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Take Bugs Not Drugs

Gut Health By Caryn, The Whole-Food Dietitian

These days I see so many people in my clinic with gut problems, way more than ever before. The good news is that we’re constantly learning about how to maintain (and restore) gut health amidst our fast-paced modern lives.

There might be gut-lining irritations, or problems with the population of bugs you have living there. In today’s Top Tip Tuesday post, I will share my thoughts as to how to keep the gut happy and healthy.

Of course gut health and gut problems are very individual and if there are problems, there is not one fix for everyone, but there are some common pointers that may help those in need.

But first, some facts about the bugs:

We have more bugs that live in our gut than we do human cells – which means we’re actually more bug than human! Plus, these bugs are not just visiting – they’re there to stay. They can cause both health and harm, so we need to look after them and learn to keep them happy.

These bugs make up about ¾ of our immune system, when they’re happy they promote normal healthy gastrointestinal function, a well-regulated metabolism, and protect you from infection. When they’re riled up, they’re likely to play a role in the development of certain health conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, even obesity and cancer.

The way I see it, it’s a little like relationships: if they’re happy, you’re happy, if you aggravate them, they’ll aggravate you back – both in the short and the long term. The difference is you’re stuck with them so you’re going to need to find a way to work it out so that you can live together, harmoniously, in one body. Here goes…

Don’t aggravate them. These things will:

  1. Drugs: Antibiotics and other medications like anti-inflammatories
  2. A diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrate and processed foods
  3. A diet high in omega-6 rich industrial seed oils
  4. Refined flour cereal grains and wheat (in some people)
  5. Chronic stress – YES you’re reading this right, stress.

Keep them happy. These things will:

  1. Eat a wide variety of whole unprocessed foods
  2. Remove / reduce the refined sugar and carbs, and processed oils
  3. Aim for natural anti-inflammatories (turmeric + black pepper; lots of fatty fish for omega 3s)
  4. Grow your good bugs: Eat fermented foods like unsweetened natural yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, keffir (probiotic fermented milk drink).
  5. Drink bone broth
  6. Feed them: Include some fermentable fibre in your diet (e.g. sweet potato, artichoke, yams, leeks, onion, garlic, radish, cruciferous vegetables, cold potato).
  7. Create a lifestyle low in stress or make sure to have strategies to manage your stress.

In turn they’ll keep you happy.

If your gut health is already riled up (be it a combination of unhappy bugs or just an unhappy gut lining i.e. leaky gut), and you need to restore happiness, the first thing you need to do is to heal the gut by removing the aggravation (this might be wheat / sugar / dairy / oils or a combination).

Note when your gut is angry, it might react to foods that don’t usually cause problems. Dairy is a great example of this. So remove the range of aggravating foods initially, and give your gut a good chance to heal; then you can start re-introducing some of these foods (if you want to), slowly and carefully, one-at-a time.

Once you have restored gut health happiness, make sure that you keep them happy by following the top 7 points above. And if you need to take any pills to help – take actual bugs, not drugs!

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