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LEAKY GUT and the ‘GUT BRAIN’. 10 Ways to Improve your Gut Health

Microbiome and the ‘Gut Brain’

Author – Sarah Anderson

Have you ever felt ‘butterflies’ in your stomach when nervous, or made a decision based on your gut instinct?

You should pay attention to this feeling. These are warning signals that come from tiny little communities of billions of microbes that live in our gut. They alert each other to take their positions, and prepare for any danger that may be coming. They can manipulate our thoughts and behaviours to ensure their own survival.

Fortunately, this microscopic community of organisms are our partners. They usually are working together . They do this to assist us in managing the millions of critical roles that must take place every day to maintain homeostasis, our balance.

But what does that mean? Homeostasis a self-regulating process by which a living organism can maintain internal stability. This happens while we adjust to changing external conditions. Homeostasis is not static and unvarying. It is a dynamic process that can change internal conditions as required to survive external challenges.

Our microbiome consists of trillions of tiny, microscopic creatures. With many thousands of different species, mostly made up of bacteria, with some being fungal, parasites and viruses. This bacterium makes up for 75% of our body. That means the microbiome has a major influence over the functionality of our digestive tract. They are responsible for bodily function, immune response, weight management and cardiac health.

This communication system between the central nervous system and our gut microbiome is often referred to as the ‘Gut Brain’. It has raised a lot of attention and interest in recent years. There is increasing evidence proving a significant link with dysbiosis (a condition when the gut bacteria become imbalanced.). Inflammation of the gut is the cause of many mental illnesses. These include depression, anxiety, ADHD, dementia, PTSD, and Bi-polar.

Imbalance in our microbiome creates stress in the body. That stress triggers inflammation and can lead to significant mental health problems. People who suffer from IBS, for example, are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

For too long now, we have been told that medicine is the answer to cure illness and disease. The medical professionals have treated mental health, as a brain issue. They prescribe medication which only serves to manage the symptoms, not treat the cause. Prolonged use of medications comes with many harmful side effects.

Diet is the biggest influencer on mental health problems. Healing the gut with nutritious whole foods is the fastest way to relieve mental health problems. Our immune system counts on our microbiome for functionality. That is why it is important to maintain a diverse population of microbial species. These together with appropriate proportions of specific species within that community, allow everyone to be able to do their jobs. If our gut community is happy and functioning, and our gut flora is flourishing, we too will be flourishing.

Did you know that the gut and many other body systems produce more neurotransmitters than the brain? In fact, 90% of serotonin (our ‘Happy Hormone’) is produced in the gut. 50% of dopamine is produced in the gut.

WHAT IS ‘LEAKY GUT?’

Leaky gut is permeability of the small intestine, which allows toxins to leak through into the blood stream, and brain. This toxicity causes an inflammatory response. That can then lead to inflammation in the brain, resulting in brain fog, mood disorders, altered brain function and lack of focus.

Inflammation on the brain also causes hormone imbalance. When our microbiome is imbalanced and we are in a constant state of stress, this will eventually lead to chronic inflammation throughout the body. This then leads to ‘leaky gut’.

Leaky Gut is the biggest driver of lymphatic disorders. It promotes swelling of the gut which if ignored, will result in insulin resistance. It will screw with hunger hormones and disrupts the feeling of feeling full. This drives metabolic issues and can cause an inability to lose weight, and type 2 diabetes.

You will be happy to know that this is all reversible. We use nutrition as the key in reclaiming your health and living a life of vibrancy. Having a healthy immune system is especially important to be able to overcome disease, viruses and illness.

SO, WHAT CAUSES ‘LEAKY GUT’

Unfortunately, throughout our lives, we are exposed to so many toxic chemicals. Some of these are unavoidable and they reduce our microbiome. They cause leakage to the lining of our small intestine. That results in us becoming susceptible to certain types of infection. Some of the causes are:

  • Antibiotic overuse
  • Inflammatory diet
  • Lack of dietary fibre
  • Chronic stress
  • Trauma, especially in childhood
  • Insufficient sleep
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Environmental toxins
  • Pathogenic infections
  • Parasites
  • Nutrient deficiencies

This is all reversible with diet and lifestyle, as key in reclaiming your health and living a life of vibrancy. Having a healthy immune system has never been more important. Right now is the best time to start implementing new healthy habits into your life. These habits will help you overcome disease, viruses and illness.

IMMUNE HEALTH IS ESSENTIAL FOR QUALITY OF LIFE.

It can become too overwhelming with the many articles online showing the latest fad diets of the month. They are telling us to ‘eat this’, and ‘don’t eat that’. It is impossible to keep up.

It’s not about choosing the most popular diet of the month, or what this celebrity is doing to look so amazing. It’s about building healthy, sustainable lifestyles that increase energy, giving freedom from the constraints of diseases.

This is as much of what you put in your mouth, as the lifestyle you live. The air that you breathe and what you put on and into your body all matter. This is how we thrive and give ourselves the ability to take on new viruses.

The phrase ‘Listen to your gut’ could not be more true. Pay attention to the warning signs and look after your microbiome by implementing the actions below. This will help to boost your immune system so that your body is not an environment for hosting nasty and deadly viruses.

Start small and build momentum! Committing to a few small steps, will give you benefits that you will notice quite quickly, giving you the encouragement to continue.

You be healing your gut flora for better immune health. You will also start to notice the brain fog disappear along with the puffiness, sluggishness, and achy joints. You will start to feel energised, clear headed and your skin and eyes will shine.

HOUSE KEEPING FOR A HEALTHY MICROBIOME

EASY ACTIONS TO START IMPLEMENTING INTO YOUR NEW, HEALTHIER LIFESTYLE:

1. Diet – Microbiome love a diversity of fresh fruit and vegetables. If you haven’t tried organic, now is the time to start. Try a new vegetable each week and build your tastes. Your local farmers market will have a variety of fresh, organic and sometimes exotic fruit and veg. Another option is to try an Asian grocer. Add more fibrous whole foods to your diet, remembering organic is the best where possible. Shop around to find what is in your local community. You may be surprised at how many organic options have become available. There are organic farms in almost every town these days. Many of them deliver fresh, seasonal, organic fruit and veg as well as whole foods and bulk-buy options. It can be overwhelming at first, but once you start to make small changes, you start creating new healthier habits. Before you know it, you will be a pro at sourcing organic and won’t want to go back to your old, not so healthy ways.

2. Hydration – This would be your top priority action to make your new healthy habit. Water makes up for more than half the human body weight. It is normal to lose water every day, so it is essential to top up every day. Hydration is one of the most important aspects of your diet to ensure your body can function properly. The body relies on hydration for carrying glucose, oxygen and nutrients to every cell in our body via. They do this using our blood and lymphatic systems. They get rid of toxic and metabolic waste from the kidneys and liver. They also help to lubricate our joints and eyes, and aids healthy function of our digestive system and our skin.

Drinking good quality filtered water is also essential. There are a huge amount of toxins caused by chemicals in our tap water.

If you struggle to remember drinking enough water, or don’t like it, some tips here might help to change this:

  • Buy yourself a good glass bottle, 600ml – 1 litre capacity. Fill it with filtered water every morning to take with you on the go. Refill it 2-3 times throughout the day, and that’s your water intake ticked off. Carrying a drink bottle makes you more aware of what you need to do and more likely to do it.
  • Set reminders on your phone for every odd or even hour, to drink a glass of water.
  • Push yourself to do this for a week and it will become the only drink that you use to quench your thirst.
  • Have a glass 20 mins before each mealtime, so you know you only need another two between to reach your minimum.
  • Add a squeeze of lemon, lime, and orange with some fresh mint if you want a refreshing drink with flavour.
  • Try herbal teas. They can also count towards your water intake and are super healthy too. Experiment with different flavours, or even come up with your own, chilled or hot.

3. Breathwork – Did you know that over 50% of the toxins in your body leave through breathing? The main one being carbon dioxide. It is one of the Lymphatic system’s main exits for getting rid of toxins. Practicing deep breathing techniques improves oxygen capacity. That helps to expel more toxins, and assists the circulatory system. This is another major channel for elimination and detoxing. Breathwork practices increase blood flow through the digestive track and improves intestinal activity. That in turn, improves your gut microbiome and reduces bloating and gas. It is also how we get ourselves out of fight/flight, by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. I will slow down your heart rate and blood pressure and create a deep sense of calm. In so doing you reduce stress and anxiety, which reduces cortisol production, reducing inflammation in your gut. On an emotional level, when you practice breathwork, and reduce your stress and anxiety levels, you are more likely to make better food choices. You are less likely to overeat or eat foods that trigger the digestion issues you may have had in the first place.

4. Stop and smell the roses. Spending time in nature is one of the best things you can do for your gut microbiome. Not only does it lift your mood, it also reduces levels of stress and anxiety. It improves heart health, boosts your immune system, and alleviates depression. When you are stressed, you are restricting blood flow to your digestive system, causing uncomfortable bloating and gas. This reduces the number of good bacteria in your gut, creating an environment that allows unfriendly microbes to grow and take over.

Our immune system and gut microbiome work closely together. Making sure our immune health is working at optimal level is important for gut health. It helps to keep harmful bacteria from growing and taking over. We need to maintain a healthy environment for the good bacteria to flourish. Spending time outdoors not only improves mood and sleep, but it also reduces the risk of pretty much all disease. Stepping outside increases your microbial diversity. You expose yourself to billions of species of beneficial microbes.

Going outside might also encourage you to exercise. Being outside increases mood and lowers stress and anxiety. That boosts immune health, increasing microbial diversity. This all relates back to your gut.

5. Probiotic Supplements. Getting your hands on a good probiotic supplement helps to support healthy gut microbiome. Probiotics feed off Prebiotics, encouraging beneficial bacteria to multiply in the gut. A good place to start is to look for a probiotic with a prebiotic and postbiotic if possible. The prebiotic is what feeds the probiotic to keep it alive. The result of this process, is the postbiotic. This is a short chain fatty acid. Bacteria uses short chain fatty acids for fuel. Probiotics also need to be alive when they reach your gut. A supplement which contains a postbiotic too is going to be more shelf stable. It will create a healthier environment with healthy digestive enzymes, for the bacteria’s journey to the gut. A product such as this is referred to as a symbiotic. That means it provides a blend of all 3, probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics. Organic is of course your best option for a supplement like this.

A healthy diet that includes fermented foods has many benefits. This includes food such as sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh and kombucha and they provide you with the probiotics your body needs. You can get prebiotics from complex carbs, healthy carbs found in foods such as, whole grains, plantains or green bananas or banana flour. Cooked and cooled potatoes, or potato flour, quinoa, oats all provide probiotics too. When the good bacteria feed off these complex carbs, it produces butyrate.

6. Lymphatic Drainage. Having regular lymphatic drainage massage or the practice of dry body brushing will help to unclog congested lymph flow. Your lymph flow is essential for immune health and decreases inflammation in your gut and body. When you have healthy Lymphatic flow, the nutrients from the food you eat, travels to every cell in your body. The elimination of metabolic and toxic waste also helps to create a healthy microbiome. As lymphatic massage therapists at Your Body Revolution, we see congestion of the lymph system every day. We teach our clients how to use a simple technique they can do at home. It uses a specially designed body brushing glove, and the results are amazing. Doing this as well as these other very easy, life changing actions will do wonders for your gut microbiome and for your overall health.

7. Reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics. Antibiotics are often necessary in combating bacterial infections. It has been proven that overuse of these has become a major public health concern. It can can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics do the job of killing bad bacteria that cause infection, but they also kill all the good bacteria. Some research has reported that even 6 months after taking antibiotics, the gut still lacks several species of good gut bacteria. For the benefit of your microbiome, it is best to only take antibiotics when there is no other course of action. Replenish your gut microbiome with plenty of probiotics afterwards and this will help to create a healthy gut environment again.

8. STOP using household cleaners full of toxic chemicals. Store bought household cleaners contain damaging, toxic chemicals. These have been linked to gut dysbiosis (leaky gut). Triclosan is one of the chemicals used as an antibacterial compound in soaps, detergents, deodorants and hand sanitisers. It is absorbed through the skin and is believed to have an impact on healthy gut microbiome. It is responsible for disrupting the normal function of hormones, especially the thyroid. This can lead to colonic inflammation, endocrine disorders and antibiotic resistance.

While we are being told to maintain ‘safe hygiene practices’ to help ‘prevent the spread’ of disease, we are destroying virulent bugs with these toxic chemicals. We are also destroying non-pathogenic strains that support a healthy microbiome. Are we actually washing away our good health and wellbeing?

A good home remedy of cleaning vinegar, bi-carb soda, castile soap and a few drops of your favourite essential oils will clean just as well as the toxic cleaners. You are creating a healthier environment for you and your microbiome. It is also a lot cheaper to make your own household cleaners with these inexpensive ingredients. Why not get creative while taking care of your health and the environment? The internet is full of recipes for cleaning products containing non-toxic ingredients. You will find the same for personal care products as well.

9. Increase fibre intake. A diet high in fibre is essential for healthy gut microbiome. Fibre helps to produce a diversity of good bacteria in the gut. It keeps us regular, which is essential for eliminating waste and toxic build up in our body. High fibre foods to include: chia seeds, flax seeds, leafy greens, lentils, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, avocado, celery, blackberries, raspberries, artichokes, brussels sprouts, cabbage, quinoa, oats, green beans, edamame, spinach, almonds, bell peppers and eggplants.

10. Avoid refined sugars and processed carbs. Foods such as biscuits, cakes, pastries, lollies, chips, fast foods etc, should be avoided at all costs. They contain highly processed carbs and refined sugars. These interfere with good gut bacteria, leading to inflammation, resulting in ‘leaky gut’. This may put you at risk of obesity and developing type 2 diabetes. Other conditions include heart disease, digestive disorders, and even cancer. This damage can be reversed! Avoiding these ultra-processed foods can make a difference and help you back on the road to a healthier gut and lifestyle. Using a good gut cleansing protocol to reintroduce a diversity of good bacteria back into your gut, along with all the above actions, will see your microbiome happy and healthy again. This is a lifestyle change that takes consistent effort if you want real healthy change in your life. Once you start feeling the benefits of your new lifestyle, it will become a no brainer to continue this path. There are many health benefits such as brain fog reduction. You will experience an increase in energy levels and sugar cravings will disappear. Your skin and eyes will start to glow, allergies you may have suffered from will be no longer. Your weight will begin to melt away and many more positives.

ALL DISEASE BEGINS IN YOUR GUT! So,

‘LET FOOD BE THY MEDICINE AND MEDICINE BE THY FOOD’.

Quotes attributed by the ‘Great Hippocrates’. Ancient Greek physician, and ‘Father of Medicine’.