Narrabeen, NSW 2101, Australia

Healthy Gut – The way to Start!

Hippocrates was once quoted for saying “all disease begins in the gut.” Time is proving Hippocrates to be a pretty smart guy, and science is even now linking poor gut health with a myriad of health problems.

Whilst Hippocrates’ message has been devastatingly overlooked, current research is beginning to point to the truth and depth of this simple idea. In fact, many researchers are beginning to state that the support of gut health, and restoring the integrity of the gut barrier will be one of the most important goals of medicine in the 21st century.

Let’s take a look at WHY…

Did you know that your body is made up of around 100 trillion living organisms? They live in your hair, on your skin, inside your nose, your mouth; everywhere! But the largest concentrations live in your gut – you cannot stay away from them!

Your gut involves a multifaceted, interconnected, interdependent relationship between living organisms called micro flora. Micro flora is the complex, diverse microorganism species that live in your digestive tract. These organisms are also referred to as gut flora and are most easily understood as ‘good bacteria’ or ‘bad bacteria’.

‘Good’ vs ‘Bad’ Bacteria

The ‘good’ bacteria play a really important role in your body. Some of their responsibilities include assistance in the digestion of food components our guts can’t handle themselves, regulation of our bodies’ metabolism, processing and detoxification of dangerous chemicals that we ingest with our food, training and regulations of the immune system, and prevention of invasion and growth of dangerous pathogens.

Disturbance and alterations in the gut microbiome can cause an increase of ‘Bad’ bacteria, which are associated with a wide variety of illnesses from autism and depression, to autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s, inflammatory bowel disease and type 1diabetes. Research has also shown that has found that the presence of particular harmful bacteria can lead to overeating, metabolic damage and insulin resistance; highlighting a possible connection to obesity and weight disorders.

The ‘Leaky Gut’

Due to an unhealthy modern lifestyle, gut permeability or ‘leaky gut’ is becoming a common problem. It is a rapidly growing condition that millions of people are struggling with and don’t even know it.

According to research, the cause of your food allergies, low energy, joint pain, thyroid disease, autoimmune conditions and slow metabolism could be leaky gut symptoms progression.

What is the Leaky Gut?

Think of the lining of your digestive tract like a net with extremely small holes in it that only allow specific substances to pass through. Your gut lining works as a barrier keeping out bigger particles that can damage your system.

When someone has leaky gut, the “net” in your digestive tract gets damaged, which causes even bigger holes to develop in your net, so things that normally can’t pass through, are now able to.

Some of the things that can now pass through include proteins like gluten, bad bacteria and undigested foods particles. Toxic waste can also leak from the inside of your intestinal wall into your bloodstream causing an immune reaction.

Leaky Gut Symptoms and Progression

This leads to inflammation throughout your system and can cause symptoms, such as:

  • Food sensitivities

  • Thyroid conditions

  • Joint pain

  • Skin issues like rosacea and acne

  • Digestive problems

  • Weight gain

According to the Journal of Diabetes, there is a strong body of evidence pointing to leaky gut syndrome as a major cause of autoimmune diseases, including Type 1 Diabetes.

Another problem with leaky gut is that it can cause malabsorption of vital minerals and nutrients including zinc, iron and vitamin B12.

Leaky Gut and the Brain

The gut is not only deeply connected to your immune system; the health of your digestive system will directly impact the functioning of your brain – also known as the gut-brain axis; and highlights the interdependence between these two areas of the body.

The leaky gut syndrome has been linked to psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. We will have a deeper look at this fascinating topic later on.

Leaky Gut Causes

There are four main causes of leaky gut which include:

1. Poor diet

Gluten has shown to be one of the biggest causes of leaky gut. Gluten cannot be easily digested; therefore it gradually deteriorates the gut lining causing leaky gut. Consuming wheat, or any other food containing gluten can cause serious damage to your intestinal walls.

Other foods such as sugar, grains, conventional meat, conventional dairy and GMO foods also have been shown to cause leaky gut.

2. Antibiotics

The role of the antibiotic is to kill off bad bacteria; however it also takes the good with the bad. The excessive over prescription and overuse of antibiotics is believed to be causing serious long term consequences on our health due to its negative impact on the levels and diversity of our precious micro flora.

Other prescription drugs which disrupt the balance of your micro flora are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDS) and steroids (including corticosteroids like Prednisone and Hydrocortisone, antidepressants, laxatives and antacids).

3. Chronic Stress

Stress can be very detrimental to the health of your gut. There is a huge connection between the stress response and the digestive system. This kind of short term stress can be dealt with, but consistent stress responses over the long term will cause a range of bad effects including a decrease in nutrient absorption, decreased oxygenation of the gut, four times less blood flow to your digestive organs (it moves to the limbs; to ‘run away’ from a potential threat), decreased metabolism and negative effects on micro flora.

4. Bacterial imbalance

Infections from unfriendly microbes and bad bacteria cause an overgrowth of bad microbes to outnumber the good guys. When harmful bacteria thrive in the case of an infection, you may experience consistent urinary tract infections, thrush and yeast infections. When infection of pathogens thrive and outnumber the friendly gut flora, this has an effect on overall immunity which can cause a cascade of other problems and further infections.

Optimal Gut Health

Stay conscious of foods and factors that damage the gut

Minimizing the intake of toxins (as prescribed above) and foods such as gluten, sugar, poor quality dairy, poor quality meat and poor quality fats are key for maintaining a healthy gut.

Eliminating external factors such as stress is also extremely important as it plays an important role in our gut-brain axis. Some really wonderful ways that I have learnt to de-stress is introducing yoga and meditation into my life and having a morning routine. Meditation and deep breathing helps to calm the gut and balance your stress response.

Eat real and healing foods

Changing your diet will help to change the kind of bacteria that you have; which will either support the strengthening of your immune system, or deplete its defensive capabilities.

Not only by minimizing the consumption of the foods listed above, there is also a wide variety of foods that can improve your gut health:

– Probiotics: are live microbes that have a huge influence on improving intestinal microbial balance. Best sources are high quality yogurt and fermented vegetables or you can also find It in capsules, tablets or sachets form. 

– Prebiotics: are non-digestible fibre that stimulate the growth of good bacteria (probiotics) in our colon, enhancing our health. While supplementation of prebiotics is also available, prebiotics are present on our diet with asparagus, garlic, leek and onion being great sources of it.

 Important to notice that if you don’t have a healthy gut, consumption of prebiotics probably won’t help, as we need good bacteria to digest this fibre.   

References:

Kiefer D, Ali-Akbarian L (2004). “A brief evidence-based review of two gastrointestinal illnesses: irritable bowel and leaky gut syndromes”. Alternative Therapy Health Medicine 10 (3): 22–30.

Vaarala O, Atkinson MA, Neu J (2008) ‘The “Perfect Storm” for Type 1 Diabetes The Complex Interplay Between Intestinal Microbiota, Gut Permeability, and Mucosal Immunity’, Diabetes Journal,  (57)10(2555-2562).

Z Liu, N Li, J Neu (2005) ‘Tight junctions, leaky intestines, and pediatric diseases’, Acta Paediatrica , 94(4), pp. 386-393.

Maes M, Leunis JC (2008) ‘Normalization of leaky gut in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is accompanied by a clinical improvement: effects of age, duration of illness and the translocation of LPS from gram-negative bacteria’, Journal of Neuro Endocrinology, 29(6), pp. 902-10.

Visser, J (2010) Tight Junctions, Intestinal Permiability and Autoimmunity Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes Paradigms. PubMed.

Fasano A. Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer. Physiol Rev. 2011 Jan;91(1):151-75.

Drago S, et al. Gliadin, zonulin and gut permeability: Effects on celiac and non-celiac intestinal mucosa and intestinal cell lines. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2006 Apr;41(4):408-19.

NHS. Leaky gut syndrome. Internet. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/leaky-gut-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx.

McMillen M. Leaky Gut Syndrome: What Is It? Internet. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/leaky-gut-syndrome.

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