A healthy gut is a key to a healthy you, with poor digestion being highlighted as a risk factor for arthritis, eczema, asthma, migraines, some cancers, chronic fatigue and diabetes. In fact, almost all chronic diseases are thought to involve some degree of digestive dysfunction. Many of the symptoms of an unhealthy gut seem more like an annoyance and people simply put up with them. These symptoms include reflux, bloating, cramping, wind, pain, constipation and diarrhoea. If these occur to you more than occasionally, it is time to improve the health of your gut.
Poor gut health may be caused by pancreatitis, coeliac disease, lactose intolerance, or more commonly food intolerances or a diet high in high GI carbohydrates. It can lead to inflammation of the gut wall and may cause it to become ‘leaky’, allowing undigested proteins to be absorbed into the body. Your body doesn’t recognise these large proteins so may try and fight them with the immune system and start an inflammatory reaction throughout the body. The acidity of your gut can change which affects how well it can absorb protein, fatty acids and minerals. Your immunity may suffer, you may become more sensitive to foods and bad bacteria can overgrow in the small intestine.
To get back on the road to a healthy gut, firstly we need to stop the damage occurring. Look at your diet and identify if you can swap high for low GI carbohydrates, increase protein and increase the amount of fruit and vegetables. Reduce alcohol and see if any medicines are contributing. Swap bad fats for good oils high in omega-3 to reduce inflammation. These may sound like big changes but little switches like salmon instead of steak, brown rice instead of white and adding avocado to your sandwich can make all the difference.
Identify food sensitivities by keeping a food and symptom diary to identify any foods that are causing flare-ups and avoid those foods.
Sometimes, changing behaviours is the key. Avoid skipping breakfast and eat away from the TV or other stimulants. Chewing your food well and not combining fruit or juices with your meal can reduce symptoms of bloating. FODMAP foods may also be contributing to gas build up and can be experimented with avoiding. Sitting up straight when eating can reduce reflux and heartburn while increasing fibre and water intake is the first step to take for constipation. Being active has also been shown to improve digestion, reduce stress and improve mood.
Correct imbalances in bacteria in your gut with a probiotic. Ethical Nutrients Inner Health Plus is the gold standard probiotic, or if you prefer a drink, the Kombucha King drinks are a great alternative. Natural anti-inflammatories can also be used, such as omega-3, turmeric and slippery elm bark. You may also need to look at improving the acidity of your gut or replacing digestive enzymes if they are lacking. We’ve seen some amazing results with Lifestream’s Bowel Biotics with Digestive Enzymes.
This is a very quick overview of gut health and every case is different. Our pharmacists at Ahuriri Pharmacy are available to answer your health questions.