Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Gut: The Gateway to Health





I have not been blogging as regularly as I would like in recent months. I have been a little distracted. Probably with my 7 month old mostly and trying to make it through the day in one piece! Things are getting much easier now and I feel like the cogs in my brain are slowly starting to turn again so I will be back here blogging more regularly! 

It hit me the other day as I brainstormed ideas for this post that I had somehow completely overlooked a post on the gut and its huge importance in overall health. This surprises me. Mostly because I am obsessed with this whole area and have become known as the "probiotic queen" in some circles as I literally constantly recommend probiotics for every ailment! 

There is good reason for my penchant for "following my gut" when it comes to health. In my opinion the gut is the gateway to overall health and must be nourished and treated with respect if we are to obtain full health. 

"All Disease Begins in The Gut" - Hippocrate, the Father of Modern Medicine stated this way back over 2000 years ago but it has somehow been overlooked by modern day medicine, at the expense of our health. 

Obviously not all disease begins in the gut (genetic disease for example does not) but it certainly holds the answers in a lot of cases. 

So many issues can be linked back to the gut - food allergies, seasonal allergies such as hayfever, food intolerances, autoimmune conditions, mental health issues and compromised immunity to name just a handful. With so many diseases being linked to the digestive system, it always surprises me how little conventional medicine does to investigate and support this area. While conventional medicine has slowly started to move back towards understanding the importance of beneficial bacteria after an antibiotic, it still has a long way to go to providing this area with the attention it deserves. 

But how can seemingly unrelated areas of health such as mental health or autoimmunity be linked back to our digestive systems? And how can gut health help me ensure overall health as well as disease prevention?

Two hugely important factors in this are the integrity of the gut lining and the balance of the bacteria in the gut itself. 



The Gut Lining 
Let us first look towards the lining of our "gut" or large intestine for answers. Our gut makes up a huge surface area in our bodies. 6-7 metres in length and with a surface area 10 times that of our skin, this huge organ plays a vital role in disease prevention and health. The lining or epithelium of the gut itself plays a protective role acting as a barrier to circulation. It is extremely selective in what it allows to be transported across this lining - allowing nutrients, ions, water and other useful substances to enter the lumen and enter circulation. This lining should remain selectively permeable and is controlled largely through the control of specialised inter cellular structures called "tight junctions". Once this integrity is sound immune function is optimised as foreign substances are not permitted to enter circulation. Issues arise when the gut lining is more permeable and these foreign substances or undigested proteins enter the circulating immune complex where they increase inflammation, increase risk of autoimmune disease and can cross the Blood Brain Barrier. This is where ailments such as hayfever (body launches an OTT attack on pollen, something it should be able to tolerate easily) food intolerances (reactions to food, often multiple foods) and eventually autoimmunity result (where body attacks its self) There is also a huge link between gut health and mental health (ever wonder why you experience butterflies in times of stress?)

Tackling increased gut permeability is very important and ensuring our tight junctions remain tightly closed is one part of the guts role in gut permeability. There are a few things we can do through nutritional therapy to do so:

Bone Broths - Bone broths are rich in collagen and amino acids which help to heal and seal the gut lining and reduce the instance of excessive permeability. Bone broths are easy to make but delicious and nourishing. Read how to make it here.

Vitamin D - Vitamin D plays a crucial role in enhancing the structural integrity of the gut as well as maintaining the mucosa integrity of the gut. (1) Exposure to sunlight and consideration of Vitamin D supplementation are important tools in tackling excess permeability.

Consider Fermented Cod Liver Oil - Vitamins A and D help reduce inflammation in the gut and promote healing.



Gut Bacteria Balance

The delicate balance of the bacteria in your gut also plays an important role in your health. Each person's gut contains an eco-system of bacteria and yeasts, both beneficial and pathogenic. It is important to have the correct balance in order to promote overall health. Certain factors such as medication (antibiotics), OCP use, alcohol, sugar and starchy foods can negatively effect the balance of good and bad bacteria leading to digestive issues like constipation, diarrhoea and flatulence as well as compromised nutrient absorption and compromised immune system function such as autoimmunity and allergies.

Thankfully Nutritional Therapy strategies can help rebalance gut flora and promote better health and immunity.

Introduce "good" bacteria - Abundant in fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi. Also available in probiotic supplementation. This helped to replenish healthy beneficial bacteria.

Avoid sugar and starches - these foods feed bad bacteria in the gut causing them to thrive. Omit sugars and refined carbohydrates. Reduce reliance on grains. Consider properly preparing grains by soaking or sprouting prior to eating.

Increase soluble fibres such as apples, oranges, pears, strawberries, nuts, seeds, blueberries, celery and carrots. These foods provide a food source to good bacteria, allowing them to flourish.

The Gut-Brain Link 

Did you ever wonder why you have butterflies when nervous or why people on antidepressants often experience digestive discomfort? This is because your gut is linked to your brain. Major neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin are actually found in your gut as well as the body's natural opiates meaning the health of your digestive system literally ties in with your mental health? Pretty remarkable eh? Major links have been identified between gut health and disorders such as autism and ADHD.

Your Gut: The Gateway to Your Health
Your gut health can affect your health in ways you may never have considered before. If you have digestive issues such as bloating, flatulence, burping after meals, sluggish digestion or reflux, your gut health is compromised and you are putting yourself at risk of developing more serious issues down the line.

If you wish for some support in this area, why not book a consultation with me today.

Its time to wise up and heal that gut today. Follow your "Gut Feeling"!

Email: theirishpaleo@gmail.com
Phone: 0877184523






1 Kong et al (2008) Novel role of the vitamin D receptor in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal mucosal barrier http://ajpgi.physiology.org/content/294/1/G208.short