What we’re feeding ourselves may be less important than what we’re feeding our microbiota.
Looking after your gut goes beyond maintaining good digestion. The health of our gut depends on the integrity of the gut wall and the healthy balance of gut flora (microbiota). Imbalances have been linked to conditions such as Hashimoto’s, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and depression.
What Affects Your Microbiota
Diets high in sugar and processed foods feed unfavourable bacteria in the gut and are often low in the types of fibre that feed the good bacteria. The changes sugar, stress, alcohol and smoking make to the microbiome may also contribute to weight gain.
Medications such as antacids, NSAIDs and the oral contraceptive pill are also known to alter gut flora Antibiotics can significantly reduce the number and diversity of gut bacteria – an effect that may last for over 1 year. Children under the age of 3 are most susceptible to the effects of antibiotics on gut flora and are more likely to develop asthma, eczema and obesity as a result.
Integrity of the Gut Wall
Some individuals are over-producers of zonulin, a protein that causes the gap junctions between intestinal cells to widen and lead to “Leaky Gut”. Zonulin is a normal response to infectious bacteria but also to gliadin found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Those with allergic and autoimmune conditions are more likely to be overproducers. The discovery of zonulin goes some way to explain why some people feel better on gluten-free diets despite not being coeliac.
Protect Your Gut
- Eat fermented foods that naturally contain a diverse range of beneficial bacteria. Avoid commercial varieties that have been pasteurized prior to being bottled or canned
- Replace processed foods with those high in resistant fibres and starches such as celery, leek and green leafy vegetables. Natural Evolution Resistant Banana Starch can be used as a therapeutic food for beneficial bacteria
- Quit smoking. The benefits go far beyond protecting your gut
- Limit alcohol intake to 1 standard drink a day with 2 alcohol-free days a week
- Find ways to manage your stress. Your Naturopath can help with herbs and supplements if you need
- If you are concerned about the effects of your medications on your gut, talk to your Doctor or your Pharmacist.
- Always take a probiotic with a course of antibiotics. Not all probiotic formulas are equal. Talk to your Naturopath about a quality product that is right for you
For a tailored approach to maintaining gut health or managing an existing condition, book your appointment with a Naturopath at Calanna Whole Health Pharmacy today.