Have you ever heard the term, "gut feeling"? Well, today, we're going to make that a whole new meaning.
"All Disease Begins in The Gut"
Recent research is revealing that gut health is critical to over all health and can be a contributer to a wide range of diseases:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
So, what do I mean by gut health? The ability of your gut to break down foods, utilize the nutrients the body needs from them and send the rest of them on their way without trouble. Within our gut, we have a lot of help from microorganisms. A lot meaning, 100 trillion different bacterial species. These microorganisms help our body's natural functions such as regulate our metabolism and protects us from infection and making up for 75% of our immune system! Recently, the rising number of people struggling with gut related issues has encouraged research on gut health and the impact it can have on our body.
As you read on, you will learn that the functioning of our digestive system is highly dependent on microorganisms. However, microorganisms can also be the headache of many of our problems. In the case of dysbiosis, where the healthy gut flora are taken over by harmful bacteria, it can actually be the causes of digestive issues. Unfortunately, it has become rather easy to kill off the good bacteria and feed the bad. The following can lead to unhealthy growth of bad gut flora:
- Antibiotics, Anti-inflammatory drugs
- High refined carbohydrate diets
- Diets low in fiber
- Chronic Stress
- Food sensitivities
- Non breast fed babies or c-section babies
Let's break your digestive system down by starting in your stomach, moving into your small intestine and finishing in the large intestine.
Digestion actually starts with chewing, but for the purposes of this article, we are going to start in the stomach. Once food reaches your stomach, your stomach's job is to release digestive enzymes to break down the food and extract the nutrients! Stomach acid (HCL) triggers the release of pepsin which is the enzyme necessary to break down protein. If HCL levels are too low, pepsin is not produced and protein goes undigested causing them to purify in the gut leading to gas, bloating, heart burn and much more.
In the case of carbohydrates, HCL releases pancreatic enzymes in the small intestine to do it's work. If HCL is not present, carbohydrates are not digested and will provoke an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestine. SIBO will increase gas production and acid reflux.
Typically, if you find that you have the following, it could be indicative of low stomach acid (HCL) or bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (SIBO):
- bloating after a meal
- excessive belching/burping
- sensitive to a number of foods (sensitivities rear their ugly heads and can be difficult to detect.
Low stomach acid can be due to several things but most likely H. pylori infection, stress, acid suppressing drugs, age, etc.
If you suspect you have an issue with low stomach acid, supplementing with HCL can trigger you're body to produce it, which will help to secrete the enzymes necessary to break down your foods and digest them properly. Without proper digestion, we are missing out on key nutrients that our body needs to function properly! Not to mention, the side effects above are not necessary and you don't have to live with them forever!
Looking at the photo above, you will see the gut (starting in the esophagus and ending in the large intestine) is technically speaking "outside" of the body. Meaning, there is a barrier keeping the food contents that you eat from reaching your blood stream. This is the gut's job. It prevents foreign substances from having access to the rest of your body. Today, we are going to look at what happens when the barrier that separates our gut from the rest of the world becomes "leaky".
Over time, if our problems persist and we don't take the steps to heal them, leaky gut, is bound to occur. Our intestinal barrier is meant to have tight junctions, but when we don't produce HCL and break down our food, take antibiotics, have infections, deal with chronic stress, ingest toxins from our diet, eat foods that we are sensitive to, etc then that barrier breaks down and becomes "leaky". When this occurs, foreign objects are absorbed into the blood stream and cause an inflammatory response. Scientists now are researching and discovering that this can trigger autoimmune responses leading to autoimmune diseases. Having a leaky gut can also lead to malabsorption, food sensitivities, inflammation, etc.
Your large intestine is meant to absorb water from our food and then shuttles it out to be excreted after all the micronutrients have been absorbed. The following symptoms would indicate an issue within the large intestine:
- lower abdominal pain/bloating relieved by gas
- excessive, foul smelling gas
These issues can start within the stomach, small intestine and then reach the large intestine. Your gut is all working together to break down food for nutrients in the stomach, absorb the nutrients in the small intestine and finish with pulling the water out of foods and eliminating the waste in the large intestine. Below are the necessary steps needed to occur in order for your body to have a total digestive make-over:
So, where can you start?
- Elimination Diet- take careful consideration of the foods that you find are triggering irritation in your gut and remove them. Remember... irritation can come in any of the symptoms above.
- Bacteria- If dysbiosis is an issue, we have to address it. It is important to feed your body the healthy bacteria that is needs to support your gut and immunity. We can do this by taking a quality probiotic and focusing on fermented foods such as kombucha, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, etc. Probiotics are actually live, healthy strands of bacteria that we need in our gut to help us breakdown and process foods. Not only do we want to take probiotics, but we also want to eat PREBIOTICS. Probiotics are foods that feed the GOOD bacteria that you have already residing in your gut. Some examples of prebiotic foods are broccoli, asparagus, leeks, garlic, onion, bananas, etc.
- Supplement- it's most important to start with providing your body with the nutrients it needs. HCL tablets can help to ensure you're breaking down your food properly making their nutrients absorbable. So, provide your body nutrients and ensure your body can break them down and absorb them. This is an essential process to healing your gut and feeling your best. If you do the rest, but continue to feed your gut undigested foods, the problem will never be resolved. Do your research for reputable brands. I've researched many brands and always find my way back to Thorne. Extremely pure, reputable company that makes great products! The second supplement I suggest investing in is glutamine. A simple amino acid known for it's ability to help heal the lining of the gut. This is the ticket to reversing the effects of leaky gut syndrome and potentially being able to return to eating your favorite foods that were giving you so much trouble before!
- Lifestyle- Now that you've begun to implement the steps needed to heal your gut... KEEP IT UP! This is not an over night process and can months to years to address and "fix" but the end goal is completely worth it. Focus on the things above, a healthy diet and finding balance in all areas of life... AKA REDUCING STRESS! And again, if you'd like to join our One Month Challenge to help you with accountability and getting started, sign up below!
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I wrote this article for several purposes, the first being health. Being in the Nutrition Industry, every day I know and see ways to prevent chronic illness but it can be difficult to convince others of that, especially when you're asking someone to give up sugar, high refined carbohydrate, etc. This article is meant to educate and breakdown the importance of gut health to your overall health. Secondly, the symptoms associated with dysbiosis, low stomach acid, leaky gut, etc are embarrassing, harmful to yourself (and others!), uncomfortable and life-altering. I want to give people the opportunity to enjoy life that much more and become healthier in the process! And thirdly, gut issues can be a barrier in reaching weight loss goals. There's nothing I hate more than seeing someone pour their heart and soul into training and changing their nutritional habits only to stay the same (from a weight perspective). There is much to gain by training and changing nutritional habits but there is something to say about seeing the scale decrease as well. Recently, scientists have studied gut health and it's relationship to obesity, and heres a sum of what they found:
1. Gut bacteria of obese subjects differ significantly in species type than lean subjects.
Recently, it has been hypothesised that an increased ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes may make a significant contribution to the pathophysiology of obesity. By comparison with wild-type animals Ley and co-workers demonstrated that genetically obese (ob/ob) mice show an increased proportion of the Firmicutes and a decrease in Bacteroidetes, (22). A further report indicated that the proportion ofBacteroidetes 16S rRNA sequences was diminished in faeces from 12 obese human subjects (23). Furthermore, Gill and co-workers found that the human gut microbiome of two healthy subjects is enriched with many clusters of orthologous groups representing key genes in the pathway of methanogens (24). This finding led to the hypothesis that Methanobrevibacter smithii may be a therapeutic target for the reduction of energy harvest in obese humans (25,26), as M. smithii is the major representative of the human gut methanogens (27).
2. Mice implanted with fecal bacteria from obese mice gained a significantly larger percentage of body fat than those transplanted with bacteria from lean mice.
Comparisons of the distal gut microbiota of genetically obese mice and their lean littermates, as well as those of obese and lean human volunteers have revealed that obesity is associated with changes in the relative abundance of the two dominant bacterial divisions, the Bacteroidetes and the Firmicutes.
Do you have a question? Ask in the comments below! If you'd like more privacy, send me a personal e-mail!
Tess Chupinsky- BS Biology, PN1
With the help of these articles: