It seems like every week new studies and headlines are pointing towards gut health as being the cornerstone for healing conditions or reaching optimum wellness. From IBS to complex autoimmune conditions improving your gut health can bring benefits to your whole body. This isn’t actually a new idea, over 2000 years ago Hippocrates said ‘all disease begins in the gut’ and research in more recent times has confirmed he was definitely on to something!
How do you know if you have a problem?
Common digestive symptoms such as bloating, cramps, reactions to foods, irregular bowel movements and nutrient deficiencies can all be a sign of poor gut health but you don’t need to have these symptoms to indicate you have a problem. Digestive issues can also manifest in skin conditions, autoimmune illnesses and depression. Over 70% of our immune system is found in our digestive tract so the implications of good gut health can be incredibly beneficial for all round health and well-being.
Be good to your gut
So if good gut health is so important what can you do to support your digestive system? There are two main elements to this; repairing the gut barrier and supporting your gut flora or ‘good bacteria’ to flourish. A more permeable or ‘leaky’ gut barrier can allow large protein molecules and toxins to pass into the bloodstream causing systemic inflammation throughout the body. Leaky gut is prevalent in modern society as stress, poor diet choices and environmental toxins can all cause damage to the delicate gut lining over time.
Give your gut a break
One of the best ways to repair the gut barrier is to rest the digestive system by fasting. This allows the body to carry out essential repair work on a cellular level, restoring the lining and reducing permeability. This break also de-stresses the system and can assist in weight loss as the body will switch to using your natural energy reserves. Intermittent fasting is a great way to reap the benefits of fasting and work it into your everyday life. You could follow the popular 5:2 method or do a daily 16 hour fast (mainly when you are asleep!) with an 8 hour eating window. It’s about finding what works for you.
Nourish your gut
Good gut flora is integral to good gut health, without doubt the two are closely linked – if you have leaky gut chances are you will also have poor gut bacteria. Why is this important? The gut contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body. The bacteria in the gut are essential for assisting with digestion and optimum absorption of nutrients so it is essential to have good gut flora. Removing sugar, processed foods, common allergens such as gluten and dairy as well as adding in fibre rich and nutrient dense vegetables and fermented foods will all contribute to a rich and varied gut flora. Supplementing with a probiotic will further bolster your efforts and a diet rich in pre-biotic foods such as onions, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes will ensure your good bacteria have a nutrient source.
Healthy gut, healthy body
Gut health is a great starting point for addressing many common health conditions and symptoms and is an integral part of working to improve overall health and well-being. Healing the gut barrier and supporting good bacteria to flourish are essential and using a functional approach to treatment will consider the body as a whole and support you on your journey to optimum wellness.