Your gastrointestinal tract is lined with microbes collectively called the microbiome, which includes bacteria, fungi, and even viruses.
Though it sounds gross and even unhealthy, gut bacteria perform many important functions in the body, including aiding the immune system, producing the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, making energy available to the body from the food we eat, and disposing of foreign substances and toxins. For some really good information on your microbiome, read This National Institutes of Health (NIH) reference article “20 Things you Didn’t Know About the Human gut Microbiome“.
Though all of us have a mixture of good and bad bacteria, sometimes the bad guys get the upper hand, causing an imbalance in gut bacteria, which can play a role in a number of health conditions. Good health starts in the gut and it is important to know there are certain Foods To Avoid For Leaky Gut. Other unhealthy lifestyles factors, such as over-prescribed antibiotics, deplete the microbiome (good bacteria), which can lead to health and wellness issues. Probiotics are available and prescribed for gut repair and maintenance, but probiotics are not the only way to restore your gut health and contribute to your overall health and well being, such as eating nutrient-dense foods, for example.
The primary factor to repairing the gut, is healing the layers of cells that prevent harmful substances from reaching the blood stream where they can become a very serious problem, wrecking havoc on the immune system, and other bodily functions. Some rather unconventional activities such as eating naturally fermented foods, physical activity, gardening and getting your hands in dirt, owning a dog, all can assist you to not only bolster your gut health, but also add to your complete health.
Here is what Wikipedia says about the microbiome,
The human microbiome, or microbiota, is the aggregate of microorganisms that reside on or within any number of human tissue, and bio fluids, including the skin, mammary glands, placenta, seminal fluid, uterus, ovarian follicles, lungs, saliva, oral mucus, biliary, and gastrointestinal tracts.
For more information from Wikipedia on microbiome, read here.
That mystery world of gut bacteria that helps us do everything from digest food, to regulate mood, is where good health begins. However, we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of the myriad different ways gut health impacts overall health and well being.
But, this much we do know: diet and lifestyle can cause the balance of our intestinal flora (good bacteria) to go out of whack, which can lead to nasty conditions like IBS (Irritable Bowl Syndrome). For example, Candida is a type of good yeast present in healthy intestinal tracks is normally benign and doesn’t cause any problems, but can become invasive under certain conditions, and it becomes candidiasis.
According to the NIH, Candida colonization is associated with diseases of the GI tract, like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and gastric and duodenal ulcer. These conditions may create a vicious cycle in which low-level inflammation promotes fungal colonization and fungal colonization promotes further inflammation.
The NIH calls candida the most common fungal bloodstream infection in hospitalized patients and the mortality rate is very high, as much as 50 percent in some studies. Candida becomes a problem after the use of antibiotics, or with the use of a high-sugar diet, food allergies, adverse drug reactions, intolerance of sulfites, or any illness, which suppresses your immune system.
When antibiotics, or other harmful conditions and diseases, wipe out the good bacteria that keep Candida in check, it goes out of control, causing health problems ranging from histamine intolerance, to urinary tract infection. Histamine intolerance is a pathological process that results from a imbalance between levels of released histamine and the ability of the body to metabolize it.
The inability to metabolize the accumulated histamine which decreases the quality of life, according to the NIH. In this NIH study, the analyses confirmed the significant association between Urinary Tract Infections caused by Candida, in female gender. This NIH study concluded the overuse of antibiotics may negatively effect gut health
Recent studies have provided information on how antibiotics can alter the intestinal environment, how harmful bacteria and beneficial bacteria react, and how pathogenic bacteria use these environments.
In the case of Candida, its pathogenic-behavior and its damaging-effect becomes a problem when the pH of the stomach becomes more alkaline, according to this NIH study. Although our normal bodily functions, such as our blood, requires a neutral to alkaline pH of 7.4, our gut requires a slightly acidic pH, so as to effectively digest food.
This is why our healthy gut bacteria and probiotics are so important, they keep the system in balance. Species of good bacteria like Acidophilus, for example, play a role in regulating the PH of our stomach, preventing the spread of bad guys like Candida.
Symptoms Of Poor Gut
So, how do you know when your guts out of whack? There are some very clear signs that you will experience:
Your Gut Just Doesn’t Feel Right. Diarrhea, constipation,
bloating, nausea, and heartburn are classic symptoms of problems in gut health. Gastrointestinal discomfort, particularly, after eating carbohydrate-rich meals, can be the result of poor digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. Reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel disease, and colitis have all been linked to an imbalance in the microbiome.
Crave Sweets. Craving foods, especially sweets and sugar, can mean you have an imbalance of good and harmful gut bacteria. If there’s an overgrowth of yeast in the system, foe example, which might happen after a course or two of antibiotics, where you wipe out all the good bacteria, then that overgrowth of yeast like Candida, can actually cause you to crave more sugar. An NIH study looked at the influence of the microbiome on craving for certain foods and concluded one option is exerting self-control over eating choices may be partly a matter of suppressing microbial signals that originate in the gut. Quoting the NIH,
Our review suggests that one way to change eating behavior is by intervening in our microbiota.
Weight-Loss, Weight-Gain. Certain types of bad gut bacteria can cause either weight loss or weight gain, especially when they colonize in the small intestine, a condition called SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). Too many microbes in the small intestines can mess with gut health by interfering with absorption of vitamins, minerals, and fat.
If you’re not able to digest and absorb fat normally, you can actually see some weight loss. One NIH study addressed this issue finding that the inverse relationship of microflora and obesity may be due to insufficient absorption of fats and carbohydrates. Other types of bacteria have been linked to weight gain, as certain microbes are able to harvest more calories from foods than others.
Down and Out. Roughly 80 to 90 percent of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood, social behavior, sleep, appetite, memory, and even libido, is produced in the gut. The American Psychological Association review covers the “Brain-Gut Axis”. The communication between the brain and the gut and microbiome, which is bidirectional points toward new ways of treating both the physical symptoms of intestinal disease and the psychological disorders that are so often present.
Keeping anxiety and depression under control may improve inflammation in the gut; and treating inflammation in the gut may improve mood by altering brain biochemistry. According to this NIH study, when less serotonin is produced, for example, it can negatively impact the brain and emotions and mood. Neurotransmitters like serotonin play a crucial part in maintaining homeostasis for the entire body. And, the reverse is also true, anxiety and depression can influence the proper function of the gut and production of neurotransmitters.
Gut imbalances of the microbiome can trigger depressive symptoms,
says Todd LePine, MD, a board certified physician at the Ultra Wellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Restless Sleep. Not having enough serotonin can lead to bouts of insomnia
or difficulty getting to sleep. According to LePine, chronic fatigue and symptoms of fibromyalgia can be tied to gut bacteria imbalances as well. The NIH confirmed the connection between the gut microbiome and sleep quality. The study found considerable evidence showing that the gut microbiome not only affects the digestive, metabolic, and immune functions of the host but also regulates host sleep and mental states through the microbiome-gut-brain axis.
Preliminary evidence indicates that microorganisms and circadian genes, which regulates sleep, can interact with each other. Chronic pain or fibromyalgia is also associated with an imbalanced microbiome, according to a study completed at a 2019 McGill University Health Centre study. Quoting the study:
That the severity of a patient’s symptoms was directly correlated with an increased presence or a more pronounced absence of certain “good” bacteria.
Itchy Skin. Skin rashes and eczema, a chronic condition characterized by inflamed and itchy red blotches on the skin, can be a sign of poor gut health because they develop when there is an imbalance in gut bacteria, according to Victoria Maizes, MD, executive director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and professor of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
The NIH also concluded that the gut-skin axis and an imbalanced microbiome of each organ, have recently been linked to alterations in immune responses and to the development of skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis (AD), confirming emerging evidence indicates that the gut and skin microbiome could be manipulated to treat AD.
Poor Immunity. Imbalance in the microbiome can cause more than just GI
symptoms. According to Dr. LePine, diseases affecting the immune system, known as autoimmune diseases, can also indicate an imbalance.
Rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis are tied in with imbalances in the gut bacteria,
he says. An NIH study agrees with Dr. LePine. It was demonstrated that the composition of the intestinal microbiota is altered in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients.
The results of the study showed the modulation of the gut microbiota may offer a novel therapeutic or preventive approach to RA patients. A Mayo Clinic study found that bacteria in your gut do more than break down your food. They also can predict susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis, by causing, predicting, and preventing RA.
One of the studies, published in Arthritis and Rheumatology, arthritis-susceptible mice were treated with a bacterium common to the gut, and found that that mice treated with the bacterium had decreased symptom frequency and severity, and fewer inflammatory conditions associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Lifestyle Changes For Healthy Gut Bacteria
Based on what is known by research to date about what makes for healthy and unhealthy gut bacteria, the following changes may help you to optimize the health of your inner world:
Keep antibiotic use to a minimum. Of course, you must alert your doctor if you have signs of serious illness, but follow their advice and don’t insist on a prescription for antibiotics for viral illnesses. According to an NIH study, mounting evidence shows that antibiotics influence the function of the immune system, our ability to resist infection, and our capacity for processing food due to its negative effects on the human microbiome. The study had this to say:
In addition to the increased threat of resistance to antibiotics caused by the overuse of these compounds, these important side effects make it clear that overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics must be quickly phased out in favor of more precise approaches and must be complemented by efficient methods to restore the microbiome after injury.
Still not convinced? Here is one more NIH study confirming the over-use of antibiotics and gut health, named appropriately, “Disruption of the Gut Ecosystem by Antibiotics”. In a precise statement the NIH said antibiotics change microbial composition, resulting in physical and chemical changes in the body, and how such changes become a trigger for disease.
Learn strong stress management skills. Modern life is filled with a multitude of stressors. During stress, an altered gut microbial population affects the regulation of neurotransmitters mediated by the microbiome and gut barrier function, causing an imbalance of microbiome in the gut and all kinds of health issues, according to an NIH study.
Meditation helps regulate the stress response, thereby suppressing chronic inflammation states and maintaining a healthy gut-barrier function. The study recommended the integration of meditation into healthcare models. You can learn ways to relax and skills for coping with these challenges in a way that results in less wear and tear on your body. Health authorities like the National Institutes of Health recommend researching and learning the technique for being “mindful”.
By practicing “mindfulness”, by living in the moment, reduces stress. Use deep-breathing exercise, or meditation, or yoga. By which we mean, do what you can to remove stressors from your day and increase the time you spend relaxing. Just like you, your beneficial bacteria don’t enjoy being stressed, and prolonged-stress, can deplete their numbers, so do something fun, or, maybe take a short hike up to a lake, plant or work in your backyard garden.
Eat a nutritious well-balanced diet. What is one of the main causes of leaky gut?
There is emerging evidence that the standard American diet, which is low in fiber and high in sugar and saturated fats, may initiate this process. Heavy alcohol use and stress also seem to disrupt this balance,
according to this Harvard Health Study. It is vitally important to regularly consume fresh certified-organic, non-GMO (non genetically modified), nutrient-dense, lean organic proteins such as grass-fed finished (grain-free) red meats like beef and bison and free-range lamb or pork, and poultry like chicken or turkey, grass-fed low-fat dairy, and grass-fed (cage-free) eggs (A); fresh organic non-GMO fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, and seeds (A); fresh wild-caught or cold-water fish, seafood, and shellfish (A);organic complex carbohydrates and whole grains, fresh herbs and spices, and antioxidant drinks and fruit smoothies (A).
Foods To Avoid For Leaky Gut Stay away from processed meats such as cooked ham, and sausage (per NIH), refined grains and simple carbs (per NIH), high-sugar foods and carbonated drinks, especially diet (per NIH), high-salt foods (per NIH), fast foods (per NIH), pre-cooked take-out foods (per NIH), fatty fried foods (per NIH), and saturated fats and oils (per NIH).
If necessary, take probiotics. Probiotic supplements contain strains of living bacteria that have been identified as being beneficial for humans. Although the research on the benefits of probiotics has been mixed, and to date, there is no hard research that they can change the makeup of your gut flora.
Probiotics are generally well-tolerated and have been shown to improve symptoms in people who suffer from IBS and other gut issues. As with all over the counter supplements, be sure to get clearance from your doctor before use. Here is what A Mayo Clinic article “What Are Probiotics and Prebiotics“, had to say about it:
Research is ongoing into the relationship of the gut micro-flora to disease. The health benefits of currently available probiotics and prebiotics have not been conclusively proved. However, side effects are rare, and most healthy adults can safely add foods that contain prebiotics and probiotics to their diets. Future research may lead to advanced probiotics with greater potential to improve health.
Check out prebiotics. As you hear more and more about gut bacteria, you will also be learning more and more about prebiotics and dietary fiber. Prebiotics are ingredients in foods that encourage the growth of beneficial flora according to the NIH. Prebiotics are primarily found in vegetables and fruits that are high in antioxidants, and soluble and insoluble fiber, such as asparagus, artichokes, bananas, blueberries, chicory, garlic, leeks, onions, and rye.
Although all prebiotics are fiber, not all fiber is prebiotic. In order to be prebiotic, the fiber must resist gastric acidity, is fermented by the intestinal microflora, and selectively stimulates the growth and/or activity of intestinal bacteria potentially associated with health and well-being. The NIH summed up their study this way:
Since fiber intakes around the world are less than half of recommended levels, increasing fiber consumption for health promotion and disease prevention is a critical public health goal.
And, that’s where fermented foods come in.
Eat Fermented Foods. Fermented foods (A) are foods that already contain within them live cultures of beneficial strains of bacteria, and are really good for your health, particularly your brain and cognitive function. This may sound really exotic, but, you are probably very familiar with two of them, which are yogurt and sauerkraut, then there is kefir, kombucha, and kimchi, to name a few. Make sure the sauerkraut is raw and unpasteurized. Just remember, when we covered the Foods To Avoid For Leaky Gut earlier, you noticed most of those have little nutrition and contribute even less to the health of the gut minrobiome, and that’s why probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods are so beneficial to gut health.
Regular Moderate Exercise. Exercise is an excellent way to de-stress, which is crucial in many ways to balancing the microbiome. An NIH study confirmed that exercise modifies the gut microbiota with positive health effects. Want another example? Another study by NIH confirmed the following: That physical exercise is able to modify gut microbiota, and thus this could be another factor by which exercise promotes well-being, since gut microbiota appears to be closely related to health and disease.
When you’re stressed, changes in the levels of your circulating hormones tend to fluctuate which can directly affect your metabolism, nutritional balance, and even mental clarity. Movement makes you feel better, supports your health in all kinds of ways, and, you guessed it, is great for your microbiome. So the minimum here is to keep doing whatever kind of movement you’ve already got going on in your life, and try to improve it by doing some form of physical activity thirty minutes a day, a minimum of five days a week, or 150 minutes a week minimum moderate exercise, per the WHO.
Devote time to a pet. Whether your heart melts for kittens or you’re a fan of man’s best friend, the more time you can spend with animals the better. Research has shown that there the benefits in having a pet is their love is unconditional, and they’re good for your health in all kinds of ways, including supporting a healthy blood pressure level and maintaining mental well-being. Plus, being around your faithful friends(s), help diversify your microbiome and keep it healthy. This will be great and a lot of fun for the both of you, and it means that you’ll be exposed to even more strains of good-for-you bacteria.
Drink ample water. To function properly, all the cells and organs of your body needs cool, clear, clean, water to hydrate. Adult humans are 60% water and your blood is 90% water. Water is essential for kidney and many other bodily functions. Some bodily functions include joint lubrication, form saliva and mucus, deliver oxygen all over the body through circulation of the blood, deliver nutrients to microbiome.
It also boosts skin health, cushions the brain, spinal cord, and other sensitive tissues, regulates body temperature, flushes body waste, maintains blood pressure, and helps maintain proper weight. It is recommended for proper hydration to drink a minimum of or somewhere in the range of eight full 8-ounce glasses of filtered-water each day. Mayo Clinic has a good article on water and human health. And, I didn’t say sweet drinks or diet drinks! If you have trouble drinking water, try infused water with fruit.
Get your hands dirty. Yes, get your hands in the dirt. Plant a herb garden, or a veggie garden, or a flower garden. Not only will it be good for you exercise-wise, the release of stress, the feeling of personal accomplishment, and the availability of fresh, wholesome veggies and herbs, or beautiful flowers, but also by supplying you with beneficial microbes.
Soil-based organisms (SBOs) support gut health and immune response. Why, exactly? In the plant world, rich, organic dirt, teaming with microbes, help plants grow. Without their protection, otherwise healthy plants become malnourished and are susceptible to disease, or contamination by fungi, yeasts, molds and candida. Just as plants grow best in healthy soil teeming with highly active microorganisms, you, too, need these organisms to live a long, healthy life.
We now know that SBOs nourish cells in the colon and liver and actually create new compounds, such as B vitamins, vitamin K2, antioxidants and enzymes. SBOs can destroy or crowd out harmful pathogens, such as candida, fungi, and parasites. They also kill off bad bacteria that can bind to or puncture the gut wall. They’ve been shown to bind to toxins and extract them from the body. One NIH study covered SBOs and treatment of patients suffering from acute diarrhoea.
Supplement with natural Adaptogen. Peruvian Maca is an Adaptogen, which means it can help support your adrenals, especially from the impact of chronic stress. What does chronic stress cause? It causes our bodies to overproduce the stress hormone, cortisol. And cortisol can create the permeability issues seen with leaky gut, and cause inflammation and all the symptoms that go with an unhealthy gut.
Additionally, P Maca helps keep the body from being too acidic by maintaining a normal alkaline pH of 7.4, because it is very alkalizing, while also maintaining enough good acidity in the gut for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.
For more in depth information on this incredible healing Peruvian Maca, read the following reviews:
Check out this short video from Kirsten Tillisch, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, explains how the microbiome in the gut takes care of us, and how we can take care of it. Dr. Tillisch is a pioneer in the study of microbe-gut-brain interactions, and is currently focusing on the role of mind-body.
Now that you’re read this article “Foods To Avoid For Leaky Gut”, what are your thoughts? Are you ready to make some changes in your life to assure your overall health and well being? If you have questions, please leave them below.