By: Leanne Ely
Gut health is on everyone’s lips these days and you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Especially since this is something that up until the last couple of years, we didn’t hear anything about in mainstream media.
The gut is the catchall word for the digestive tract—the big yucky tube that runs from your mouth to your you-know-what. Gut bacteria (gut flora) are the trillions of little microorganisms that live in our digestive systems, getting their energy from the fermentation of undigested carbs and absorbing short chain fatty acids.
Gut flora is a completely underrated part of our body.
Besides being the center of all the digestive action that happens in your body, about 70% of your immune system is located in your gut, and a good portion of your nervous system is located in there as well.
Maintaining a healthy level of gut bacteria is essential to a well-functioning immune system and for optimal digestion. And there are a lot of things happening thanks to that gut flora that you are probably not even be aware of.
Vitamin production. Your gut bacteria produces B vitamins and Vitamin K2, nutrients difficult to get from foods.
Protection against anti-nutrients. When we eat legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, we’re eating phytic acid, an anti-nutrient which prevents our bodies from absorbing a number of minerals. Gut bacteria can prevent that from happening. In addition to that protection, gut bacteria seem to have a memory so the more you eat phytic acid, the better your body gets at breaking it down!
Fighting disease. Those bacteria in your gut are hard at work, stopping pathogens from taking up residence in your body.
Neurotransmission. You have a gut brain that has a direct connection to your brain brain! Your gut houses a part of your nervous system called the enteric nervous system. And your gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters down there! Your enteric nervous system actually has more neurons than the central nervous system or the spinal column.
Disorders of the mind. Scientists are discovering that there is a connection between people with depression, autism and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and gastrointestinal problems and that it may not be a coincidence. It’s believed that things that happen in the bodies of people with these disorders can be traced to a disturbance in gut bacteria.
So how do you be sure to keep those gut bacteria levels healthy?
• Eat a probiotic food with every meal (kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kim chi and red wine are all examples of probiotic foods)
• Don’t drink water right before, during or after eating a meal. Wait for about an hour and then hydrate.
• If you take antibiotics (including eating meat and poultry that are not organic because they are often full of antibiotics), balance that out by taking probiotic supplements. Antibiotics are Kryptonite to gut flora.
• If your drinking water has been treated with chlorine, it can interfere with your gut bacteria.
• Alcohol (not including red wine), cigarettes and junk food can all harm gut bacteria.
Did you know how helpful those little gut bacteria critters were?
One of the easiest ways to sneak more fermented, probiotic foods into your diet is by adding kefir and/or kombucha to your daily smoothies! I promise you your kids won’t notice if you sneak these healthful beverages into their smoothies too.