In last month's article I spoke about the emerging topic of gut health and why it's something we should all pay close attention to. I touched on the age-old adage spoken by the wonderful wisdom of Hippocrates who exclaimed that "all disease begins in the gut" - and over time we've come to understand and realise the absolute truth behind this claim.
I also spoke about many of the mechanisms our gastrointestinal tract (aka our gut – an organ in its own right that extends from our mouth down to our anus) controls, and the protective operations of our microbiome – all the living organisms within our GI tract that help to keep us in a state of bacterial symbiosis (a happy and functional balance of good and bad bacteria).
Our greatest power is that all of the things that are good for our gut are at our disposal and we can integrate them daily.
Why do we need to consider our gut health you may ask? Why do we need to understand about our gut lining? Well, if we experience symptoms like arthritis, thyroid problems, digestive complaints, poor immunity, stubborn body weight, eczema, diabetes, or unexplained tiredness – to name just a few – chances are our gut is not as healthy or balanced as it should be or could be.
Remember – symptoms are our body's messengers proclaiming that things are out of balance, are dysregulating, or are functioning sub-optimally. Symptoms, therefore, shouldn't be neglected as they're a sign that you are enduring a dysbiosis of sorts, a disturbance in the homeostatic balance that your gut requires to perform its essential functions – including immunity.
So what can cause poor gut health? What are the things we should be aware of that can harm or disrupt the happiness and balance in our gut? What can detract from a healthy and thriving gut environment? How do we reduce the chances that we succumb to frustrating and debilitating symptoms or disease? It's about feeding it the right things. And this doesn't just include food …
For ease let's break it into two definable lists.
Firstly, the things your gut loves include: probiotic foods and supplements, relaxation, laughter, clean water, non-processed foods, high-fibre diets, prebiotic foods (fruit and vegetables), fresh air, and daily physical touch with the earth's elements (known as earthing or grounding).
Secondly, the things your gut isn't so keen on include: processed foods, sugar, trans fats, alcohol, drugs and medications, stress, toxic personal care or home care products, pathogens, infections, and radiation.
Knowing this then, we can certainly act to incorporate more of the good stuff into our day – the stuff that promotes a healthy gut environment, whilst trying to reduce or eliminate the bad stuff – the stuff that reduces the robustness of the gut environment and predisposes us to various ailments or disease.
Now, most certainly, medication is something we cannot tamper with without first consulting our health professional or doctor, but for the most part we have great control over the other factors, and can manipulate them to our liking.
Our greatest power is that all of the things that are good for our gut are at our disposal and we can integrate them daily. There's no fancy products required, we just simply have to be smart, and doing so will absolutely contribute to the self-preservation of our health.
If you feel like your gut health could do with a little TLC, there is a little process you can undertake to restore gut health which comprises four steps - remove, replace, re-innoculate, and repair.
The first "remove'"step addresses the removal of the factors currently impeding gut health. This can include identified food sensitivities, improved management of stress factors, gluten, caffeine, dairy, sugar, alcohol, yeast overgrowth, parasite infections and unnecessary drugs/medication.
The next step involves a replacement of the things that are often lost with damage to the gut - digestive enzymes and the stomach's acidity level needs to be at a sufficient level for effective and efficient digestion to happen.
Reinnoculation involves repopulating the gut with good bacteria which helps to reinstate a healthy balance. This can be done via various probiotic sources – probiotic foods and supplements can be useful here.
And finally, it's about repairing and rebuilding the compromised gut wall which involves building block proteins such as collagen. This helps to reduce intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut) and aids in coating the gut wall with a protective block.
Our gut is so much more than just an organ that digests food. It could almost be deemed to be the energy and immunity centre of our body. When it's compromised at any level we can exhibit a menagerie of symptoms of varying intensities. But when it's good, strong and robust, we will experience a renewed zest of life, and a positive energy that makes our lives filled of more goodness and less disease.
• Corinne Austin is a health coach and movement motivator (firstname.lastname@example.org ).