Gut Health

gut_health_600The Chinese have a saying “He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skill of the physician “. And judging by the obesity, diabetes and cancer epidemic in the United States, gut health maybe the at the center of many of these problems. Some recent finding go to show that gut health may also be related to a host of other illnesses such as depression and autism.

 “To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art “ said François de La Rochefoucauld in the 1600’s. Asian cultures in particular places huge importance on gut health. They consider gut health at the heart of your soul. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that brain and got health are also interrelated and codependent.

So what is gut health? In simple terms it can be defined as having a healthy stomach.

  • Is your digestive system efficient and effective as absorbing nutrients needed for your brain and motor control functions to operate properly?
  • Is the balance of good and bad bacteria in your stomach stable and not causing chronic GI illnesses such as IBS, diarrhea, bloating and gas.
  • Are your stomach walls robust and free of chronic infections and cancerous tumors that will grow and destroy your entire digestive system?
  • Do you have high levels of bad bacteria that is affecting your cognitive functions and may be causing such illnesses as ADD/HDD/Seizures/Autism and causing depression and emotional instability?
  • Is your stomach producing excess stomach acids that is impairing it’s proper function

What Causes Bad Gut Health

1. Poor Eating Habits – Are you getting a variety of food with different types of good bacteria? The gut contains millions of bacteria which are needed for effective food digestion.  Each type of bacteria helps ferment and digest carbs, fats and proteins. It is particularly effective at digesting hard to digest carbs such as fiber, not digested in the first part of the digestive system.

Bacteria helps cells of the gut grow and develop a sophisticated immune system that can fight bad bacteria and other infections. Stomach acids alone cannot digest food. Good bacteria helps further digest food and extract every ounce of nutrients without throwing out food partially digested. Good bacteria also helps fight bad bacteria and fungi (yeast infections) by producing toxins that kill these bad bacteria.

2.Antibiotic Overuse
Antibiotics clean up your system of all bacteria including good bacteria. The over use of antibiotics and other medications plus the massive use of antibiotics by the US meat industry has meant we have over dozed on antibiotics and destroyed our gut health in the process. Did you know that over 80% of US antibiotics consumption is by the US meat industry?.

3. Tainted Food
Our food system is experiencing severe outbreaks of antibiotics resistant bacteria due food products tainted with fecal matter. Partly due to unsanitary food production systems and partly due to overuse of antibiotics that have made these bacteria resistant at all attempts to kill them. The most common form of bad bacteria are Streptococcus (skin infections and sore throats) E.Coli (gastrointestinal diseases, diarrhea), Cholera (cold, including high fever, runny nose, vomiting and diarrhea) and Salmonella (serious dehydration and vomiting) which can cause death.

4. Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar (HFC)
While all bacteria love a sugar rich environment to grow, what happens is that when bad bacteria like Yeast and  fungus ferment high levels of sugars, it leads to their overpopulation   which then destroy the good bacteria. The problem becomes worse when  antibiotics have removed all good bacteria from our gut but we inadvertently consumer antibiotic resistant bad bacteria present in food, especially meat. That means the small number of good bacteria are simply overwhelmed by the bad bacteria.

5. Sterilized over Processed Food
Much of our food has been sterilized and overly processed to eliminate virtually any trace of bacteria for a better shelf life and to conform to government regulations. Unfortunately that has meant our bodies have been deprived of good bacteria that comes from fresh food. This is particularly acute if you have recently taken antibiotics that have removed all traces of good bacteria in your gut and you happen to consume salmonella tainted meat. Without the good bacteria to make toxins to fight the bad bacteria you could end up dead.

Our modern life styles creates a lot of stress. And when your body is stressed it is first felt in the gut. According  to Dr.Mercola stress affects your gut by decreasing nutrient absorption and oxygenation in your gut. It also decreases blood flow to      the digestive system leading to decreased metabolism and enzymatic output.

7. Dietary Toxins
In simple terms toxins and chemicals that damage tissue or cause disease. It could be from eating processed foods like cereal grains (refined flour), industrial oils like corn, cottonseed,soybean), sugar, salt, trans fats, taking too many supplements, mercury in seafood, selenium in grain and so on. Most of the toxic poisoning happens due to overconsumption of food, even of a beneficial food. Some food products like Cassia  Cinnamon has Coumarin which can damage your liver while others like Ceylon Cinnamon are have low counarin levels. But even Ceylon Cinnamon should be taken in moderation. The best way to limit toxin intake is not to take too much of anything.

Dangers of Bad Gut Health

1. Increased Stress/Anxiety/Depression Levels – According to this Harvard university article “A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. These can manifest itself as Behavioral, Emotional and Physical problems.

2.Obesity – This article cites that “ metagenomic studies of bacterial composition in the fecal microbiota of obese and lean twin pairs living in the USA have shown that obesity is associated with decreased numbers of bacterial species.

3. Diabetes – Harmful gut bacteria may be one major contributing factor in diabetes. This Danish study found intestinal bacteria could play an important role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

4. ArthritisThis Mayo article states that “Gut Bacteria May Trigger diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis “

5. CancerThere is increasing evidence bad gut health can lead to certain types of cancers like Colon Cancer and bowel cancer. That indicates it could potentially lead to other types of cancer too.

6. Diminished Brain Health/Autisim – Nearly every chemical that controls the brain is also located in the stomach region. The gut contains  two-dozen small brain proteins. That means if your gut health is not good, it diminishes your brain function. It could mean you can’t pass those vital exams or perform at your best at work. Maybe you can’t keep a job, have temper issues that make working with people difficult or have trouble maintaining healthy relationships with family friends or coworkers. Fox news reports that  children with autism has high levels of Clostridium bolteae, a type of bacteria that is harmfull.

7. Gastrointestinal InfectionsMedications and some foods stop the production of stomach acids. Acid is used to breakdown and absorb protein; activate enzymes; and for the absorption of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. The presence of acid also assists in muscle contractions that push food through the intestines while destroying parasites, bacteria, fungi and other invaders. Without sufficient acid, microorganisms that are normally destroyed can proliferate, raising the risk of gastrointestinal infections.

8. Nutrient deficiency – The stomach normally contains about 400 good bacteria.  Ingesting high levels of antibiotics and consuming high levels of processed foods which contain high levels of antibiotics destroy both the good and bad bacteria, leaving the body unable to absorb nutrients. And without nutrients the body systems cannot function properly and start to develop many illnesses from Candida to muscle weakness.

How To Improve Gut Health

1. Variety
Do you eat the same thing week in week out? Do you always buy the same type of vegetables and never try anything else.? Do you buy your meat from the same grocery store? Are you in the habits of popping supplements or eating too much seafood?

Consuming the same thing, even if it is good for you can build up toxicity in your system. Not getting exposed to wider variety of foods deprives your body of the opportunity to self-correct any internal issues.Your body needs a huge variety of different good bacteria to function properly. Have Japanese food one week, Mexican food another week and Chinese food another week. Maybe a steak from time to time, explore the different types of fish and visit the  Chinese market and see if you can learn how to cook all the vegetables you see. This food diversity will dramatically improve your  health. Bench mark what food are considered healthy in the each culture and eat them, avoiding the bad foods. But it is important that never establish a pattern.

2.Eat fresh food. Yes it is convenient, fast and cheap to eat processed food, but eating fresh food is the single most important thing you can do to improve gut health. By all means keep some frozen meats and fish but that would be for emergencies. Buy your meat fresh and organic if possible. But even fresh food like fruits maybe be coated with a preservatives or transport. So maybe a visit to the local farmers market would be a good idea.

3. Prebiotics & Spices – Take Ceylon Cinnamon for your gut health.  It is one of the leading prebiotics for the gut and a powerful disinfect that should get rid of any bad bacteria and help digestion. A prebiotics is something that cleans up the gut, gets rid of harmful bacteria and stabilizes your stomach by cutting up food for easy absorption into the body.

Many other spices like Oregano, Rosemary, Turmeric and garlic are also effective prebiotics. But make sure spices are fresh. Pay a little more and get good quality spices.  Whole grains (Barley, oatmeal and whole wheat) and Legumes (beans, peas and lentils) and Yoghurt are also a good source of prebiotics although we do not like all dairy products. Yet again, vary your spices to avoid toxic build up. There are enough spices in the world, each with unique benefits that you can mix and match and take in moderation.

4. Manage stressAn unhealthy gut causes stress and high stress levels cause an unhealthy gut. It’s a two way relationship. Have you noticed those people who are always stressed have many stomach ailments too?. Moderate exercise, some yoga, sleeping well and following good sleeping patterns will help reduce stress in your life. If you have a crazy work life maybe it is time to question your priorities, even if the money is good. Don’t get into stressful situations, plan things ahead and generally rectify the issues that causes stress in your life. Easier said than done, but start slow until you nail it. Practice makes perfect they say.

5. Control your stomach acid levels – Over consumption of certain foods such as fatty foods, tomato sauce, garlic, citrus fruits, peppermint, oils, creamed soups, fast foods, carbonated soft drinks, fried foods, spicy foods, onions, chocolate, alcohol or caffeine, trigger your excess stomach acid symptoms. You need the right level for stomach acid for good health. Even too little acid can create problems of improper food digestion.

6. Reduce sugar intake – Bad bacteria breeds in a sugar rich environment. If you are in the habit of drinking sugary drinks, eating slabs of chocolate, cakes and pastries chances are you have bad gut health. Reduce your sugar intake slowly. Don’t forget processed food have high levels of sugar. So if you like to chocolate or piece of cake, then you have cut out your intake or processed food and eat fresh food.

7. Probiotic Consumption – Supplementing your diet with moderate levels of probiotics maybe a good strategy to improve the levels good gut bacteria in your system. Which probiotics works for you depends on your condition. Consumer Reports says “ when choosing probiotics, look for products that have at least 1 billion units per serving of either strain and avoid taking them with antibiotics, which could reduce their effectiveness “.

8. Eat Fermented Food- Many cultures, especially ancient cultures discovered how to promote intestinal health. Asian cultures use pickled cabbage (kimichi) turnips,  eggplants, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots. Fermented food have good bacteria that helps us digest food.

9. Drink less with meals - When you drink during a meal, it dilutes the levels of acid in your stomach used for digestion. Insufficient stomach acid results in improper digestion. Best to drink a warm drink about 30 minutes before or 30 minutes after you eat.

10. ModerationAnd last but not least moderation is the key. Don’t eat large portion. Don’t eat so much fiber that that your stomach acid and the bacteria simply cannot cope with digesting it. Don’t take so much Cinnamon or other spices that it reaches dangerous toxic levels.  A little bit of everything and never get into a predictable pattern with your diet. Even too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.