Are you that person that can’t fight colds and flus? Do you have chronic allergies and have just never made the connection between your gut health and these problems?
That was me my whole young life. I would struggle to keep my eyes open throughout the day, bloat whenever I ate anything, I would dread “allergy season,” and then when anyone was sick I would always get it and stay sick for weeks. And how many courses of antibiotics would this vicious cycle lead to? Countless.
Your gut contains 75% of your immune system
This is why you need to worry about your gut!
I did an interview with Nylon Magazine on why gut health is important to our well-being. In the interview, I cover:
The common signs that your gut health is poor
How you can achieve a healthy gut
The foods you should stay away from
Nylon Magazine Interview
Q: How does our gut health affect our bodies as a whole (skin, weight, mood, etc)?
Our immune system is primarily run by our gut or our enteric nervous system. The microbes or beneficial bacteria in our gut are in charge of many tasks like sending chemical messages to the brain to activate immune responses. Letting our brain know that the broccoli that we just ate is coming down the hatch and to get ready for some great nutrition to be dispersed around the body for various functions. OR, letting our brain know that a nasty bag of processed chips and a large soda are coming down the hatch so get ready to defend itself and clear it out of the body safely.
Sounds simple enough right? Well, over time, those healthy options continue to give your good bacteria, your organs and glands, your bones and skin the tools they need to repair, grow, heal and age with grace and the converse is, over time those unhealthy options continue to tax our detox organs as they are burdened with the task of elimination. And those unhealthy options degrade not just our skin and livers and colons, but they exhaust and begin to kill off the good bacteria, they kill our cells, they make us collect unwanted weight because after a while the body cannot handle all the garbage and it gets stored as fat.
And, worst of all, when our microbiome or gut health has begun to degrade, those chemical messages being sent to the brain begin to affect our emotions, our moods and our energy levels. And we all know how hard it is to be happy and positive when we are down in the dumps.
Q: What are ways we can promote a healthy gut?
The most important thing we can do is make sure that we are digesting what we are eating, so it doesn’t end up rotting in our gut and killing our good bacteria.
There are a few things we can easily do to assure this happens:
Eat & drink things that are easy on the gut and easy to digest - green leafy vegetables, green smoothies, freshly-made vegetable juices, fermented vegetables and cultured foods like Kefir, Coconut Kefir or Kombucha (minus the sugar).
Take digestive enzymes to encourage digestion, especially with cooked food; cooking food removes the natural enzymes from the food, making it harder to digest.
Eating small, simple meals.
Eating your last meal of the day before 6:30pm as frequently as possible. Later in the day our bodies slow down and have no interest in digesting a big meal late at night.
Eating home-cooked meals. Restaurant food is made in large quantities with saving money in mind, which translates to mystery ingredients and low quality product. Save your nights out for special occasions.
Q: What are signs of our gut health being out of whack?
Our bodies are miraculous and they are ALWAYS giving us signs that they need a tune up. The gut is no exception. Where do you think the expression, “that gut feeling” comes from!
The most common signs that your gut is out of whack are any digestive distress whatsoever:
These are to name just a few, and then there are more mysterious signs like skin issues, bone loss, chronic fatigue and hormone imbalance.
I really could write pages and pages on the signs of a gut being out of whack. I once read something during my studies many years ago that has stuck in my mind like it’s etched in stone:
“If you die before the age of 85 from anything other than a tragic accident, it is related to poor gut health.”
It’s a hard statement to swallow but it’s never been proven wrong. The health of our gut even determines how quickly and smoothly you will heal from a broken bone, or how quickly you will recover from a bee sting and, shockingly, the health of our gut will determine how long you will live.
Q: Does stress affect gut health?
I’ve given gut health lectures all over the US and one thing that never changes and I repeat over and over and over is - the number one enemy of gut health is STRESS.
And, simply put, stress requires us to be in a ‘fight or flight’ mode and in this mode the human body is not designed to optimally rest or digest. If you are not digesting properly, then your food and everything else you consume is left undigested in your gut, making it an inflamed, acidic, unfriendly hot mess, AND making it the ‘best spring break ever’ for the nasty bacteria that wreak havoc and degrade our health.
Q: What benefits do probiotics have, and what are the best ways to consume them?
Probiotic is latin for For-Life! And high quality probiotics are incredibly beneficial to help restore and maintain gut health. The operative words being “high quality." And “high quality” usually translates to ‘EXPENSIVE’.
As a practitioner I only recommend store bought or prescription probiotics when a person is suffering from severe gut imbalances, otherwise I believe acquiring your beneficial bacteria from fermented and cultured foods is far superior. Especially if you make them yourself. However, these days there are store bought options that are quite good. You can have these foods alone or with other foods to help pre-digest the meal you are eating and make digestion much easier. If you are taking a supplement, I recommend taking it on an empty stomach and when waking and/or right before bed.
Q: Are there any foods that should be avoided?
The other enemies of our gut health are processed foods, fried foods, refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine, many medications, chemicals like pesticides, especially Glyphosate used in the spraying of almost all non-organic produce and NOW studies are also showing that GMO foods might play a role in the disruption of our gut health.
Q: Finally, if there’s anything else you’d like to add, feel free to include!
My passion for gut health began with my own journey of suffering throughout my life with illness after illness only to be left on multiple medications with a poor quality of life. It wasn’t until my discovery of the microbiome and the profound role it plays in our emotional and physical health that I truly understood how to be healthy. I learned that we are comprised of more bacteria than we are of human cells! I knew that in order to thrive, I had to make my microbiome a more habitable place for the residents that keep me thriving.