This is nuts! Did you know that bacteria cells often outnumber our human cells? AND that is totally normal and healthy!
I’m talking trillions of critters; bacteria, virus’s, protozoa, and fungi living throughout our ENTIRE body, inhabiting all surfaces, from mouth and nose, to lungs and urogenital tract. These critters, are our co-inhabitants and they are here to take care of us. So it’s time we learn to take care of them!
I describe it as friendly takeover that starts from birth. Science refers to it as our “Microbiome”, but simply put, our body hosts a unique ecology of bacterial organisms in order to function.
One of the most important places they live is in our gut.
I try not to think about the microscopic visual too much, but I do know the underlying message is strong, “It’s ALL about the gut!”. I find it fascinating that it’s not just our physical health that’s affected by our gut, but our mental health too!
When our gut microbiome is thrown out of whack, we experience physical illness and disease because:
- We cannot fight harmful pathogens (i.e. we make ourselves susceptible to illness)
- Weight and metabolism fall off-balance
- Inflammation sets in
How can we keep our gut flora healthy? It’s a long list, and in today’s environment, it’s not easy. No one is perfect, but I know if you can make a commitment to stay away from these fighter’s against gut health, you will have less health issues.
|Gut Health Factor||Gut Friendly Option|
|Gluten||Gluten avoidance, consciously cut back on processed foods containing gluten is a good start|
|Antibiotics||Overuse and prescriptive abuse of antibiotics has caused biological dis-balance. Verify the condition seriously requires antibiotics, and is not caused by a virus. Consult with your doctor and ask for homeopathic alternatives when possible|
|Genetically Engineered Food||Choose organic, non-GMO produce, and food products. Read your labels and be aware of the most common genetically engineered foods (this includes oils!)|
|Conventionally raised meats and animal products (fed antibiotics and genetically engineered food)||Choose organic, grass fed or pasture fed meats and animal products. Including eggs and dairy products. Choose grass fed ghee and grass fed butter|
|Environmental Pollution||This is a tough to control. Commit to living in a non-smoking environment, avoid going out during high pollution times, keep live plants in your home|
|Stress||Manage stress; exercise, meditate, practice yoga, breathing techniques, get a massage. Make work life balance and stress relief a daily priority|
|Agricultural chemicals (herbicides and pesticides)||Eat organic produce and products as much as possible, grow your own or find a go-to farmer who practices natural crop maintenance|
|Refined Sugars (including processed high fructose corn syrup)||Eliminate processed foods from your diet. Read your labels, switch to honey or organic stevia for sweeteners, explore options like cinnamon, dates, vanilla bean powder when you need mild sweetness|
|Chlorinated/fluoridated water||Instill water filtration system for home use, Mountain Valley Spring Water is a bottled option|
|PPI (Proton pump inhibitors, drugs prescribed for blocking production of stomach acid)||Avoid prescriptions for heart burn, acid reflux, GERD. Natural remedies like daily vinegar regimen, lemon and water regimen, soothing tea, Digest Gold, or making a digestive tonic of kefir and aloe vera water|
|Factors from Birth||Studies show babies delivered via natural birth & breastfed, have better chance from birth to develop healthy micro-biome and gut health|
Gut Health & Our Mental Well Being
There is yet another, and even more complicated system that is impacted by our gut health, one that is the most impacted by the foods we eat. Science refers to this as your Enteric Nervous System. You may have never heard of it, but in the wellness community, this is your “second brain”, which relays messages to your brain, and also performs independent tasks.
Side Note: Your Enteric Nervous System, is the original nervous system, emerging in the first vertebrates over 500 million years ago and becoming more complex as vertebrates evolved. The term “Gut Instinct” comes from the role your ENS plays, messaging your brain and ultimately affecting total well being.
When you feel stress, panic, and even elation, I’m sure you’ve also experienced corresponding sensations in your gut that follow the emotion. Maybe you have felt nausea or even like you needed to go to the bathroom!
Since the communication between your “two brains” is in in-tune, it’s also a great illustration of how foods affect our mental health and even our moods! Having a bad day? Blame it on your food 😉
A common example of food affecting our mood, would be when we eat foods high in fat. Suddenly, fatty acids are detected by our cell receptors in our gut lining. These receptors in turn send happy and content nerve signals to our brain, releasing feel good chemicals.
Most current research indicate that these gut microbes affect our complete brain function, from the most basic emotional mood swings all the way to the development of serious mental illness’s, such as Alzheimer’s and Autism. There are a lot more mental illness’s under study that indicate correlation to gut health.
What is the simplest way to balance our gut flora? The answer is in what we eat! Here are some of the best ways to build up your family of healthy gut flora:
- Fermented foods are the best nutritional offering to support healthy gut flora. I recommend slowly incorporating fermented foods into each day. This is a process, and you can start with adding a bit of sauerkraut into your dinner, or simply drinking the fermented brining liquid in small dosages (start with 1 teaspoon twice a day).
- Try fermented soy options, like tempeh and miso, if moving to fermented vegetables is too big of a leap
- Start your day with a probiotic (while there is no substitute for the gut flora benefit from food, there are a few high powered probiotics that I recommend and would gladly refer for you upon request)
- Kombucha, sip 4-8 ounces daily, preferably in mornings on empty stomach (I drink Health-Ade Kombucha)
- Kefir (I prefer a vegan coconut kefir) in 4-8 ounces, preferably in mornings on empty stomach or a coconut kefir yogurt that I eat almost daily (I prefer the Tonix or Healing Movement coconut kefir)
- Rest Easy “Supercharged” Fermented Turmeric
Remember, these critters are stuck with you forever, through good habits and bad! It’s in your best health interest to feed your flora well and it will take care of you physically (and mentally) in return!