Gut health

In honour of bowel cancer awareness month in June this week’s theme is gut health.

“All Disease Begins in The Gut.” - Hippocrates.

'Gut health' is a term increasingly used in the medical literature and by the food industry. Any impairment of the GI barrier can increase the risk of developing infectious, inflammatory and functional GI diseases, as well as extra-intestinal diseases such as immune-mediated and metabolic disorders.

Your ‘gut microbiome’ is made up of the trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material that live in your intestinal tract. These microorganisms, mainly comprising bacteria, are involved in functions critical to your health and wellbeing. These bacteria live in your digestive system and they play a key role in digesting food you eat, and they help with absorbing and synthesising nutrients too. Gut bugs are involved in many other important processes that extend beyond your gut, including your metabolism, body weight, and immune regulation, as well as your brain functions and mood. They will influence our likelihood of obesity, our risk of developing cancer or diabetes. Even our personalities.

If you think of your body as a factory with organs that have jobs, some of these tasks are automated and some require constant monitoring, maintenance and adjustment. So who operates this? Your gut microbiome. They turn our genes on and off, send messages to make our bodily functions work, they fight battles for us and make substances that we cannot make on our own. Most of the time the microbes are in charge of our wellbeing, but sometimes under certain circumstances they can turn on us and cause bad things to happen such as infection or disease. We need this messaging to be working in our favour so that our immune system can distinguish friend or foe. They also convert sugars into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA's) that the intestinal cells use for energy, synthesising many of the enzymes, vitamins and hormones that we can't make on our own.

This week let’s focus on how to maximise a happy gut that will also promote a happy mind, a happy body and what foods to focus on. We are so connected and the body works synergistically not in isolation.
The brain and the gut are therefore connected and by promoting a healthy gut you are simultaneously working on promoting a healthy and happier mindset.

An excellent resource to learn more about gut health is The Microbiome Solution by Robynne Chutkan (reference)

In her book you will learn what foods can maximise repair for inflammation and replenishment for your microbes. It is important to prevent further damage by understanding what disruptors to avoid. They can be found in the food that we eat, the water we drink, the products we use and the medications we take. Our stress levels and emotional health also contributes. How you think, feel, believe and perceive will mirror inflammation and degeneration or growth and repair in the body. So the best thing you can do is to give yourself a great environment to promote the repair and growth pathways.

5 steps to a healthy gut:

  • Promote a calm mind with regular meditation, journalling and daily rituals that remind you to focus on the positive. The large intestine is associated with virtues of valuing yourself and what can block you here are issues of not letting go, grief and low self esteem. The stomach organ assists your body to digest food, if you are emotionally not digesting a situation in your life, this may mirror in your body too. If you are experiencing constant over worrying, your neck may also be sore because the stomach meridian is also associated with some of your neck muscles. Bringing your blocks into your awareness and consciousness allows you to transform them.

  • How you think, feel and perceive your environment will dictate the health of your gut, seek professional care if you are unable to get out of a negative rut, you are not alone and the slightest shift in perspective can help you to move forward.

  • Education and knowledge will empower you to make informed decisions to nourish your gut health. Read other people’s journeys, articles and experiences that will help you to find what is right for you. With so many moving parts, our bodies are all so different.

  • Nourish your body on a cellular level with wholefoods, fibre and plenty of hydration limiting processed foods, too much sugar and allergies that will differ individually.

  • Replenish your gut with pre and probiotics foods or supplements if required, seek professional care from a naturopath, functional practitioner or gastroenterologist.

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