FEED YOUR GUT
The magical kingdom of microbes living in you, called microbiome, may be the most important organ in your body.
We eat pounds of food every day which comes into contact with every inch of the 30+ foot tube of our digestive system. Is it possible that what we eat could impact irritable bowel, reflux, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea or inflammatory bowel diseases?
Bacteria in your microbiome outnumber your own cells 10 to 1, and bacterial genes outnumber your own genes 100 to 1.
Your microbiome consists of both beneficial and pathogenic bacteria (among viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms, which is actually a good thing), and as long as the beneficial bacteria outweigh the pathogenic bacteria, your microbiome helps keep you healthy and protects your gut lining.
An unhealthy and unbalanced microbiome, on the other hand, can contribute to heart disease, hormone imbalance, diabetes, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia, allergies, asthma, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, skin disorders like acne, eczema, and psoriasis, not to mention all the digestive disorders including irritable bowel, reflux or colitis. Fixing your gut ecosystem can help improve those conditions and can support your health.
The key is learning how to look after your microbiome.
Is Your Food Medicine or Poison?
Pathogenic gut bacteria grow for two reasons: eating too many gut destroying foods and not eating enough of the foods that feed the good guys.
The biggest culprit is gluten. Modern wheat has powerful inflammatory proteins called gliadin that can damage the lining of your gut creating the possibility of something we call a leaky gut. Most wheat today is sprayed with the weed killer glyphosate at harvest to dry it out. Your morning Cheerios have more glyphosate than they do vitamin B12 and vitamin D (which are actually added to the cereal). Why is that bad? Aside from being a known carcinogen, glyphosate destroys your microbiome.
Other common gut destroying foods include sugar and starch. The pathogenic bacteria love it just like you do. Too much sugar and starch promote the overgrowth of toxic bacteria and yeast and are the reason for feeling bloated after a meal.
Refined oils, which make up about 10 percent of our calories, can also cause inflammation in your gut potentially leading to a leaky gut and can trigger something called metabolic endotoxemia. In other words, our metabolism can be poisoned by toxic byproducts of pathogenic bacteria, which can contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and a whole slew of other conditions. Omega 3 fats do the opposite. (Healthy fat is not the enemy!)
In addition to unhealthy and highly processed fats, we over consume additives and preservatives. Some of the worst are the thickeners and emulsifiers in most processed food, including carrageenan and gums. They are detrimental to our microbiome, the lining of our guts, and our overall digestion.
These are just a few examples of common gut disruptors in the typical Western diet.
Luckily, there are a lot of healthy and delicious foods that our beneficial bacteria love.
Gut Healing Foods
While we know that the wrong bugs and the wrong foods can break down your gut barrier and cause an unhealthy microbiome, we also know the beneficial bacteria and the right food help keep your gut barrier lining intact and keep your gut healthy.
So, what do the good bacteria eat? They munch down on the foods containing a special type of prebiotic fiber. Certain foods have high levels of fibre, like artichokes, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, beans, pulses, onions, leeks, and others. Any fiber-rich foods help feed the beneficial bacteria and keep the inner garden healthy. This means eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and beans.
Probiotic-rich foods also help support a healthy gut. My favourites are traditional fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh, miso, natto, and kimchi.
Some of the exciting discoveries around the microbiome involve the role of polyphenols, the colourful phytonutrients found in plants. The good bacteria love them, feed on them, and in turn, those bugs protect us. For example, one such bacteria, Akkermansia, loves cranberry, pomegranate, and green tea. When it is in abundance, it creates a protective layer in the gut helping to protect against a leaky gut, autoimmune diseases, and even heart disease and diabetes. So, consuming cranberries, pomegranate, and green tea help increase the Akkermansia in your gut and help keep your gut healthy.
Your gut also needs other nutrients to function well.
Zinc from pumpkin seeds and oysters is necessary for digestive enzyme function.
Omega 3 fats from fish such as sardines or herring are needed to regulate inflammation and help heal a leaky gut.
Vitamin A from beef liver, cod liver, salmon, and goat cheese is also necessary for cellular health and supports the lining of your gut.
Foods with collagen, such as bone broth, contain glycosaminoglycans also help protect the gut and keep it healthy.
It is clear that food is the most important regulator of your microbiome. Remember next time you take a bite that you are not just eating for your own health, but the health of your inner garden. How many of these gut-healing foods will you incorporate?
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