Why The Gut Biome Is Critical To Your Health & Wellness
Western medicine has historically viewed our digestive system and the brain as separate entities working independently of each other. Recent research has found that the two are very closely connected and in fact the gut biome is now recognised as the “second brain” and is central to our overall health and wellness.
Our gut biome is a complete eco system in itself and it is estimated that well over 100 trillion microbes live within and on our body. They can include bacteria, fungi, viruses and other micro organisms. This eco system of microbes is so large that their genes outnumber ours by 100:1.
When we consider the gut biome, the large intestine is the most important as it contains the most and diverse amount of microbes than any other part of the human body. The layer of mucus that lines the large intestine becomes the home if you like of the microbes and this is called the biofilm.
The microbes in the biofilm get to work to complete a series of tasks designed to keep you healthy and each person’s biome is unique, since it is based on a number of things including your age, gender, genes, diet, location (climate). Consequently, the biome becomes responsible for things like your overall wellness including your sleep pattern, mood, pain and stress. It also determines your ability to fight off infection and disease.
Diet is a critical factor in allowing the gut biome to function at an optimal level. The western diet is typically packed full of bad foods that cause the good and bad bacteria in our gut to become unbalanced.
Saturated fats, processed sugar (a killer), processed carbohydrates and a whole range of additives that are designed to artificially preserve food so that it keeps longer in the jar or can or packet provide poor nutrition and encourage disease. Too much meat, particularly red meat can provide problems including increased acidity, which then becomes a haven for disease to develop and spread.
When your gut has to process too much of these types of foods, you can develop what is called leaky gut. This occurs when the tight junctions in the intestine open up and allow bacteria and toxins to penetrate into the body.
These foods also erode the layer of mucus on the wall of the intestine causing inflammation. Inflammation is a factor in the spread of disease and the development of serious degenerative disorders and also cancer.
To minimise inflammation, our gut microbiota keep our bodies healthy by crowding out harmful bacteria that cause infection and disease. Bacteria in our gut release compounds which can keep inflammation at bay throughout the body and prevent an attack on the immune system.
To prohibit the chances of getting leaky gut you need to include large amounts of clean fruit including berries and vegetables into your diet, pulses like chickpeas, lentils and beans (preferably soaked and activated). These form what are called prebiotic foods.
You may also want to limit the intake of meat (2-3 times a week only) and also load up on fermented foods (probiotics) like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and Kombucha. These foods are designed to promote the good bacteria in your gut and keep the biome functioning at an optimal level. Your biome will love you for choosing these foods!
Sleep, Anxiety Mental Awareness & The Enteric Nervous System
The connection between our brain and our gut is via the Vegas nerve which is the longest nerve in the human body. It starts from the brainstem and moves down to the lowest viscera of your intestines and is like a communication superhighway of connectivity between your gut and brain.
Within the gut is the Enteric Nervous System. This system contains 30 types of neuro transmitters and over 100 million neurons. Additionally, 90 per cent of serotonin which assists in the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) is located in the gut. There is over 400 times more melatonin in the gut than there is in the brain.
Based on this information it makes sense that the gut biome has such a large influence on our sleeping patterns, our mental awareness, anxiety and stress. In the past western medicine has passed off these conditions and problems as a brain issue exclusively. We now know that this is not entirely accurate. The gut and brain are constantly communicating with each other with the gut significantly affecting the function of the brain.
Can We Detoxify Our Gut Biome?
As you may imagine, a lifetime of eating a traditional western diet can cause many problems within the gut biome. If you think about a car engine for a moment. It needs to be serviced regularly so that it can operate at an optimum level. If it doesn’t get serviced at all, then it is going to breakdown and cost a lot of money to fix.
The same can be said for our gut biome. Imagine that we never service it in the way of a juicing protocol, fasting and the use of other detox methods to restore the biome to optimum efficiency. It is going to break down and the cost to us is not money but ill health, which will cost us a healthy and active lifestyle.
So what are some effective ways to detoxify our gut and return it to an optimal efficiency?
- Drink plenty of clean water (not tap water). There are differing levels of filtration, but one of the best ways is to have a reverse osmosis system that re-mineralises the water. Most people don’t drink anywhere near enough water so try to drink between 1.5-2.0 litres a day.
- Eat the right foods. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables (or locally grown with minimal spraying) is best as it is clean and hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals. Choose pulses like chick peas, lentils and beans and try to eat as raw as possible.
You can activate these by soaking them in water overnight and then refrigerating them. They are best eaten activated because they are more nutritious, providing more protein, vitamins, more absorbable minerals and offering better digestibility.
If you are going to eat meat, then you need to go organic and look for meat that has been humanely slaughtered. Factory farm meat is not clean and is full of toxins as a result of the adrenalin rush the distressed animals get when going through the slaughtering process.
Foods like garlic, ginger and turmeric are also very important as well as they are naturally anti-inflammatory and will provide a boost to your immune system.
- Consider including superfoods into your daily intake of food.
Superfoods not only improve your overall health but are anti-aging, can prevent chronic disease and improve your daily wellbeing. Eating these is like getting a megadose of vitamins and minerals. Here are some of the best to be eating:
- Sweet potato
- Goji berries
- Acai berries
- Hemp seeds/powder
- Bee pollen
- Chia Seeds
- Drink a raw, live and organic kombucha (why not a Hippie!!) You may also want to try
Kefir as well. If you don’t do dairy, then coconut water kefir will be an option for you.
- Consume fermented foods every day. The easiest one to access is sauerkraut and your gut biome will love you for it!
Additionally there are a number of detox and restorative powders that can be used to cleanse and rebuild the gut biome. For example Activated Charcoal and powders high in nutrient dense herbs that are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, enzymes and adaptogenic herbs.