Our Gut has a mind of it’s own. The better we treat it, the better we feel! Simple, right? Maybe not. If you struggle with bloating, gas, headaches, inflammatory skin issues such as acne, eczema or rashes, brain fog or trouble concentrating, you might have a food intolerance or sensitivity you’re unaware of. Read on for ways to identify the best next step for you as Stephanie Kent of @empowered_wellness_ asks, Is the food you’re eating hurting you?
The microbes in our body outnumber our cells at a ratio of about ten to one. This means that these little guys better be cohabitating symbiotically, otherwise things could go sideways for the human hosting them! The gut houses trillions of these microorganisms which, when in balance, contribute to your health more than you might have ever thought.
The gut microbiome has many functions, some of which include food digestion and nutrient absorption, stimulating the immune system (about 70% of our immune system resides in the gut – to learn more about this, read my post Boost Your Immunity Naturally), and protecting itself (and us as a by-product!) against some of the other bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that are in there to cause havoc on our health. Some of them are also responsible for synthesizing B vitamins, necessary for a balanced mood and energy, strong immunity, proper detoxification and brain health, and vitamin K, for bone health and blood coagulation necessary for wound healing. No wonder the human microbiome is the talk of the hour!
IS THE FOOD YOUR EATING HURTING YOU?
When we hear about the gut microbiome, usually leaky gut, food intolerances and gut health follow really closely. But what does this all really mean?
To put it simply, when stress is high in your life, you eat something questionably unhealthy, take medications, don’t sleep enough, or travel somewhere new, your body suffers in one way or another. It could be that you simply feel more tired, catch a cold, feel irritable, or you might experience GI symptoms. If you continue to give in to some of these detrimental habits, the gut starts to suffer slowly over time. This constant assault causes inflammation which hurts the cells in your gut lining. If they don’t have time to repair before your next meal eaten out, round of antibiotics, or visit to Thailand, or if your body doesn’t have the nutrients needed for its repair, this could lead to what we call leaky gut.
Without getting too much into the science of what actually happens, the single layer of cells that line your intestines are linked by tight junctions. As the name reveals, these connecting points should remain “tight” together to serve their purpose of keeping what needs to be inside the intestines, inside. These junctions should only be permeable to certain vital nutrients. When they get assaulted constantly or excess inflammation is present, they start to “loosen up” (malfunction), and they start to leak out some digested foods, bacteria or toxins into the neighboring bloodstream. Your immune system can then react to these particles by creating more inflammation, tagging them as “invaders” or even by attacking its own healthy cells, which can lead to food intolerances and/or autoimmune diseases.
Many people in the medical community seem to be dismissing food intolerances because they are not life-threatening, but they can cause many undesirable effects in the body. These can range from fatigue to abdominal bloating and/or gas, constipation or diarrhea, headaches, trouble sleeping, inflammatory skin issues such as acne, eczema or rashes, brain fog and/or trouble concentrating, or even joint pain. The difficult part at identifying food sensitivities or intolerances is that the reaction could be delayed by a day or two, making it harder to correlate what you ate or did to how you feel.
Now that you know that a healthy gut provides you with more than just a nice poop, it’s time to learn about some healing pathways. If you suspect you are suffering from gut dysbiosis, I highly recommend to start by changing the habits you know are detrimental to your health (drinking, lack of sleep or exercise, stress, etc.). Then, you may continue your healing by eliminating the foods that are unhealthy in your diet (processed foods, alcohol, refined sugars and oils, pesticides, etc.) or the ones you are suspecting to have a negative impact on your health. Remember to give your body enough time to heal. Sometimes it takes weeks to start seeing and feeling changes, so be patient with your incredible body!
Some foods that are beneficial for the proliferation of those healthy gut microbes include resistant starches (green banana flour, plantains, potato starch, cooked and cooled white rice), prebiotics (onions, garlic, dandelion greens, chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, bananas, apples), and probiotics (fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, tempeh, miso, or a high quality capsule.
Adding collagen peptides or gelatin to your diet (check out my berry gummies and marshmallow recipes), and/or drinking grass fed/pastured bone broth daily will provide your body with healing collagen, while your body gets extra minerals for repair. You can also take digestive enzymes with your meals if you are going to eat something you think you might be reacting to. I recommend to be careful with combining starches and proteins, as well as fruit and fats. A microbiome and inflammation support supplement may also be needed for your body to heal more profoundly, and you may also want to talk to your integrative doctor or naturopath to start taking L-glutamine and N-acetyl glucosamine supplementation for deeper gut lining repair.
If you’re not ready for any of this, are only experiencing mild bloating or are simply choosing to treat the symptoms at this point in time, making sure to eat in a calm environment, to chew fully, and not eat during emotional times is a good place to start. You can also rub a magnesium-rich oil or essential oil blend on your abdomen, or take a warm bath or sauna if you’re experiencing digestive discomfort. Don’t forget to get enough restful sleep, reduce stress and have a positive outlook on life to help lower inflammation levels in your whole body.
If these changes don’t seem to cut it just yet, you can do a blood test such as this one or try an Elimination Diet on your own if you lack the finances to do testing.
Remember that having a strong, diverse and balanced microbiome is one of the main keys to overall health. I don’t know about you, but I’m very interested in making those healthy gut microbes my friends!