I remember a time, really not that long ago when my gut was a mess, I thought it was normal to be bloated all the time and look like I was 9 month pregnant and I was sick of people asking if I was having another baby! And the pain in my belly was, well, a pain in the ***.
I was reacting to foods daily and I was cutting out more and more foods (4 foods is really not a lot to live on) thinking that it would help, it did for a while and then all it took was for someone’s strong perfume, or my food was contaminated, or some days it felt like all I did was look at food to feel like crap. My thyroid antibodies were increasing and placing a bigger strain on my body as a whole, I had enough, I needed help! So I went and saw a friend who was a naturopath, yes even naturopaths need a help from their fellow nat’s.
I started a gut healing program which was fantastic, I lost the ‘pregnant look’ it was so good to wear my clothes again comfortably and my antibodies started to reduce which was a relief. I manage to stay in remission most of the time, except for the occasional stressors in my life.
So, What Is Gut-Health?
There has been lots of talk recently about what has become known as “gut-health.” Hidden within the walls of your digestive system is what is known as “your second brain” and this “gut brain axis” is changing the way that we look at the links between mood, digestion, immunity and health- Psycho-Neuro-Endo-Immunology.
Does Disease Begin with Gut-Health?
The answer is “YES and NO”. Not all the diseases start in the gut but a majority of them do. Yes, there is a higher probability of autoimmune conditions due to poor gut health, gut permeability aka “leaky gut” can be one of the reasons that Hashimotos antibodies increase, there is evidence that lots of chronic metabolic diseases also begins in the gut. We can prevent and modulate these diseases by following some easy steps.
Step 1: Know What Second Brain is and Why Does it Matter
This “little brain” is called the “enteric nervous system” or ENS and it comprises 2 thin layers of over 100 million nerve cells that line your GI tract from your oesophagus to your rectum (mouth to bum). The role of the ENS is to control digestion, including swallowing to releasing the enzymes that help break food down, to the control of blood flow, which aids with both nutrient absorption and elimination. The ENS communicates with our brain with significant results.
When you have an unhealthy gut the symptoms of that can manifest themselves in other parts of your body. It’s your body trying to tell you that something is wrong or out of balance.
Studies have found that increasing your gut-health can lead to improvements in:
- Thyroid function
- Digestive health -reflux, bloating, nausea and pain
- Immune function – 80% of our immune system is located in our guts
- Brain function- almost 100% of your serotonin is made in the gut
- hEDS symptoms
- Reduces mast cell activations and histamine load ie. Allergies
- Symptoms of anger, sadness, and depression
- Toxin levels in the body -80% of your lymphatic ducts are in your abdomen (garbage system)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – toilet frequency and consistency
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
What Results? How Is This Even Possible?
The ENS may sense things that our cerebral brain can’t. Evidence has been found that when the GI tract is irritated it sends signals to the central nervous system, which can trigger inflammation, change our mood and ultimately affect it. When you consider that between 30%-40% of the population has bowel problems of some kind and that a higher percentage of these individuals develop depression and/or anxiety it’s easy to see how there could be a connection.
Our bodies are filled with bacteria – good and bad. There are more bacteria in a human body than there are cells and there are an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms living in our bowels alone (http://www.naturallivingideas.com/13-ways-to-improve-gut-health/).
The key here is to have more good than bad bacteria in your gut as these good bacteria help us do things like:
- Detox our hormones- like estrogen
- Digest food
- Absorb nutrients
- Break down medications; and
- Kill some of the bad bacteria that lead to infection.
Step 2: Get More Prebiotics and Probiotics
These are foods that are high in prebiotics:
- Dandelion greens
- Cooked cold potatoes
- Jerusalem Artichoke
And Probiotic foods like:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Yogurt – be sure and read the labels on the different yogurts.
There are quite a few ways to get probiotics, but one of the easiest is to take a supplement called a probiotic. You will find many different kinds under different brand names and it would be a good idea to talk to your naturopath to see what they recommend for you, as there are many strains specific for not only digestive health but also for mental and hormonal health.
The ones we hate. The ones that your grandmother and mother told you. Stress Less. Laugh More.
Stress, especially long-term stress, not only affects our gut bacteria, but it also affects the productions of hormones and neurochemicals that communicate with our brain. When it is long-term stress these chemicals and hormones can change permanently (unless you specifically work to change them back). Long-term stress may also lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers, IBD, IBS, and potentially food allergies.
Laughter really is the best medicine. It helps to reduce stress and floods your body with the happy hormones and chemicals that make the good overtake the bad. There was even a study conducted (you can read more about it by clicking this link) where researchers studied healthy people as well as those with atopic dermatitis – a disease that is often associated with imbalances in gut bacteria. The researchers had the participants watch funny movies daily for one week. In only one week, the patients’ gut flora had changed and resembled the healthy participants.
Step 3: Play in The Dirt!
This is true both literally and figuratively. Gardening is good for you because it gets you outside, gives you exercise, and putting your hands in soil introduces your body to the microorganisms that are found on the plants and in the ground.
In a more figurative way, stop killing all the bacteria. They have recently stopped putting anti-bacterial agents in things because humans are killing all the bacteria, the good and the bad. And what is happening? The bad bacteria are getting stronger and the good bacteria are dying. Using soap and water to wash your hands and surfaces is just as effective as antibacterial soaps and cleaners and is a healthier option when you have hashimoto’s, autoimmune disorders and a dysfunctional thyroid.
Studies have shown that kids who grow up with a dog have both a lower risk of allergies and a healthier immune system. Dogs are associated with a type of house dust that actually exposes us to important strains of bacteria, L. johnsonii is one, which is essential within the digestive tract.
Dogs also work somewhat like a probiotic, helping develop healthy bacteria that boost your immune system, stopping you from getting ill, and possibly reducing allergies. Dogs also help you, or in some cases force you, to exercise more and help relieve stress in your life.
It may well be that a large part of maintaining good health is maintaining good gut-health. There are many ways that you can do this, including exercise, and learning to listen to your body; however, some of the easiest changes that you can make are to:
Good quality sleep
Daily Gratitude, find the joy in your day
Manage your stress better
Don’t over sterilize or try and kill all bacteria, play in the dirt/garden.
Eat a wide range of colourful vegetables and fruits aim for 30 different types weekly.
You can do this, let’s heal and seal your gut to better health, what can you put into place today to support your guts, hormones and thyroid?
Would you like to find out what are the underlying causes of your heath? Take my quick and easy hormone and thyroid quiz, the results will be emailed to you straight away.