You are what you eat!
As modern science finds out more and more about what goes on in the ecosystem that is our gut, it has become clear that what we put in our mouth is crucial to our health. And our bodies are an ecosystem, a combination of our own cells and billions of outside microbes all living together in a symbiotic relationship. Scientists have discovered in the past several years that our bodies contain more foreign microbes than actual human cells. And more importantly, the relationship we have with these guests can have a huge influence on our health. If they are happy, they help us with our digestion, fight inflammation and promote antibodies which help fight foreign invaders. If they are angry, they can produce a host of bad effects. The collective term that is used for the microbes in our body is called the microbiota. These include bacteria, fungus, viruses and other microscopic critters, many of which can be unwanted.
Most of the microbes that inhabit our body reside in the large intestine, and like I said before, they can be our friends. As long as the good bacteria outnumber the bad bacteria we have a much better chance of being healthy. Obviously, there are a lot of other factors in our health, such as genetics, environmental toxins and emotional stress. A healthy gut will go a long way towards positively influencing these factors. For instance, we know that healthy microbes when fed the right foods produce short chain fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory. If we starve these microbes by not giving them the right food, or kill them off by taking too many antibiotics, our body becomes inflamed. It is becoming more apparent that most of the chronic diseases today can be tied to systemic inflammation. So a healthy gut is key in fighting chronic disease.
Depression in many cases is the lack of a neurotransmitter called serotonin which is produced in our gut. When we are depressed it may be due to a disrupted gut, and often we deal with depression by eating more bad food. This creates a vicious cycle.
So a healthy gut is your first line of defense and an imbalance in the gut, called dysbiosis, has now been tied in some way to just about every chronic disease out there. Because the gut is related to the development of immune cells, several autoimmune diseases have been tied to dysbiosis. Cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and even autism, have shown vast improvements when the gut flora is improved and the diet is cleaned up. There is increasing evidence that inflammation can be tied to many of the chronic diseases out there and as stated before, imbalance in the gut sets up an inflammatory cascade. And of course all the digestive disorders out there were some of the first conditions to be tied to dysbiosis. If you are overweight and have dieted to no avail, more than likely your gut should be looked at closely. So what can we do?
Eat More Vegetables
What we put into our mouth greatly affects our microbiota. They feed mainly on fiber that is indigestible by our stomach. So if we don’t get enough fiber in our diet we starve these microbes and are deprived of the benefits they provide. This also lets bad bacteria have free rein. So the first thing we can do is eat more vegetables. It is the fiber in vegetables that feed the helpful flora in our large intestine.
Avoid Antibiotics When Possible
Obviously, there is a time for antibiotics. They are of course necessary to fight bacterial infections. Unfortunately, lots of kids get them every time they get a cold or the flu. Both of these are viral and antibiotics can’t help. What they do accomplish is to kill off the good bacteria as well as any bad ones. Any time you take a course of antibiotics you should counter the damage to your healthy flora by supplementing with probiotics, and not just any off the shelf probiotic. If you are going to take a probiotic make sure it is a high quality product or you’re doing yourself no good. The more live cultures the better, and since an effective probiotic must have live cultures, make sure it is sold to you refrigerated.
So, in many cases getting your gut in order may be the first order of business in fighting just about every chronic disease out there. Of course, there may be other factors. That is why it is good to be examined from a functional perspective. There are some great tests out there to determine whether you have an out-of-balance gut and great strategies on what to do about it. Come see us and get tested today!