Food Freedom Friday Edition 26

Is Your Belly Happy?

You may be unaware that what you eat and how you live is changing the make-up of your gut bacteria. These bacteria can be your strongest ally or your worst enemy in your quest for wellness. All the latest research is exploring and connecting the bacteria that reside in your digestive tract to practically every other aspect of human health. The conclusion becomes clear – heal your gut and you can change your life.

There are more than 100 trillion cells living in your gut and until recently it was not realized the impact that these beings have on your health. Not all the bacteria found in the gut are the same. There are those organisms which improve digestion, strengthen the immune system, and manufacture the vitamins your body needs. There are also a myriad of bacteria that can be the cause of digestion nightmares, mental problems, skin conditions and a host of other issues that impact your wellness.

The question you are probably asking is how do you determine if there is something wrong or out of balance with your gut bacteria, and more importantly, if so, what can you do about it?

The health of your digestive tract is not created by ridding yourself of all these bacteria, rather, it is established by balancing the bacteria—limiting the potentially offensive strains and encouraging the supportive ones to grow. We will begin with a few ways to determine whether your gut bacteria are unbalanced. Unfortunately it is not quite as simple as determining whether you have a fever – it is not possible to take the bacteria’s temperature with an over-the-counter thermometer. There are, however, some common warning signs that balances may be going awry. By keeping an eye on a few important issues, you will set yourself up for gut health, and thus body health success.

1.       Digestive Issues

The first thing that usually comes to mind when considering the potential consequences of unhealthy gut bacteria is digestive problems. Many are prescribes drugs, and antacids to east the struggle of these issues. Unfortunately these medications only alleviate surface level symptoms. They do not have the ability to address the root causes of the problems, namely unhealthy gut bacteria. Any of the following symptoms could be a sign of unhealthy or imbalanced gut bacteria:

·         Gas

·         Bloating

·         Heartburn/acid reflux

·         Diarrhea

·         Constipation

·         Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

·         Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)  which includes Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

2.        Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

A healthy digestive tract is imperative when it comes to helping your body produce and synthesize vitamins and minerals. When your gut bacteria are off kilter, your body has a tougher time acquiring sufficient amounts of certain essential vitamins and minerals. If you experience deficiencies in any of the following, it may be a sign of a problem in the gut:

·         Vitamin D

·         Vitamin K

·         Vitamin B7 and B12

·         Magnesium

These levels can be easily measure through the blood tests performed during your annual physical exam.

3.        Antibiotics

The long term and incorrect use of anti-biotics is a huge stimulus is digestive issues. The food industry is the largest consumer of these drugs and uses them indiscriminately on factory-farmed animals. They are also often prescribed for viral infections on which they have no effect. Antibiotics destroy harmful bacteria, but at the same time they kill many of the supportive bacteria in your gut. These are the bacteria essential for your health and research suggests that these bacteria struggle to replaced themselves without intervention.

4.       Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune disease, a serious condition in which the body is literally attacking itself, can be difficult to manage. It proves to be even more difficult to identify the source of the problem and address it there. More research is emerging linking autoimmune diseases to unhealthy guts. Taking care of your digestive tract has been shown to relieve symptoms for some experiencing:

·         Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

·         Rheumatoid Arthritis

·         Inflammatory Bowel Disease

5.        Chronic, Unmanaged Stress

Stress can do many things. It wears you down, creates anxiety, increases blood pressure and wreaks havoc in the digestive system. Stress is inevitable, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. This becomes an issue when you let it go on for too long without managing it. Unmanaged stress raises cortisol levels, which can stop the gut from working effectively and efficiently. If you have been experiencing stress for the past few months (or years, or decades) and have not acted to properly manage it, you are more likely to have an unhealthy gut.

6.       Mental Issues

Gut bacteria produce neurotransmitter and thus their health can directly affect the health of your brain.  A new area of study has discovered that people with certain mental illnesses and disturbances also tend to have disturbances to their gut bacteria. These issues have been directly correlated to gut health:

·         Depression

·         Anxiety

·         Brain fog

·         OCD

·         Autism

·         Degenerative brain diseases (including Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s disease)

7.        Skin Conditions

Skin conditions have created much confusion in the past as it was often believed the symptoms of a condition must appear in the same spot as the condition itself. For many skin conditions, the problem is not with the skin, it is with the digestive tract, the gut. Unbalanced gut bacteria have been associated with:

·         Acne

·         Rosacea

·         Psoriasis

·         Eczema

Balancing your gut bacteria.

If any of the symptoms and warning signs resonates with you, there are some action steps you can take to begin to rebalance your gut bacteria and improve the health of your digestive tract. These steps will prevent new medical conditions from arising and often reverse conditions that have burdened you for long periods of time. There are a few simple steps you can take to begin the process.

I will cover those steps in detail for you next time.

What issues have you been experiencing that may be related to the health of your gut? If you have been struggling for some time, contact me, I can provide some ideas and strategies to get you on your path to wellness.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your feedback.

Michal Ofer