The bugs that live in your gut are now widely recognised as being essential not only for the health of the gut itself, but for wider good health. The so called gut “microbiome” (the sum total of all the bugs living in your gut) is now convincingly linked to health issues as diverse as mental health, weight control and having a strong immune system.
There are trillions of bugs in the gut microbiome, making up between one and three percent of the hosts body weight. They exist like any other organ in your body and just like other organs, the gut microbiome is essential for your body to work properly. The bugs in your gut are part of you. You need them and they need you – sounds like a symbiotic relationship made in heaven, right?
Unfortunately, for many people the relationship between their gut and its bugs is not a happy one. Use of antibiotics, processed food, prolonged stress or excess alcohol can all lead to an imbalance of good and bad bugs, resulting in an array of gut or other symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of an unhappy gut include bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation or a feeling of incomplete bowel emptying. Those with gut symptoms are all too familiar with the discomfort and embarrassment that comes with them.
By far the best way of looking after your gut microbiome is through the food you eat. Dietary fibre from fruit and vegetables feeds good bacteria, while processed starches, for example those found is white flour (think pasta and pizza) allow harmful bacteria to proliferate and do nothing to feed the good bacteria.
A great rule of thumb for keeping your gut healthy is adding a few extra veges to your diet each day. Don’t worry too much about sourcing the “ultimate” gut health vegetables (all veges are good for the gut), I mean, who buys artichokes on a regular basis anyway? Another easy addition is that of cooked, then cooled potatoes or rice (think potato salad or sushi). These foods contain something called Resistant Starch which is emerging as being uniquely beneficial for feeding good bacteria in the colon.
When our gut microbiome is out of balance another problem can emerge. Candida can proliferate and cause havoc. Candida is a common fungi, best known as the cause of vaginal thrush.
When overproduced in the gut, Candida can damage the wall of the intestine making it leaky and allowing molecules from the gut into the bloodstream. Some of these molecules are not supposed to be in the bloodstream and cause toxic effects.
Overgrowth of Candida in the gut has been attributed to symptoms as diverse as brain fog, fatigue, recurring vaginal infections and irritability. If you think you may have Candida overgrowth in the gut, improving your diet is absolutely essential. At the risk of harping on, reducing or eliminating refined carbohydrates and sugars, while increasing intake of vegetables is key.
Some experts suggest it may take up to 6 months to clear Candida overgrowth from your gut through diet modifications alone. There are several other steps that can be taken to accelerate the road to wellness. These steps include:
- Taking probiotics to boost the population of good bacteria in the gut – this may eventually crowd out Candida.
- Taking an anti-fungal supplement such as one that contains Horopito, a herb native to New Zealand that is known to have anti-fungal properties. Aniseed was also traditionally used to support intestinal health and can have an immediate soothing effect on the gut.
The old adage “you are what you eat” has been known for generations. It remains true to this day and is perhaps more important than ever as we face increasing stress and an array of cheap and easy processed foods. The best approach is to be mindful of what you eat – and always look for options with the most vegetables.
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