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I am seeing more and more posts these days about gut health and the need for probiotic foods and drinks. It seems to me the topic is becoming more mainstream although I admit I follow many health bloggers so what is mainstream to me might not be to you.
But why is this topic gaining in popularity daily? What is so important about your digestive tract? Is it really of any more significance than any other part of my body?
My answer to this is a resounding YES. After studying and researching this topic for the past few years I think taking time and attention to building up the health of our digestive tracts, ie our GUT, is critical to thriving in the 21st century.
How the Gut Works
Our gut is the primary path of detoxification in our bodies. A healthy digestive system is full of beneficial bacteria that are working to produce vitamins and products essential to a healthy body. An unhealthy digestive system is also full of bacteria, but instead there are destructive bacteria and yeasts that take over and rule the gut instead.
In our very toxic society the gut is kept quite busy trying to process all the toxins that come through. When the gut is no longer able to handle this job the liver is 2nd in line to jump in and help. After that the skin, the lungs, and the kidneys are called upon to help. That is why we see eczema and other skin issues, asthma, and interstitial bladder cystitis as common problems in our day without any real obvious reasons why they are occurring.
Damaging factors to gut health.
Much of what we do in terms of our diet and our health is undermining to our gut health. According to Dr. Campbell-McBride of GAPS diet fame, there are many factors that can damage our gut health. Perhaps most damaging and a factor that probably impacts all of us, are antibiotics. Even if you don’t take them they are still getting into our bodies through meat and poultry, eggs, and milk and our produce is often sprayed with antibiotics. They can change bacteria from benign to dangerous and they often kill off the good bacteria as well as the pathogenic leaving room for dangerous yeasts and other cultures to fill in the empty space.
Other causes of damage to our guts include stress (who doesn’t have that these days), other medications, the standard American diet, other drugs (steroids, pain medications, contraceptive pills, sleeping pills, heartburn medications, etc.)
When the gut is damaged we end up with the dreaded leaky gut, which means the intestines become very permeable to much more than just fully digested particles. (Most of our absorption of nutrition into our body comes through the small intestine) Larger proteins like those from dairy or gluten products get through into the blood stream and this sets off the immune system causing food allergies and autoimmune diseases.
Symptoms of a Leaky Gut
- Multiple food sensitivities.
- GI complaints including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain.
- Nutritional deficiencies because vitamins and minerals are not being absorbed into the body.
- Skin rashes, psoriasis, eczema, and other sign that the body is trying to detox through the skin.
- Autoimmune diseases.
- Brain fog, depression, headaches, and other signs that indicate that the brain is affected by the leaking.
I suspect I have a leaky gut? What should I do about it?
Healing a Leaky Gut
Here are some of my suggestions which will be appropriate for any level of leaky gut.
- Cut out sugars, grains, and dairy as these are the difficult to digest foods. If the symptoms are serious and long lasting, consider the GAPS diet.
- As you can tolerate it add in probiotics and probiotic foods. The probiotic we use is listed on my resource page. For foods you can ferment most anything but most common is cabbage in kimchi and sauerkraut, fermented carrots, and fermented pickles. Drinks include kombucha (fermented tea), water kefir, milk kefir, ginger beer, and coconut kefir. The value of these foods and drinks is that they bring beneficial bacteria into the gut to replace the pathogenic bacteria and repopulate it. For an independent review of a number of top probiotic brands, you can look at this article at reviews.com.
- Make and drink lots of bone broths in soups, with vegetables, as an additional cupful with a meal, and in whatever other ways you can think of to have daily. The value of bone broth is the gelatin and collagen that are in the bones which are brought out in slow cooking and bringing healing to the gut. Here is an article I wrote at The Entwife’s Journal on chicken bone broth.
- Use detox baths to help rid of the body of the toxins that are causing so many problems. This article from Healthy Home Economist is one of the most helpful I have ever read on this topic.
Do you struggle with a leaky gut? What have you done that has helped? Or what would you like to try to see improvement in your health? Please leave a comment below.