One of the first things I learned when I began my studies as a Naturopath over 20 years ago was the importance of the gut and that it’s improper function was the underlying cause of many common and some serious health conditions and diseases.
Back then, there wasn’t a lot of science to support this theory, but never the less, it formed an essential foundation for the holistic treatment of every patient under my care. Fast forward quarter of a century (now that makes me feel old) and the impact that the gut has on health is being accepted and embraced by the medical science community more and more.
I love this article about how the science of gut health could radically change modern medicine. For those of you not into reading lengthy articles, I thought I’d summarise it for you into its key points. But to read the full article (highly recommended for food/science nerds like me), click here.
- I love this analogy: “The typical gut is home to some 100 trillion bacteria of anywhere from 300 to 1,200 different species of bacteria — all vying for real estate. When they work in harmony, these microbes (good gut bugs) build peaceful kingdoms. In return for their room and board, they happily coax nutrients out of dietary fibre, make vitamins, produce hormones, fend off disease-causing pathogens, regulate our metabolism and fine-tune our immune system. They even influence our moods and affect our behaviour”.
- “Each species (of bacteria) has its own food preferences and appetites. If they don’t get what they want, it can get pretty nasty. Without the food they need, the starving microbes (gut bugs) turn on us. And that has implications for the development of inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, eczema, asthma, autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”
- “Safe drinking water, treatments for bacterial infections, food that doesn’t spoil quickly — these are all fantastic and important innovations, but they may have an inadvertent side effect” (of damaging our gut flora and hence our health).
- “Just how robust our microbiotas (gut bugs) become is largely determined by the way we’re delivered as babies, what we’re fed and how much dirt we come in contact with.”
- “Microbes rely on complex carbohydrates found in plant material, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables to thrive and grow.”
- The other key factor is how often we take antibiotics which wipe out the microbes. “Each time you assault your microbiota (gut bugs), it doesn’t come back quite the way it was, and you get further and further away from where you were.”
In a nutshell:
- Basically, when things go wrong in the gut microbiota (good bugs), something goes wrong with us – gut bacteria are paramount to our health and well-being!
- Current research indicates that the health of these microbial communities are a major factor in the skyrocketing rates of allergies, autoimmune disorders and obesity.
- The health of our gut bacteria is dependant upon “Exposure to dust and bugs and germs, the very entities that the immune system must monitor, is critical, especially early in life, for proper immune-system development. C-sections, formula, overly clean houses and eating processed foods limit that exposure.”
- To help our gut microflora thrive we need to ‘eat cleaner and live a little dirtier’. Eat more vegetables (preferably skin on) and more whole foods. Processed foods are not only sterile, but we don’t know the short or long term effect of additives on the good bugs that we need to maintain health.
- Also ‘Throw away your hand sanitiser’ – soap and water will do. Take antibiotics sparingly. “It should be a therapy that’s reserved for when you need it most. The benefits need to outweigh the risks.”
“If you don’t feed a child, they will get cranky,” says microbiologist Emma Allen-Vercoe. The same principle applies to our gut microbiota. “If you don’t feed your microbes, they change their behaviour and they actually start to [eat you] because they need a food supply.”
For more about simple ways to support the health of your gut naturally, click here.