This is the first part of a 2 part series on gut health. I thought it'd be good to visit this subject, because most people are unaware of how important the gut's function is! What we eat can affect how we think, feel, and behave. As Elie Metchnikoff, Nobel Prize winner and microbiologist, said, "Death begins in the colon."
Facts About Your Gut
- The gastrointestinal system makes up 75% of the immune system.
- It's the only system in the body that has its own independently-operating nervous system, called the enteric nervous system.
- There are over 400 species of microbes (microorganisms) living in the gut, totalling over 15 lbs of mass. There are more bacteria in your gut than known stars in the sky!
- We can't feel pain or other sensations in our gut because the gut lacks pain receptors. Because of this, problems in the gastrointestinal (GI) system is often not discovered unless it gets bad enough for other symptoms to show up, like:
undigested food in stool
burning in the stomach
irritable bowel syndrome
Of course, there are medications for all of these symptoms, but those medications only treat just that: symptoms. They don't address the root cause.
How Good Gut Bacteria Benefit the Body
Here's a breakdown of just SOME of the things our gut bacteria do to keep us healthy.
- assist gut defense system
- regulate gut mobility
- produce vitamins
- metabolize foreign chemicals
- absorb minerals
- destroy toxins, including genotoxins (toxins that damage genetic info) and mutagens (toxins that cause genetic mutation)
- produce short chain organic acids, including those that prevent kidney stones
- needed for the transformation of natural compounds so they can perform their bio-activities. An example of this is lignans, which protect the body against cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, colon cancer, prostate cancer, menopause, and osteoperosis
Our gut works hard! We need to start treating it with care if we want to lose weight, gain muscle, and improve our overall health.
How to Remedy GI Related Issues
- Consider an elimination diet. This diet aims to control inflammation and help identify food sensitivities. The length of the diet generally lasts for 3-6 weeks, and removes foods that people are sensitive to, including soy, dairy, corn, citrus, pork, eggs, and nightshade vegetables.
- After 3 weeks or so, start introducing one thing at a time back into your diet. Eat that food a couple of times a day for 2-3 days. Pay attention to the following symptoms: joint pain, headaches, sinus issues, foggy thinking, fatigue, nausea, skin issues, and poor sleep. If these symptoms occur, eliminate the offending food for at least six more months. This will allow your body more time to recover and heal naturally, as your gut can still be in the process of working out inflammation. Reintroduce the food again after six months. If the same adverse reaction occurs, you should avoid that food.
- Eat fiber-rich foods. Naturally occurring fiber in whole foods will feed friendly gut bacteria. Use this in moderation, however, as too much fiber will harm your sensitive gut bacteria.
- Drink more water. Just by adding a few more glasses to your day can bring some relief to GI related problems.
"What's the difference between an elimination diet and a detox diet?
- A detox diet focuses on long-term diet and other lifestyle changes.
- An elimination diet focuses specifically on eliminating not only processed foods, but foods that are known allergens.
Guide to An Elimination Diet
What should each meal look like when one is on an elimination diet? When I was on the diet, I didn't know what I was doing. My diet was really strict, and I was REAL cranky. I also didn't plan for it. PLAN FOR THIS DIET, YA'LL. It will save you tons of confusion and frustration. So. Each plate should consist of 40% fresh vegetables, 30% clean sources of protein, 20% healthy fats, and 10% whole food grains and fresh fruit.
Vegetables To Eat:
- all leafy greens
- brussels sprouts
- snow peas
- sea vegetables
- fresh herbs
Protein To Eat
- organic grass-fed meat and poultry
- wild-caught fish
- *cage free eggs
- small amounts of sprouted beans
Fats To Eat
- coconut oil
- olive oil
Fermented Foods To Eat
- vegetables that are great for fermenting: cabbage, kale, collards, and celery. Spice them with herbs like ginger and garlic.
- fermented fish
- kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage)
- lassi (Indian beverage made from a yogurt base mixed with water)
Other Foods To Eat
- bone broth
- raw milk/cultured dairy (kefir, yogurt, etc.)
- **small amounts of gluten free grains
- small amounts of fresh fruits
*Stay away from eggs if an egg allergy is suspected.
**Gluten free grains are great! Some that are great to try are amaranth, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, and wild rice.
Part 2 to come!! Next week we'll be looking at the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, and how they work in the body to help you be your healthiest self! Stay tuned!