So, what’s gut health about? 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. 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, but lifestyles factors such as over-prescribed antibiotics, deplete the microbiome (good bacteria), which can lead to health and wellness concerns. 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.
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 running, gardening, by getting your hands in dirt, owning a dog, all can assist you to not only bolster your gut health, bu 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 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. For example, Candida is a type of good yeast present in healthy intestinal tracks, but can become invasive after the use of antibiotics, or with the use of a high-sugar diet, or any illness, which suppresses your immune system. When antibiotics, or other harmful conditions, 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. In the case of Candida, its pathogenic-behavior becomes a problem when the pH of the stomach becomes more alkaline. Although our normal bodily functions, such as our blood, requires an 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 gut bacteria. If there’s an overgrowth of yeast in the system, 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.
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. 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. When less serotonin is produced, it can negatively impact mood. “Gut imbalances of the microbiome can trigger depressive symptoms,” says Todd LePine, MD, a board certified physician at the UltraWellness 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.
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.
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.
Lifestyle Changes For Healthy Gut Bacteria
Based on what is known by research to date about what makes for healthy and unhealthy gut bacteria, or, actually, what’s gut health about, 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.
Learn strong stress management skills. Modern life is filled with a multitude of stressors. 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.
Research and learn the technique for being “mindful”, or learning how to re-center yourself, by living in the moment. 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.
Eat a nutritious well-balanced diet. It is vitally important to regularly consume fresh certified-organic, non-GMO (non-genetically modified) proteins, carbohydrates, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, and fiber and whole-grains. Protein meats should be lean, grass-fed (no corn-fed), or free-range, beef, poultry, such as chicken, turkey, and eggs. Fish for protein, should be wild-caught, or cold-water, fish and seafood, such as salmon, or tuna.
Stay away from processed meats such as cooked ham, and sausage. You can find everything you need to know about a nutritious well-balanced diet and where to buy these types of foods, by reading this review, “What is in Maca Root?”.
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, they are generally well-tolerated and have been shown to improve symptoms in people who suffer from IBS. As with all over the counter supplements, be sure to get clearance from your doctor before use.
Decrease sugar and refined carbohydrates. These food components interact with gut bacteria through a process of fermentation and can contribute to excessive symptoms of gas and bloating.
Check out prebiotics. As you hear more and more about gut bacteria, you will also be learning more and more about prebiotics. Prebiotics are ingredients in foods that encourage the growth of beneficial flora. 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.
Eat Fermented Foods. Fermented foods are foods that already contain within them live cultures of beneficial strains of bacteria. 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. Make sure the sauerkraut is raw and unpasteurized.
Regular Moderate Exercise. Exercise is an excellent way to de-stress, which is crucial in many ways. 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.
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 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 water. 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, 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 eight full 8-ounce glasses of water each day. And, I didn’t say sweet drinks!
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 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
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:
So, now that you have learned what’s gut health about, can I ask you, 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.