Hey guys! I’m here with another gut health post, what else is new? I figure, the more I preach, the more I educate, and the more I banter about the importance of loving your guts, maybe you guys actually will? (And maybe the doctors will start prescribing probiotics when patients with mental health issues enter the emergency room), a girl can dream right? I figure to get my point across I will just continue to voice my frustration, despite a somewhat controversial topic, and follow my gut (see what I did there?) But actually though, I literally just gave a patient lactobacillus acidophilus for the first time in hospital the other day and was ecstatic! I mean, they were also taking an antibiotic as well, so ordering a probiotic should have been mandatory and the common sense thing to do, but I was happy to see that it is finally being prescribed along with antibiotics. In my 5 years of nursing, I have given a fair share amount of antibiotics, and this week I was privileged to dole out my first ever probiotic, ordered by the hospitalist himself. Can you believe it? Finally a step in the right direction. They didn’t build Rome in one day now, did they?
Fortunately, you can actually build up your gut flora in a day. Just keep listening to my ramblings, and follow the recommendations at the end of this post, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving optimal gut health.
Lets start at the beginning. Why are our “guts” so important? And why is all of this information coming to surface just recently? Where was all this “support your gut” health information in nursing school?! Or any nutritional information in that regard. I digress. Back to the importance of establishing and maintaining optimal gut health. Well basically, your gut is made up of a billions and billions of bacteria, both good and bad, that reside all along your gastrointestinal tract. Likely, your gut flora is “imbalanced”, meaning way too many bad bacteria (let’s call them Oscar the Grouch) and less good bacteria (the Fonzy’s). Fonzy was not a part of my time or anything but on the show Friends, Fonzy was clearly portrayed to be an overly happy, obsessively smiling, joyful human, and someone who clearly irritated Phoebe while she was getting ready to birth triplets. So yeah, we want less Oscar the Grouch’s snacking on cookies (how fitting) and we want more Fonzy’s in our guts.
If that made any sense to you, congratulations, you get me. So in order to establish a healthy balance of these two fictional characters, we need to feed the good guys with prebiotics, and stop feeding the bad guys with sugar, aka cookies. Does the Oscar the Grouch anaolgy make sense now? Probiotics need to eat prebiotics in order to stay alive and thrive, and keep your gut healthy and happy. So what foods contain prebiotics? Well, mainly foods high in fibre (such as flax seed and wheat if tolerated), and more specifically, foods high in inulin. Inulin is a soluble dietary fibre that is non-digestible. It passes through the small intestine and begins the fermentation process in the large intestine, where it turns into that Fonzy character mentioned above (good bacteria). Foods high in inulin contain onions, garlic, asparagus, and leeks-all great soup ingredients if you ask me! Dandelion root and chicory root are also great sources of prebiotics if you are a nutrivore like me and drink dandelion tea for fun.
As noted earlier, it is very important to limit the number of sugars you are eating. By consuming sugar, you are feeding the bad bacteria, causing these microbes to proliferate. This may contribute to indigestion, bloating, and cravings as well as increase the risk for chronic illnesses connected to the immune system such as allergies and autoimmune conditions. Um, that doesn’t sound too great to me! Now I do realise completely changing your eating habits to snacking on veggies and hummus instead of whatever Costco’s cute little Italian food tester lady sold you is not going to happen overnight. Of course I realise this, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t need to do what I do now, do I? But this blog posts exists in efforts to provide education and create awareness of your current food choices and empower you to change your habits, leading to healthier and thus happier lives. Bold right? That’s how confident I am.
Okay so we’ve talked about establishing good gut flora, and I didn’t even have to mention feces transplants, so you’re welcome. The next thing important for maintaining a healthy gut is ensuring the gut is sealed. Closed, glued, nothin’s getting through, etc. Your digestive system is essentially a long pipe beginning at your mouth, stretching downwards and winding around in the tummy, and out through the shoot into the toilet. As a nutritionist and a nurse there are just some words I feel uncomfortable saying okay? Yes, anus is one of them.
I remember in holistic nutrition school, my instructor described your digestion system as essentially a system “outside” of your body, because other than a few nutrients and vitamins here and there, nothing should actually go inside of your body. Which is not the case these days, as many people are experiencing symptoms of systemic inflammation and food intolerances. This is where the term “leaky gut” comes from.
If your gut is perforated, undigested food particles, and bad bacteria can actually slip through the cracks, set off the immune system, create hormonal disturbances and blood sugar imbalances, and ultimately wreak havoc throughout the body. Seems like a good enough reason why they should be replacing sugar packets with collagen packets (hello vital proteins) in the hospital, but who am I to suggest such a thing?
In other words, we have this pipe, and anything that goes into your mouth, good or bad, will interact with the rest of your body. It’s that simple. If you have a leaky gut, these interactions will be far more intimate. Enough that some undigested particles get through the walls of the intestinal lining, interact with your bloodstream, setting off aforementioned immune response. Ladies and gents, systemic inflammation is born!
Why there is zero nutritional education given in the hospital (I am saying that verryyyyy lightly) is truly mind boggling. People experiencing symptoms directly related to nutritional inadequacies are often treated with medications (nothing wrong with that especially during an acute phase) but what about education? There isn’t much information provided (and the information provided is shit anyways and yes let’s keep feeding diabetics with sugar, okay here’s an oatmeal cookie made out of margarine). Rant over. I must sound like an idiot because the recent documentary “What the Health” actually states that sugar is in NO WAY related to diabetes, so just throw me a donut and shut me up.
Okay that escalated quickly and I apologize. Here are just a few supplements and food products you can start taking to support your gut, like today.
- Take a Probiotic. The more strains the better, ensure it has Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Ultimate Flora, Align, and Natural Factors are great brands to start out with. I usually switch brands everytime I finish a bottle.
- Consume Probiotics Foods. Saurkraut, kimchi, kombucha, gut shots, kefir, yogurt. There are many to choose from and they are everywhere. Thank you to mainstream media and millennials there is no shortage of kombucha companies starting up. Head into your local health food store and stock up!
- Have some Collagen. Collagen is also becoming popular, (Hallelujah) and should be easy to find in your community. Vital Proteins and Organika are my favourite companies. Collagen helps repair the intestinal lining and heals gut inflammation. You can add collagen to your morning coffee or tea, or add into a smoothie!
- Drink Bone Broth. Seriously it’s like the Universe is trying to make it easy for us to heal our guts. Companies are popping up everywhere to make this easy for you, so you don’t have to boil bones in your kitchen for 48 hours, (although I prefer to). Bone broth is rich in collagen and the amino acids glutamine, glycine, and proline, all which help seal the gut and reduce intestinal inflammation. If you don’t like the taste of bone broth, try steaming your veggies in it or adding it to stirfrys to enhance flavour. Vegan options are also available (but not as beneficial).
- Supplement with L-Glutamine. As mentioned above, glutamine is an amino acid important for growth and repair of your intestinal lining. Supplementing with L-glutamine powder is recommended for healing the gut and also can help repair ulcers.
- Take Digestive Enzymes. These guys help digest your proteins, fats, and carbs so there is less irritation along the intestinal tract, and your body can continue healing. You don’t need to supplement with enzymes forever, but they are important during the gut healing process.
So that is that! If you made it this far and actually learned a thing or two, horray. I don’t have any special discount code for probiotics at Nature’s Fare or some of that yummy kraut I mentioned, but hopefully you will be motivated enough by the fact that just a few of these changes can make a major impact on your mental health, physical health, and overall well-being. If that doesn’t motivate you, then disregard all above content and have a lovely, lovely day.
You can also find me over at Gravity Float Wellness for a full nutritional assessment, complete with nutrition and supplement recommendations, and a sample meal plan to get your started on the path to optimal health. Mention this post and maybe there’s a discount in for you 🙂
Cheers *holds up a beet flavoured gut shot*