Research has recently started to reveal that our gut health is integral to our over all health. An unhealthy gut can contribute to a wide range of diseases states including Diabetes, Obesity, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Autism, Depression and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome…
There are two closely related variables in gut health– maintaining or restoring the integrity of the gut barrier (the lining of your digestive tract from beginning to end) and the role of the intestinal microbiome (the eco system of our digestive tract AKA pre and probiotics). The integrity of our gut barrier and the contents of our gut eco-system are two of the most important components of an effective and healthy digestive system.
Our guts are home to approximately 1 trillion microorganisms. We have only begun to understand the role of gut flora in health and disease but some of its functions are:
• To promote normal GI function
• Protect us from infection
• Regulate metabolism
• They comprise over 75% of our immune system
Unhealthy gut flora has been linked to many diseases and recently research has shown that gut flora plays a role in conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. The composition of organisms in your gut dictates how your body deals with the food you eat, how you absorb nutrients, store that food as energy, how easy (or hard) it is for you to loose weight and how well your metabolism functions.
What Leads to “bad” gut bacteria?
• Antibiotic use and other meds like antacids, Oral contraceptives and anti-inflammatories like Advil and aspirin
• Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
• Diets low in fermentable fiber (fermentable fiber feeds the healthy flora)
• Dietary toxins
• Chronic stress
• Chronic infections
Symptoms of imbalanced gut flora:
• Digestive issues common in IBS- bloating, belching, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, bad breath, abdominal pain, indigestion
• Lactose intolerance
• Chronic fatigue
• Joint pain
• Yeast infections
• Mental fog
• Sugar cravings (including alcohol)
• Weight gain
• Skin problems such as acne or hives
• Nail fungus
• Hyperactivity; learning and behavioral disorders
The gut barrier is intended to protect us and functions to keep things out of systemic circulation that should not be there. When the gut is leaky, large protein molecules that should remain in the gut can leak into systemic circulation causing problems.
But what can cause leaky gut? The same things that destroy our gut flora: poor diet, medications (antibiotics, Anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, antacids, etc.), infections, stress, hormone imbalances, and neurological conditions (brain trauma, stroke and neurodegeneration).
Symptoms of leaky gut or compromised gut barrier:
• Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• Seasonal allergies or asthma
• Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or PCOS
• Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease. Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
• Mood and mind issues such as depression, anxiety, ADD or ADHD. Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema
• Diagnosis of candida overgrowth
• Food allergies or food intolerances
Leaky gut and bad gut flora are common because of many components of our modern lifestyle. If you have a leaky gut, you probably have bad gut flora and if you have unbalanced gut flora chances are you have a compromised gut barrier. And when your gut flora and gut barrier are impaired you are likely to have inflammation in your body. Inflammation contributes to a host of ailments and gets in the way of optimal health.
The good news is there are a lot of diet and lifestyle factors that can help improve your gut microbiome, gut barrier and overall digestive health! Stay tuned next week to find out what they are…
Thanks for reading! To book a complimentary 15 minute Naturopathic Health Strategy Session with Dr. Sarah Bennett ND click here for contact info.
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Mahaya Health Services
Summerhill Health Centre
• http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/magazine/say-hello-to-the-100-trillion-bacteria-that-make-up-your- microbiome.html?_r=0
I am a naturopathic doctor practicing in Toronto, Ontario. I practice evidence-based natural medicine with a focus on ancestral nutrition. I have a special interest in digestive, endocrine and mental health.