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Maintaining Proper Gut Health

Maintaining Proper Gut Health

There is a wide array of digestive problems people can experience. When your digestive system isn’t functioning properly it can negatively affect your health. The focus shouldn’t be strictly on digestion issues though; gastrointestinal problems can also affect your physical and mental health as well. Maintaining proper gut health should be at the top of your priority list.

If you are determined and committed then it is possible to restore your gastrointestinal system. You can be rewarded with great benefits like a stronger immune system and an overall better mood. When you keep your gastrointestinal system in check your body is able to function to the best of it’s’ ability. Your body is then able to digest, absorb important vitamins and minerals, get rid of toxins and allow your immune system to fight off unwanted germs.

When asking people what the most important parts of the body are they usually say the brain or the heart. This is very true but the often overlooked part would be the gut. The gastrointestinal system plays a very important role in your overall health. It relays messages from your brain to your gut and visa versa to keep your immune system and digestive system in good working order. The system that allows the messages to travel is the Enteric Nervous system. The Enteric Nerve system is a division of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) arising from its own line of neural crest cells and composed of the tens of millions of neurons and their supporting cells inside the walls of the gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, and gallbladder.

A few examples of gastrointestinal problems are celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal hyper permeability. The main signs and symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain, reflux or flatulence. Sometimes there are other signs that aren’t so clear like fatigue and headaches or a weakened immune system. Those that suffer from these disorders or diseases are more likely than others to have autoimmune diseases or experience mental health issues.

In general the health of your gastrointestinal system is determined by the levels and types of bacteria in your digestive tract. Ideally there is a balance of bacteria, however a disconnect between beneficial and harmful bacteria results in dysbacteriosis in the intestinal tract and will activate your immune system.

When the gut is irritated or inflamed, which happens when the body is trying to digest foods that are overly processed or that it has sensitivity to, the ENS signals the body’s Central Nervous System that can then trigger mood change.

Serotonin is well known as a brain neurotransmitter, a vast percentage of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract.  An absence of this serotonin, which is made by bacteria in the intestinal tract, has been linked to diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.The type of food that a body processes can have a huge positive effect on the functions of the brain, when the gut is healthy the brain is happier.

When the diet of the average person is filled with processed, sugary and fatty foods, the intestinal tract becomes damaged over time and does not work properly. Diets that are filled with simple carbohydrates and gluten damages the brain. This type of gut damaging diet leads to mental health issues ranging from headaches and to depression and dementia.

So what can you do about it?

1. Vaginal Birth: Do everything you can to avoid a Caesarian section. When you elect to deliver a child via Caesarian section – and there are times when it needs to be done to save the life of the mother or the baby—understand that by and large, you’re tripling the risk for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and doubling the risk for autism in your child. You’re also dramatically increasing the risk that your child will struggle with obesity, type 1 diabetes, and allergies. These are all inflammatory issues that are dramatically increased in children born via Caesarian section.

Dr. Perlmutter describes a simple and elegant technique developed by researchers at Yale University, whereby an organic gauze sponge is placed in the birth canal before the mother who is going to have a C-section is given the IV antibiotics. The sponge is then removed, the antibiotics are given, and as soon as the baby is born, the sponge is placed over the baby’s face, inoculating the child with its mother’s bacteria. This could be a good adjunct anytime a Caesarian is required. Unfortunately, at present it’s unlikely you’d be able to get your doctor to do it.

2. Breastfeeding: When you change your microbiome, certain groups of bacteria tend to be favored, such as the Firmicutes group. When present in excess, Firmicutes increase your risk of obesity. Animal research shows that when you change the animals’ microbiome using antibiotics, they gain weight. We also give antibiotics to cattle to make them fatter, faster. The same thing occurs in your body, which is why avoiding unnecessary antibiotics is so important.

3. Antibiotics: Disinfectant products like antibacterial soaps and hand gels also fall into this category and should be avoided as much as possible.

Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) preferentially increases the growth of pathogenic disease-causing bacteria, fungi, and yeast, so limiting the amount of refined and processed sugars in your diet is a key dietary principle for gut health.

4. Refined Sugar and Processed Fructose: According to Dr. Perlmutter, fructose in particular promotes gut dysbiosis, and there’s also a good correlation between fructose consumption and the levels of LPS, the inflammatory marker that shows your gut is leaking.

Fructose is also far more aggressive in terms of causing glycation of protein than other sugars, meaning high levels of sugar in your blood that bind to proteins. This too is correlated with leaky gut, and may explain why fructose consumption is related to increased gut permeability, and inflammatory diseases like obesity.

Avoid genetically engineered foods. As noted by Dr. Perlmutter: “Yes, there is a clear and present danger in the notion of genetically modifying the food that we share with our gut bacteria. The gut bacteria are expecting the type of food that they have been provided for a couple of million years.

Suddenly, we’re introducing foods that are genetically unlike anything the human microbiome has ever seen. The research that allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow genetically modified food has not even considered looking at the effects of GMOs on the human microbiome.

5. Genetically Engineered Foods and Pesticides: Glyphosate, which is liberally used on genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops and many non-organic non-GMO crops as well, has also been found to alter the human micro biome, so genetically engineered foods deliver a double assault on your gut bacteria every time you eat it.

“We’re poisoning the food that we eat. If that’s not bad enough, that’s the food we’re feeding our micro biome, which are going to determine whether we live or die,” Dr. Perlmutter says. “It’s a bit of a worry.”

6. Probiotic Foods: Focus on eating probiotic foods, such as fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha (a fermented drink). A broad-spectrum probiotic supplements may also be advisable—especially if you have to take a course of antibiotics.

7. Prebiotic Foods: Consume plenty of prebiotic fiber. Not all fibers are prebiotic, so not any old fiber will do the job here. Whole foods are the best. Examples include dandelion greens, which can be lightly sautéed, Mexican or jicama that can be chopped up raw and put in your salad.

Onions and leeks are also excellent choices. These kinds of foods will allow your gut bacteria to flourish, which is the key to health, disease resistance, and longevity.

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