When we look at the human body in medicine we divide it up into systems and every system is interdependent on other systems. The gut, of course, is one of the major systems within the body. If working well, it supports health but if it is working under pressure, no other system can work well.
The gut has two kinds of basic bacteria that work in opposition to each other and sometimes together: what is often called the friendly bacteria and the hostile bacteria. If the friendly and non-friendly bacteria are not balanced it affects digestion, the immune system, the nervous system and your ability to extract macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins, water) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and amino acids) from your food.
It is somewhat more complicated than that because a friendly bacteria in very large numbers could then be considered unfriendly and hostile bacteria in the right numbers can be therapeutic. We actually live symbiotically with the bacteria in and on our bodies and without them we would die.
What happens when those bacteria are out of healthy proportion is that infection sets in, in the intestines and people become sick. Also if there is not enough of certain bacteria, many functions in the body simply will not work, such as digestion or the immune system.
Naturopaths have known this for years but modern Western medicine is only just beginning to catch on to the fact that the health and balance of the gut bacteria determines the health of the person.
We know of over several hundred kinds of bacteria and literally billions of bacteria themselves that live in our gut, helping to create health and make our bodies work. Scientifically we don’t yet know all their roles but we do know if there is too much of one bacteria we become ill. People talk about good and bad gut bacteria but in reality illness only arises from imbalance.
We attempt to rectify that imbalance with probiotics (what are called LABs (lactic acid bacteria) that evolve from carbohydrate fermentation, and contribute to the healthy gut microflora on the healthy mucosal (lining) surfaces of the gut. You may be familiar with some of those, such as lactobacillus, lactobacillus bulgaricus and bifidobacteriumor or streptococcus thermophiles.
Unfortunately modern living for many people is contrary to their health of their gut. Processed food or what nutritionists call ‘food products’, which has had all its natural bacteria destroyed, is highly detrimental to the health of the gut.
Intensively farmed food that has come from over-farmed land often lacks essential vitamins and minerals that enable the gut to maintain its bacterial balance. The land is not left to fallow every other year and pesticides destroy natural bacterial residue that our stomachs need from our food.
We are animals and, despite our overly large brains, this often leads to believe we know more than nature. We are meant to eat as wild as possible. The more organic, raw, plant-based food you can eat, the more likely you are to have balanced, good bacteria. To connect with your gut you must also take the responsibility of connecting with what you put in your mouth.
Are you paying attention to your food?
Are you choosing the best nutritional, plant-based options or eating what used to be food but is no longer?
Are you educating yourself around the best nutritional options?
Do you know what to eat to increase the good bacteria in your gut?
Are you mindfully eating?
If the answer to all these is ‘yes’, you probably have a good bacterial balance in your gut. If your answer is ‘no, your gut flora is probably deficient and not supporting your health, in which case you need to supplement with natural probiotics.
As a medical nutritionist every time I interview patients I am considering how their gut is working. A gut that is not working well with balanced bacteria leads to diseases and a gut with a balanced bacteria will help you fight all infection more acutely and be healthy.
Even more than just considering your physical health, your mental health is also dependent on you having a well-balanced gut bacteria. A gut overrun by hostile bacteria can result in less than ideal mental health.
There are, of course, times in my clinic when I do prescribe medically prepared probiotics to patients when they have health problems. In the long term, however, maintaining a healthy gut comes back to a healthy diet and focusing on eating more live, fresh, plant-based organic food and at times fermented foods that have lots of LABs (probiotics) that can supplement your healthy gut bacteria every day.
Remember, a healthy gut is the doorway to health.
To make an appointment at my Sydney clinic, call 02 8021 6429.
If you’re not able to attend the clinic, my Natural Eating and Vitality Hypnosis program can help.