In your expert opinion, what is the fuss about gut health?

Hippocrates said more than 2000 years ago that “all disease begins in the gut” and research in the past 5-10 years has really been confirming this idea. The gut is essentially how we interact with our external environment.

Particularly I find the link between the gut and mental health to be an area of huge importance. The gut is essentially how we interact with our external environment, it’s important for nutrient absorption and to prevent bad stuff from getting into our system.

What are the signs & symptoms of someone needing gut healing?

So commonly a range you can experience a range of digestive symptoms, one or more digestive symptoms such as heartburn, bloating, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation. However, there is a whole range of other symptoms that people don’t often link to gut health. That includes things like fatigue, concentration difficulties, or brain fog. Skin issues, irritability, headaches/migraines among other things.

What is leaky gut?

Leaky gut, otherwise known as intestinal hyperpermeability, is essentially when the cells of the intestinal lining pull part, and allow things like waste products, poorly digested food proteins and bacteria and other compounds to enter the bloodstream where they normally wouldn’t, and this can cause immune reactions which results in inflammation and allergy.

What are your top tips to look after your GUT?

  • Manage stress appropriately – its common to see gut issues arise from periods of high stress
  • Only use antibiotics when essential
  • Take a good quality probiotic
  • Eat fresh produce again as previously mentioned, include traditional foods such as bone broth and fermented foods
  • Give your gut a break (avoid grazing throughout the whole day)
  • Intermittent fasting can be a good option
  • If you’re concerned you have a gut issue, see a naturopath who can help you sort it out
  • Generally, I would say things that help heal the gut lining and reduce leaky gut are aloe vera juice, slippery elm bark powder, ground flaxseed for gut barrier and fibre, apple cider vinegar before meals can help improve digestion, bone broth or using something like a collagen powder, fermented foods and drinks like kefir.

What are your thoughts on probiotics, should we take them?

Particular types of probiotics can be beneficial for supporting specific functions in the body, however probiotics as a long term approach aren’t as good value. You’re much better off trying to feed the bacteria already existing in your gut with prebiotics and fibres.

How do you know if you have poor gut health?

If you think you’ve got poor gut health see a naturopath and nutritionist to do a full assessment, functional testing and reviewing pathology can really help.

Why is gut health so important?

I guess essentially it’s how we absorb the nutrients from our food and if it isn’t absorbing well the rest of your system can suffer.

What inflammatory foods should we avoid to preserve gut health?

Sugar is number 1. It’s really common to see sugar consumption impact the gut negatively. Processed foods, particularly highly processed foods without recognisable ingredients in the list. Alcohol generally has higher sugar and encourages increased leaky gut. Whole range of other foods, particularly for those who are more sensitive – i.e. dairy, wheat and gluten.

What is the connection between gut health and skin?

Your skin is generally a great indicator of your gut health, if you’re experiencing skin problems its most often an indication that your gut health needs to be addressed. If we are not absorbing our nutrients effectively it’s often our skin, hair and nails that are impacted first. The gut bacteria play an important role in modulating inflammation and when we get imbalances there, it often results in an immune reaction that results in skin issues.

What’s the link between mental health and your gut?

More and more research is emerging that links our gut health with our brain. Clinical trials are looking at probiotics in anxiety and depression. Also, some bacteria in the gut are important for neurotransmitter production such as serotonin. It’s a two-way street, our mental health can impact our gut health.

What is the difference between leaky gut and IBS?

IBS is a collection of symptoms linked to poor gut health – abdominal pain, constipation and or diarrhoea. Leaky gut is more a process that occurs when the gut lining essentially becomes leaky – can also occur in IBS.

Are there anybody signs that are a good indicator of poor gut health?

As mentioned hair, skin and nails are a good indicator of how you’re absorbing nutrients. Looking at nails can show if someone is deficient in certain nutrients. The tongue can provide clues around gut health by looking at coatings and markers on the tongue.  It makes sense as the tongue is part of the digestive tract.

What does a healthy gut diet plan look like?

Healthy gut diet plan looks like what I’ve touched on previously, things like grass fed organic meats, wild fish, free range or organic eggs, fruit/veg, nuts and seeds and some of those gut healthy food we’ve discussed like bone broth and fermented foods. Avoiding a lot of the processed foods and packet foods, and reducing the reliance on grains.

What can you do if you feel certain foods upset your gut?

Beneficial to try an elimination of that food for a specific time, however commonly you may find it’s a specific compound that occurs in a range of foods which makes it difficult to determine which foods are the problem. This is when it’s useful to see a naturopath or nutritionist to assess your diet. Sometimes it’s more about fixing your gut rather than eliminating foods.

What is the difference between a prebiotic and a probiotic?

Probiotics are live bacteria that we are naturally exposed to in the diet such as fermented foods or supplemental form. And I think it’s good to note we have been exposed to these natural foods for thousands of years, and it’s just in the last 100 years with modern advances in foods that a lot of these staples have been forgotten or missing in diets.

Prebiotics are foods and supplements that feed the bacteria in our gut. They occur in a range of food, polyphenols in pomegranates/berries/green tea and resistant starch in green bananas and plantains. Also, what makes people happy is that its in Coco or dark chocolate.

What are the best supplements for the gut?

There’s a lot of supplements out there and not all are great.

Starting with diet over supplements and kind of basics around gut healing.

How do you restore healthy gut flora if it’s out of whack?

Generally, involves cleaning up the diet and removing problematic foods, using things like herbal medicine to clear bad bacteria. And then provide foods and supplements that help feed the beneficial gut flora. Working with a naturopath is a great way to get the diet right and appropriate supplements.

You might be interested in “5 lifestyle habits that are making you tired“.

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