The 3 Things You Should know about gut health
Three common disruptors of gut health according to Australia’s leading expert in cultured traditional foods, Kitsa Yanniotis.
The first without question is the modern diet. Most people’s diets include highly processed foods; highly refined carbohydrates and sugars as well as highly allergenic foods. This coupled with diets lacking in fresh fruit and vegetables, grass-fed and finished meats and of course cultured foods means many of us have poor gut health. Sadly our soils are now deficient in nutrients compared to our grandparents’ generation and so our food system is another major disruptor with increased use of pesticides and chemicals.
"The modern diet is built around convenience rather than nutrition due to our busy lifestyles and this has had devastating effects on the gut health of this generation."
The modern diet is built around convenience rather than nutrition due to our busy lifestyles and this has had devastating effects on the gut health of this generation. If you look back at how previous generations ate, most traditional cultures around the world had cultured foods as a mainstay of their diets and as a result, they did not suffer the repercussions of poor gut health like we see today. Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance and leaky gut to name a few of the very common complaints of this generation not previously seen.
Another disruptor is the over-prescription of antibiotics which has huge repercussions on gut health. Antibiotics basically work to kill off the bad bacteria that is causing the infection but they do not discriminate. When they kill off the bad bacteria they also kill off the good bacteria so you are left with a very hostile gut environment. It is extremely prudent that a course of probiotics is taken at these times to enable the repopulation of your inner ecosystem.
The other major impact on gut health is lifestyle factors. The importance of restorative sleep and of the damage done by unresolved stress in our lives are greatly underrated. These can have a huge impact on our gut health.
In a nutshell, to avoid having your gut health damaged you need to eat well and that I mean nutrient-dense real whole foods (organic if your budget allows) and some type of cultured foods or drinks every day. It is important that you consume small amounts of a large variety of these foods as the diversity of strains is paramount. You only need to consume condiment-sized portions for benefits.
The game changer is prioritising sleep and self-care and creating healthy boundaries with others to reduce stress levels. Do what you love to make you happy and spend time with people who make you feel loved with their support and make you laugh.
Why do we have good and bad bacteria?
Everyone is host to both good and bad bacteria. You could say we are more bacteria than human. In fact, all of us play host to approximately one hundred trillion bacteria and bacterial cells outnumber human cells 10 to one so you can see what a huge role these guys play in the human body.
It is the ratio of good to bad bacteria which is a critical measure in determining your overall health. The ideal balance is 85 percent friendly and 15 percent unfriendly.
The role of the good bacteria is to control the growth of the pathogenic bacteria by competing for nutrition and attachment sites within your gut.
The friendly bacteria present in cultured foods support and help populate your inner ecosystem by creating the ideal environment. They have a number of very important jobs to do:
- To digest and absorb some types of carbohydrates - the friendly bacteria in your digestive tract help to convert undigested starches, fibre and sugars into energy and nutrients
- To keep the pathogenic bacteria under control - friendly bacteria compete with the bad for nutrition and a space in your gut as mentioned previously and you need to aim for a ratio of 85:15
- Preventing allergies - friendly bacteria help to train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and how to respond to both of these
- Providing vital support to your immune system - beneficial bacteria have the most powerful role to play in your gut's immune system and the role of the development of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract plus they aid in the production of antibodies to pathogens. So they are very busy and very important indeed!
If you have the ratio of good:bad in the reverse, there are numerous conditions that are thought to be directly or indirectly related to a shortage of good bacteria. These include gut issues like diarrhea, constipation, IBS, inflammatory bowel disease and leaky gut. Other health conditions which can be viewed as a result of a shortage of the good guys are UTI, stomach and respiratory infections, skin infections and skin conditions such as acne and eczema to name a few.
In addition it is estimated 80 percent of the cells of your immune system are located in your digestive tract. So when your gut bacteria is out of balance, there are huge ramifications for your digestion, well-being, emotional state and your immune system.