“All disease begins in the gut” (Hippocrates)
What’s the first thing you consider when you are constantly tired and craving sugar? Sluggish, constipated or forever catching colds or battling hourly mood swings? I’ll bet it’s not your gut…right?
Your gut is so much more than just your waistline. In fact, many are shocked to learn that their microbiome – their intestinal gut ecosystem that lives within – is critical to their overall health. Put simply, the gut is your Grand Central Station and gateway to vibrant thriving health. Quite honestly, you can eat as clean as you like and exercise daily, but if your gut is out of balance, you’re not going to feel on top of your game.
Thankfully, many researchers are beginning to see the clear connection between the gut and ones overall health, and are therefore focusing on the importance and need to restore its integrity. This is an incredible and exciting move forward for 21st century medicine especially because many diseases that are seemingly unrelated to the gut — such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, weight gain, depression, impaired thyroid or arthritis — are often caused and initiated by gut dysfunction and inflammation.
Several years ago, when I delved intensely into holistic health, I was able to see first hand the impact of my own diet on my gut symptoms. Consuming dairy, grains, and gluten as well as incorrectly combined and prepared foods left me bloated, tired, sluggish and craving sugar. It only took one elimination diet for me to connect the dots and see the profound effect that food (and lifestyle) can have on digestive and gut function, as well as overall wellness.
Gut health: Breaking it down:
A healthy gut is truly the foundation to your wellness, inside and out. When digestion is impaired it impacts all of the systems in the body, not only the digestive system.
The digestive system is made up of the hollow organs of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract – the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, and the solid organs – including the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.
The organs of the digestive system together with your gut flora work with a web of nerves, hormones, bacteria and blood to keep you healthy and balanced. Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways in which the gut works with critical aspects of your health.
- Bacteria in the GI tract are also called your gut flora or microbiome.
- The microbiome help us digest food and metabolize nutrients.
- Other jobs include; hormone regulation; elimination of toxins; vitamin production.
- This ecosystem of friendly bacteria must be in balance to do their crucial work.
2. Gut-immune system:
- 80% of your immune system resides in the gut.
- Your immune system and the rest of your body are protected by a lining/barrier from the toxic environment in your gut.
- If that barrier is damaged, you may experience nutritional malabsorption, or have a compromised or overactive immune system that triggers inflammation, which can become chronic and systemic.
- Gut protection is key to protrcting your body from invaders such as unfriendly critters, parasites, bacteria and viruses, etc.
3. Gut-Brain axis – the second brain— your gut’s nervous system:
- Interestingly, the gut contains more neurotransmitters than your brain.
- Messages constantly travel back and forth between your gut-brain and, when those messages are interfered with in any way, your health will be compromised.
- 70-80% of your happy, feel good hormones – serotonin – is produced in the gut. If things are out of balance, this can manifest in mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
- The gut removes all the toxins and acid wastes that are byproducts of metabolism.
- If things get backed up – constipation – your body will become toxic and your overall health will suffer.
- The digestive and gut system breaks down food into simple usable parts and delivers vitamins and minerals as well as fats, amino acids and glucose to the bloodstream to nourish your body and brain.
Every day the gut is taxed with stress, poor food choices, medications and the like. The modern day lifestyle is the perfect breeding ground for promoting an overgrowth of bad bacteria that kills off the good guys, as well as promote illness, infection and imbalances that will weaken and inflame your entire system. Let’s look at some of the symptoms of an impaired gut.
Common toxic/gut imbalance symptoms
- Low energy, sluggish metabolism
- Weight gain, cravings
- Poor sleep quality
- Skin issues
- Digestive issues – gas, bloating, constipation, IBS, GERD, Colitis, including ulcerative colitis
- Endocrine system weakness and imbalance
- Mood swings
- Low libido
- Low immunity
- Food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities, celiac disease
- Chronic colds and flu and other infections
It is important to know that without a healthy, balanced gut, your body will never receive the nutrients it needs to perform at optimal levels. Thriving health begins in the kitchen so here is a start with a gut-balancing recipe, straight from my kitchen to yours!
The recipe below contains ingredients that will nourish the gut.
1. Leeks, onions and garlic are wonderful prebiotics – these are necessary to feed and fertilize probiotics.
2. Coconut oil and milk – has anti-microbial properties that can help repair the damage to the digestive terrain.
3. Fermented miso – is packed with good healthy bacteria.
4. Green veggies and herbs – feeds the good bacteria in the gut and reducing the number of bad bacteria.
5. Cauliflower – contains fiber which improves overall gut health by aiding the movement of material through the digestive system and by preventing constipation.
6. Turmeric – is a powerful anti-inflammatory and will help to counter the damaging effects of stress, toxins etc. in the gut.
Cauliflower +Leek +Turmeric Soup: Serves 4-6
1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2-1 tablespoons cinnamon – more to tatse
2-3 teaspoons curry powder – more to taste
2 leeks, sliced and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
A few sprigs thyme, stems removed
1 tablespoon ground turmeric or 2 teaspoons freshly grated turmeric
1 large cauliflower, chopped
2-3 tablespoons miso paste, whisked with warm water to make a slurry
6 cups low sodium veggie stock
1/4 cup coconut milk
A handful fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat oil and stir in the cinnamon and curry for about a minute or two until fragrant.
2 Add the leek and garlic – sauté for about 3-5 minutes on a medium heat.
2. Add the sliced celery, carrots, thyme, turmeric; stir and cook for 3 minutes.
3. Add the cauliflower and season with salt and pepper – sauté for 5 minutes.
4. Add the miso, veggie stock and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until veggies are tender.
5. Puree and add back to the pot. Add a swirl of coconut milk and some freshly chopped coriander and check seasoning.