system is within the gut? The main approach when treating poor immunity is a patient specific immune protocol whilst treating the gut at the same time. Following a plan that allows the gut to rest, restore and heal is crucial as is supplementing with good quality probiotics to restore the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Probiotics play a huge role in assisting plentiful and diverse gut bacteria. The world of probiotics has changed greatly over the years with a much more targeted strain specific treatments in place. Probiotics are great for supporting our microbiome, the immune system, skin and allergy protection.
Some of our favourites here are:
Microbiome 18 - 18 different strains of beneficial bacteria with a guaranteed 15 billion CFUs per capsule. Bacillus subtilis is stable in stomach acid and great for the microbiome.
Akesi Fermented Tonics - This tonic will support your immune system, and restore and maintain your body’s diverse gut microbiota.
We have a number of other high dose probiotics that are available on prescription if you under the care of one of our natural healthcare practitioners.
It’s now widely accepted that the gut is the body’s ‘second brain’ which refers to the body’s Enteric Nervous System. The ENS regulates motility and gastro intestinal tract (GIT) secretions. By managing our stress and supporting our gut, this will often have a huge impact on the GIT especially with patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
When to test the gut?
Consider doing a stool analysis such as a GI Map test to check for leaky gut, dysbiotic bacteria and parasites as well as inflammatory markers. Our practitioners will interpret the results for you and help create a personalised plan with dietary advice and nutritional supplements to help the healing process.
With a modern-day westernised lifestyle taking its toll on the microbiome, there;s never been a better time to take control of your guts!
“Always trust your gut instinct, it knows what your head hasn’t worked out yet”!