Food and Gut Microbiome
Hippocrates said” all diseases begin in the gut”, and that was 2500 years ago.
We will start by a few numbers just to show you how extremely important your Microbiomes, commonly known as gut bugs, are and how you can look after your guests by feeding them in the right manner. As you are now reading these lines, you are hosting more than 100 trillion bacteria that live in your digestive tract and control many aspects of your physiology. They are our greatest allies to improving and maintaining our health.
Chronic inflammation has a role in most common diseases such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and possibly even depression. Inflammation is a vital part of the human immune system but chronic inflammation is very detrimental.
Chronic inflammation has been linked to your gut microbiome being out of balance. More than 70% of our immune system is packed behind your stomach lining. What we eat is what feeds our microbiome and that actually trains our immune system to respond efficiently. So if your microbiome is out of balance your immune system is out of balance and this can result in your entire body being out of sync. Our body is a bidirectional system. What does this mean? If our stress causes our microbiome to change, then in turn, these changes cause us to be stressed and anxious. The brain and the gut are continuously sending back and forth information through the vagus nerve. Hence why you immediately shut down your digestion system in a fight or flight situation or in any stressful situation. I am sure you have heard the various expressions referring to your digestive system! “I have a gut feeling about this,” or “I had butterflies in my stomach before the speech,” or even ” this was a stomach churning experience”… all showing how powerful this gut / brain connection really is.
Lets have a look at serotonin… Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. It has a popular image as a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness, though its actual biological function is complex and multifaceted, modulating cognition, reward, learning, memory and numerous physiological processes. It is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract…. so if you want to feel happy then looking after your digestive system as best as you can is of the upmost importance.
When things go wrong!
These guest need to be fed and the better you nourish them the better they will take care of you!!
The digestive microbiome plays a very important role in your health by helping control digestion, regulating hormones, excreting toxins, producing vitamins and bolstering your immune system in order to keep your gut and body healthy. An imbalance between good and bad microbes in the intestines may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and other disorders. This imbalance can be produced by a chemical called tricolan commonly found in some household products like toothpaste, soaps and detergents. It can also be caused by antibiotics that are either prescribed or ingested in the farmed animals we consume.
So if you are experiencing bloating, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, gas over production, frequent sickness, brain fog, fatigue, weight gain and undigested food in the stool … well you may have to look after your gut microbiomes and start keeping them happy!
SIBO or “small instestine bacterial overgrowth” occurs when certain bacteria mobilize and move up towards your small intestine. Once established there, the bacteria feed on the food passing through your small intestine which can lead to poor nutrient absorption, particularly that of fat-soluble vitamins and iron. The feasting bacteria produce gases that contribute to SIBO symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating.
leaky gut is a certain condition in which bacteria are able to “leak” through holes in the intestinal wall. The immune system reacts to the germs, toxins, undigested food particules and other substances that are absorbed into the bloodstream via this porous bowel by triggering a persistent inflammation throughout the body.
Alcohol, aspirin and ibuprofen are well known for causing a mild irritation of the stomach. It is also believed that wider factors like overgrowth of yeast or bacteria in the bowel, a poor diet and the overuse of antibiotics may also contribute to a “leaky gut”.
How to look after your gut
A healthy gut is lined by a mucous layer and this barrier is effective at absorbing nutrients but prevents most large molecules and germs passing from the inside of the bowel into the bloodstream.
First you have to start eating REAL food that contain only one ingredient avoiding sugar and genetically modified foods.
So what should we be eating?
Some potent gut friendly foods are potato starch and sweet potato plantain. They tend to stimulate good bacteria growth in the large intestine and colon. They also increase the production of short fatty acids like butyrate that lower the PH levels in our bowel making it less hospitable for pathogens and bad bacteria. These gut superfoods also intervene in metabolizing glucose and help control insulin levels which in turn makes it easier to maintain or lose weight.
Fermented food and drinks.
The fermentation process is a chemical breakdown of the food from microorganisms and bacteria. Think yogurt.
These probiotic foods come and join forces with the already existing bacteria that live in your gut to fight off the bad bugs whilst also providing you with enzymes to help your digestion. Fermentation provides K2 vitamin which helps absorb vitamin D which is beneficial to the disease fighting immune system and is cancer protective. In fact, by strengthening the intestinal barrier and stimulating the production of antibodies these probiotics reinforce your immune system. As far as the gastrointestinal track is concerned these probiotics keep the accumulation of harmful bacteria in check and also reduce bloating.
Some of the most popular probiotics.
Kefir is a tart somewhat sour tasting cultured milk product similar to yogurt. The difference between yogurt and kefir is that the latter contains ten to twenty types of yeast and bacteria that make kefir a more powerful probiotic than yogurt. I get this kefir in the local supermarket, but also order some other probiotic like the Bio -Kult advanced with 14 strains probiotic supplement.
Saueurkraut is basically fermented cabbage:
Kombucha or mushroom tea is a slightly fizzy fermented tea. It is made by adding sugar, healthy bacteria and yeast to tea.
Tempeh forms part of the staple diet of the Indonesian people and is a fermented bean cake that is served as a meat substitute. Packed with phytochemicals, protein and fiber.
Cultured cottage cheese that contains live active cultures ( or good bacteria).
I will add to this list tumeric and garlic because of their amazing anti inflammatory properties. Remember, garlic should be cut or crushed and left to “rest” for 10 minutes before being cooked or consumed. This allows its powerful anti inflammatory properties to be ready to do their job !! Finally, Oregano oil and colostrum supplements will give a boost to your immune system.
These probiotics are only a help if they are added to a fibre rich and varied diet so that you can build a healthy microbiome.
All these probiotic rich foods blast the bad pathogens like unfavorable bacteria, yeasts or parasites and become your main defense against a leaky gut and other digestive issues.
I will add below a list of foods that are called super foods and should find their way into your shopping trolley on a weekly basis.
Monosaturated fatty fruit contributes to inproving your blood flow and brain health.
Source of iron and fibre, can keep your cholesterol levels down and lower your heart disease risk, reduce cancer risk and gives you a slimmer waist.
All kinds of berries are packed with fibre compound antioxidants to keep your mind/body strong. Blueberries can improve memory and reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia. They have amazing skin firming properties and are a good supply of vitamin C.
Good for bone health , full of vitamins C, A, K and can reduce overall risk of cancer.
Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and when consumed in moderation is a natural stimulant that can increase concentration and enhance mood.
Egg yolk contains lots of antioxidants to keep you healthy, protect your skin from UV damage and is good for memory enhancing and brain development.
Salmon and sardine are packed with omega 3’s so very vital for brain function and also contain anti-inflammatory substances. You can supplement it with Super Essential fish oil as well.
Nuts and Seeds
A handful of walnuts a day, rich in omega 3 fatty acids, can promote heart health, reduce bad cholesterol and increase the good one and can even improve your mood. Flaxseeds are said to be one of the most important powerful plant foods available and can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Full packed with vitamin C, which is turn is so important for the production of white cells and antibodies to fight infections.
Touted as one of the best grains to eat, packed with protein, iron and fibre. It can help control weight, lower the risk of heart disease and help prevent diabetes. Best to soak it overnight before cooking to make it more digestible.
Spinach and Kale
Spinach is a rich source of vitamins , minerals and fibre. Kale decreases the risk of ovarian, breast and other cancers.
Contains flavanoides and a high quality antioxidant and can reduce the risk of Alzheimer, diabetes and cancer and promotes healthy bones, gums, teeth and heightens memory and focus.
They contain a substance called lycopene very hard to find in other foods and because of that tomatoes can help protect the skin from UV rays. It can lower cholesterol and even prevent some cancers.
I have mentioned here above some of the superfoods that are excellent for a healthy digestive system, it is by no means exhaustive.
Extra virgin olive oil
Polyphenols are one type of numerous health-protective antioxidants that are found in extra virgin olive oil. Like other antioxidants, polyphenols fight oxidative stress and may fight against aging-related diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and certain types of cancer. Extra virgin olive oil, has anti inflamatory properties, as it contains a certain phenol compound called oleocanthal, which acts similar to ibuprofen in the body. This shows the potential for olive oil’s ability to help reduce the risk of strokes. It’s thought that two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil a day is enough to provide these anti-inflammatory benefits.
The regular consumption of Extra virgin olive oil has been linked to all these other benefits, including:
- Maintenance of normal blood pressure
- Upper respiratory tract health
- Affects certain proteins in the brain that are involved in memory, learning and thinking
- Helps keep blood sugar under control
- Potentially treat or reduce the symptoms of and/or prevent type 2 diabetes
- Protects blood lipids from oxidative damage
- Antibiotic and anti-viral actions
- Can increase protection against certain types of cancer
This is a good time to mention them ….
Prebiotics are classified as the non-digestible food ingredients that probiotics can feed off. They are used in the gut to increase the population of healthy bacteria, aid digestion and enhance the production of valuable vitamins.
Some of the most common prebiotics are onions, garlic, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus and bananas. We can also include chicory and dandelion root as digestive aids.
Prebiotic supplements can be taken regularly to help increase and drive the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
Prebiotic supplements contain fermentable fibre which provide food for beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
Prebiotic supplements differ from probiotic supplements in that they are not live bacteria, are highly stable and are unaffected by heat and acidity and reach your digestive system intact.
Gut microbiome enemies:
Despite what we have been told, milk doe not necessarily do a body good. For many people the two proteins in milk, casein and whey, are hard to digest, if they lack the enzymes to break down the lactose in milk which in turn creates bloating, gas and possibly diarrhea.
Gluten gives a light, fluffy and pleasing texture to food. Unfortunately many people are gluten sensitive and don’t even know it.
GMO corn and soy
Over 90 percent of corn and soy that is produced in the states is genetically modified (GMO).
Many of these crops are sprayed with numerous pesticides, one of them – glyphosate- leads to leaky gut. It also acts as an antibiotic in your gut and blocks the enzymic pathways found only in your friendly bacteria that create the three essential amino acids – phenylalanine , tyrosine and tryptophan – essential for the body.
Any form of sugar in excess poses a risk to your gut health
In conclusion ….what should you do? To conclude this topic if I could give you some common sense advice, it would be this; daily exercise, eating twice a day and leaving at least a 12 hour rest period for your digestive system, eat small portions, chew every mouthful at least 30 times before you swallow, eat a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, tubers, greens, etc, as colorful as possible and in season. Your meal time should be relaxed and almost like a happy ceremony where you take time to savour what you are ingesting. Avoid processed food, artificial sweeteners, binge eating and drinking or any food excess. And finally, partake in some regular meditation practice.
For a more in depth read I have listed a few research articles below;
- Role of the gut microbiota in health and chronic gastrointestinal disease: understanding a hidden metabolic organ
- Small intestinal bacterial growth
- My gut feeling says rest; Increased intestinal permeability contributes to chronic diseases in high-intensity exercisers.