The ‘Gut’ or the ‘Gastrointestinal Tract’ or ‘GI Tract’ involves the entire length of the body starting from the point at which we consume food to the point at which we expel our food waste. Furthermore, this includes major body organs such as the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine, which houses over 1,000 species of bacteria in the gut microbiome. The ‘microbiome’, or ‘gut flora’, or ‘microbiota’ all mean the same thing. It is home to several healthful bacteria species, immune system influential cells, neuropeptides, and microbial metabolites. The condition and health of our gut microbiome can tell a lot about our health from the inside, outside.
Although the GI tract is known to digest our daily consumption of food, it does a workload more than what meets the eye. It helps with the production of certain vitamins such as B vitamins and vitamin K. It also plays a major role in our immune system by performing a barrier effect and helps to influence immune system cells. A healthy gut is key to a healthy immune system. If you’ve noticed you’ve been getting sick recently- it may be your gut trying to tell you something.
Furthermore, research today is linking the gut to our brain, which is given the term ‘the gut-brain axis’. Researchers suggest the gut can influence our appetite and eating behavior, as well as influencing some of our senses such as taste, smell, thoughts, and impulsivity around food. So next time you’re trying to turn your brain off from thinking about food, maybe it’s really your gut.
When our gut is in good health, our overall health seems to flourish. However, what happens when our gut is disrupted or lacking in health? When our gut is in poor health, it can lead to many other health problems such as inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease, IBS, other autoimmune diseases, allergies, multiple food sensitivities, gluten intolerance, and Leaky Gut. Today, research is ongoing about the gut microbiome and the possible influence between unbalanced bacteria and rheumatoid arthritis, colorectal cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
Causes of poor gut health include poor diet, stress, unbalanced bacteria in the gut, and toxin overload. When we consume a diet high in sugar (even artificial sugar) and low in vitamins, nutrients, and fiber, the bacteria in our gut becomes unbalanced. Furthermore, chronic stress can cause an unbalance as well, so take a deep breathe and relax from time to time- it’s good for your health. Lastly, overloading your system with potential toxins such as routine use of antibiotics, pesticides, and some NSAIDS are linked to causing increased intestinal permeability.
What is Leaky Gut?
The microbiome regulates the intestinal permeability or the physical gaps between intestinal cells. The term “Leaky Gut” is given when these gaps are enlarged and external substances and waste products are allowed to permeate through to the bloodstream. Leaky gut can also be referred to as increased intestinal permeability.
The symptoms of Leaky Gut can be numerous but several of the major indicators include changes in mood or energy levels such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It can include joint pain, arthritis, headaches, and inflammation. It can also include adrenal fatigue, thyroid hormone imbalance, decreased immune function, skin irritations, and acne. Leaky gut can cause a malabsorption of some vitamins and nutrients such as zinc, iron, and B12. Lastly, it can include irregular bowel movements such as constipation, diarrhea, and or bloating.
Thankfully, the gut is repairable and can regenerate cells to tighten the junctions back up again. All it takes is some good nutrition and time to heal. Here’s what to include in your diet to create a happy and flourishing gut microbiota.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
Prebiotics: also called fermentable fiber or non digestible fiber. These food components have been linked to maintaining the integrity of the gut. Basically, this is food for the healthy bacteria in your gut microbiota to keep them happy and flourishing. These are found in fibrous foods, see chart below for examples.
Probiotics: Also called live cultures, can help influence, change, or repopulate your gut microbiota. Probiotics can help boost your immunity and overall health by keeping the gut bacteria happy and healthy. Basically, this is the source of healthy bacteria for your gut, see chart below for examples.
|Vitamin A||sweet potato, pumpkin, kale, peas, watermelon, carrots, beets, spinach, lettuce, milk, eggs, liver, apricots, papaya, mango, broccoli, winter squash.|
|Vitamin D||sunlight, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna, caviar, mushrooms.|
|Prebiotics||onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas, artichokes, apples, plums, tomatoes, almonds, and whole wheat foods such as bran.|
|Probiotics||yogurt, kefir, aged cheeses, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and other cultured non-dairy drinks like kombucha.|
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Prebiotics and probiotics: Creating a Healthier You. Reviewed by Taylor Wolfram MS, RDN, LDN. eatright.org
Exploring the Gut Brain Axis. Taylor Wolfram MS, RDN, LDN. Food & Nutrition Magazine.
The gut microbiome in health and in disease. Andrew Shreiner, John Kao, Vincent Young. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology.
Gut Microbiota, gut microbiota for health.
Steps to Heal leaky Gut and Autoimmune Disease.
Silent Signs You Have Leaky Gut Syndrome.