All disease begins in the gut. -Hippocrates
More than 2,000 years ago, the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates understood the importance your gut plays in your overall physical health. Now in the 21st Century, it seems our research is finally catching up to Hippocrates. Research over the past 20 years has revealed that gut health is critical to overall health, and that an unhealthy gut contributes to a wide range of health issues including diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, autism spectrum disorder, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. We can keep a healthy gut by maintaining and putting good bacteria into our guts. How do we do this?
The gut is alike to the soil in a garden. Soil needs to be fertile, watered, and weeded for plants to flourish. Our gut needs good bacteria to flourish and keep our bodies in top working condition. We know today that our gut is home to approximately 100 trillion microorganisms. To help conceptualize this large number--one trillion dollar bills laid end-to-end would stretch from the earth to the sun, and back, over 100 times! This bacteria makes up your gut flora.
Only recently have we begun to understand the extent of the gut flora’s role in human health. Among other many benefits, gut flora promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism, and comprises more than 75% of our immune system. Specific types of gut flora have been linked to diseases ranging from autism and depression to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s, inflammatory bowel disease and type 1 diabetes.
We can help 'fertilize' and care for our gut flora my avoiding the following:*
- Antibiotics and other medications like birth control and NSAIDs*
- Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods
- Diets low in fermentable fibers
- Dietary toxins like wheat and industrial seed oils that cause leaky gut
- Chronic stress
- Chronic infections
*Although you may be thinking-"Wait, I thought antibiotics made me better…". Studies have shown that antibiotics are particularly harmful to the gut flora. Antibiotic use causes a rapid loss of diversity and a shift in the composition of the gut flora. This diversity is not recovered after antibiotic use without supplements.
Consider what you are doing to support your gut flora health today and make a change to better your health. A change for improved gut flora could be eliminating sugary cereals and switching to oatmeal or you could vow to stop eating chips out of the bag! There are many simple improvements you can take, which will you choose?