“All disease begins in the gut.” Hippocrates
Gut health is KEY to your overall health.
No health issue can be addressed without first looking to the stomach.
Our bodies are a host to billions of friendly bacteria, fungi and yeast. Now in an ideal world, we accommodate these friendly bacteria and they pay their rent in the form of helping our body’s to function through better health.
The multiple jobs these friendly bacteria allow for a symbiotic relationship- a, you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours’ arrangement.
Our gut biome, the ecosystem of microbes living inside our gastrointestinal tract, is malleable. It is under our influence in many ways. Now this to a geeky scientist like me, is very exciting! If you want a super strong immune system, thick shiny hair, fast healing skin, tip top digestion, flexible arteries and strong bones….then it should excite you too!!
There are 40 different strains of beneficial bacteria, yeast and fungus…fear not, I will not start naming them all!! Really what you need to know is how to ensure you have a varied, strong and well functioning gut biome. How you can be a good host to your microbe friends, feeding them foods that will allow them to thrive and introducing more of their friendly microbe mates to the party.
What happens if you are a less than welcoming host?
If you are starving your good bacteria of the food they love and feeding your bad bacteria, you will inevitably create an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. This is called dysbiosis. This imbalance can cause all sorts of health problems.
An overgrowth of bad bacteria, we often end up feeling bloated, with poor digestion, poor wound healing, poor skin, mood disorders, sugar cravings, bad breathe, hair thinning and many more associated symptoms.
Different bacteria have different jobs. If your friendly bacteria responsible for producing biotin, one of the B-vitamins which helps keep your hair thick and lustrous and nails strong, has been replaced by an overgrowth of bad bacteria, your hair can begin to thin and nails become brittle and weak.
Supplementing biotin is rarely a good idea. Generally ALL of the biotin supplements are synthetic as food sourced biotin is very expensive to make. Synthetic is very cheap to make! The good news is, you don’t need to supplement it, you can welcome back biotin-making buddies with open armfuls of the foods they love and re-establish a balanced gut.
Our friendly gut bacteria are like a vitamin-producing factory. They make another important vitamin called vitamin K. This is very important for ensuring the calcium you are consuming is going where you need it to go. Without vitamin K orchestrating the show, you are likely to get calcium deposits in the arteries (making them hard and inflexible…no thanks!) the breast tissue and any other place your well intentioned body decides it should go, when not under the guidance of vitamin K.
The good gut bacteria also aid in digestion and are hugely influential in the strength of your immune system, with most of the immune system being housed in the gastro-intestinal tract.
So, what can we do to encourage the good bacteria to stay put and not get evicted by the bad bacteria?
Eat more fermented foods.
Our good microbes love fermented foods. They have the ability to digest the plant-based fibre that we cannot. This is the food that will help them to thrive. The fermented foods also contain lactic acid, which helps ward of bad bacteria. The low pH also aids in the absorption of minerals in the digestive tract.
Fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yoghurt and kombutcha.
Keep your stomach acidity low.
Our stomach acidity naturally declines with age and with long-term stress. By the time we reach 60 years of age, research suggests our stomach acidity is 75% less than it was when we were 20 years of age. This large drop in acidity renders us vulnerable to bad bacterial overgrowth and malnutrition.
Apple cider vinegar is a simple daily addition to increasing stomach acidity and prevent bacterial overgrowth. A cap of apple cider vinegar in a pint of water (with a squeeze of lemon juice) can help re-establish better stomach acidity.
If you have been on acid suppressants, acid neutralisers or antibiotics, your stomach acidity would benefit from additional support, adding betaine HCL into your daily routine, an hour before eating can assist with re-acidification of the stomach.
Eat more Party Food.
Ok, not party rings and jammy dodgers, but more food that will keep the good guys at the party. The food that our good gut bacteria thrive on is called prebiotics. These foods are relatively easy to get into your daily diet and include:
Onions, garlic, turmeric, cacao, artichoke, leeks, collagen, asparagus and chicory root.
Feed your friendly, hard-working gut bacteria well, look after them and they, my friend, will pay you back in dividends.
The journey continues