This week we're focusing on our 8th Pillar of Health - Gut Health.
We started with an article on why gut health matters. If you haven't read this one yet, take a look.
Research over the past two decades has revealed that gut health is critical to overall health, and an unhealthy gut can contribute to a wide range of diseases including diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune conditions, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
This is all well and good. But how do you know if this applies to you?
If you don’t suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, have bloating or gas, are there other signs you should be aware of?
Here we’ve compiled a list of signs and symptoms of an unhealthy gut:
These are the hallmark symptoms of gut dysfunction. In large, this is due to the health; both number and diversity, of the bacteria living inside your gut, intestines, stomach and colon. These bacteria are called your microbiome and symptoms such as bowel irregularity or gas occur when the balance of bacteria is not right.
Gas in particular is a sign that food is fermenting in your gut as you have insufficient stomach acid or an imbalance of bacteria to break down the food you’ve eaten.
Scientists have found that gut bacteria actually secretes special proteins that are similar to hunger-regulating hormones; leptin and ghrelin. These proteins affect both our food cravings and mood.
To sum it up, the bacteria try to get us to eat foods that they thrive on. So, if you eat a lot of sugar you feed the unhelpful bacteria that love it and they secrete the proteins to make you crave sugar more. It’s a vicious cycle.
It’s also somewhat of a relief. It’s not a lack of willpower that contributes totally to your weakness for the sweet stuff. Fixing your gut can eradicate the bacteria that cause you to crave these foods in the first place.
Overtime you can actually reduce these cravings.
Chronic bad breath is called halitosis. In most circumstances, halitosis stems from odor-inducing microbes that reside in between your teeth and gums, and on your tongue. It can also be caused by bacteria linked to gum disease.
A healthy digestive system is crucial for optimal overall health. The ratio of good and bad bacteria is a crucial indicator of the condition of your health.
If you suffer from food intolerances such as gluten or dairy, this is almost always a result of leaky gut. The gut barrier is your gatekeeper that decides what gets in and what stays out.
When you think about it, our gut is a system that operates entirely on it's own. It is a sealed passageway from our mouth to our bottom. Technically, the scope with which it interacts with other organs in our body is somewhat limited.
Anything goes in the mouth and isn’t digested will pass right out the other end. This is, in fact, one of the most important functions of the gut: to prevent foreign substances from entering the body.
When the intestinal barrier becomes permeable i.e. leaky gut syndrome, large protein molecules escape into the bloodstream. Since these proteins don’t belong outside of the gut, the body mounts an immune response and attacks them. This immune response shows up as food intolerances.
In a recent blog we discussed the link between nutrition and mental health. Part of the reason micronutrient deficiencies affect mental health is because of compromised gut function. Even if a person with mental heath associated issues did have access to appropriate nutrition or levels of micronutrients, a leaky gut may mean they are unable to absorb them.
A compromised gut will affect your ability to use serotonin - your happy hormone - and vitamin D within your body.
In a recent study it was estimated that up to 70% of your body's serotonin levels are found within your gut. If you have leaky gut, your body will lose much of the serotonin it produces. Treating any gut dysbiosis will be critical for supporting mental health.
The inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions.
A common symptom of food intolerance is eczema. Take a look at this article on what's driving your eczema which investigates the link between the health of your microbes and eczema conditions.
Research is now showing the health of your microbiota can give clues as to whether or not you have type two diabetes. Recently, four Russian researchers studied differences in the changes in the microbes of the large intestine, reporting their findings on the link between gut bacteria and type two diabetes in the journal of Endocrinology Connections.
In the study, gut microbial composition and glucose level were analyzed in 92 patients including 20 with type 2 diabetes and 48 healthy subjects without any chronic disease. An additional 24 subjects showed signs of pre-diabetes.
The scientists compared the presentation of intestinal microbes among the groups in the study participants, as well as differences in diet. In doing so, they were able to link the level of glucose intolerance with the presence of three types of microbiota: Blautia, Serratia and Akkermansia bacteria. While all three are found in healthy people, their numbers are “greatly increased where diabetes is present.”
“The scientists concluded that one possible cause and effect between intestinal bacteria and diabetes is that certain bacteria incite an immune response. Within the intestinal bacteria population, there are microbes that form toxins that enter the gut and then cause inflammation throughout the body, including liver and fat cells that can affect overall metabolism and insulin sensitivity.”
"I have not seen a client at the BePure clinic with thyroid disease who has not had leaky gut, in particular an intolerance to gluten."
Removing gluten for these people and healing their gut has made symptom management and disease reversal possible in almost every single case.
Our own clinical experiences are supported by the findings of experts in mucosal biology, like Dr. Alessio Fasano, who now believe leaky gut is a precondition to developing autoimmunity:
"There is growing evidence that increased intestinal permeability plays a pathogenic role in various autoimmune diseases including celiac disease and type 1 diabetes. Therefore, we hypothesise that besides genetic and environmental factors, loss of intestinal barrier function is necessary to develop autoimmunity."
You may also suffer from frequent illness or infections. Again the reason for this is due to a suppressed immune system. We have written a helpful blog about the link between gut health and immunity.
There are many many more signs and symptoms of compromised gut function. These are the most common signs we see at the BePure clinic.
I recently presented my Top 10 Tips For A Healthy Gut to the team at Les Mills in Auckland, the information in this talk was so valuable we decided to film it for you.
Be sure to check in to our Facebook Page as we will be posting more helpful tips and inspiration over the following weeks, as well as useful weekly prizes.
This blog is part of our 10 pillars of health series. Each week we will deliver content, recipes and challenges relevant to each pillar of health that we believe are the foundations for living a healthier, happier, more energised life. The idea being that if we focus on making progress in one area each week it will be easier, and more sustainable, over the long-term.
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