In a culture obsessed by antibacterial soaps and antibiotics, knowing that there are 100 trillion bacteria in your digestive system that perform a critical role in preventing disease may be surprising.
These bacteria are responsible for
- contributing to energy homeostasis
- preventing infections
- lessening immune hypersensitivity
- and maintaining the GI barrier.
One of the most important functions of our GI system is to prevent foreign substances for entering the bloodstream. Without an intact GI barrier, incompletely digested proteins and fats and waste products are allowed to enter the bloodstream. These particles trigger an autoimmune response that can contribute to a myriad of health concerns.
- digestive problems
- autistic spectrum disorders
- bi-polar disorder
- other neuro-psychological and psychiatric problems
So, what do we need to do to have a healthy gut?
First, we have to take care of our gut bacteria starting in pregnancy (or before). Baby’s guts are populated with bacteria from their mothers through vaginal childbirth and breastfeeding. Studies have shown that babies that were born by C-section have a less diverse microbiome than children born vaginally even if they were breastfed. The same was true for infants who were exclusively formula fed.
We want parents (and physicians) to realize that their decisions regarding c-section and breastfeeding can impact their infant’s gut microbiome, and this can have potentially lifelong effects on the child’s health,” says postdoctoral student and first author Meghan Azad, University of Alberta.(http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130211134842.htm)
Not only do we need to make informed choices about birth and feeding, we need to do all that we can to make sure mothers have a healthy gut before delivery. Unfortunately, the option to give birth vaginally or to breastfeed is not always available. Thankfully there are other methods of ensuring good gut health.
Next, we need to protect our gut bacteria by avoiding unnecessary medications that can interfere with good bacteria growth. Antibiotics not only kill the “bad” bacteria causing illness, they also kill bacteria needed for good gut health. Cipro has been shown to affect the gut microflora for more than six weeks. Considering that gut health is needed for a strong immune system, it is no surprise that we often get sick with one thing after another leading to multiple course of antibiotics. Oral contraceptives have also been shown to severely damage gut bacteria.
We then need to make sure we are supporting good gut health through our diet. Gluten has been shown to damage gut health and reduce absorption of vital nutrients. (For more information, read my post Going Against the Grain.) Sugar can also damage your gut by feeding candida and bad bacteria leading to the production of damaging endotoxins. Avoidance of GMO foods and toxins present in non-organic meats and produce also protects gut microflora.
This is a progressions that I definitely want to stop. Prevention is always easier than healing. Studies have shown that decreasing gut permeability prevents the development of some diseases such as Type 1 diabetes.
Our family is focusing on several ways to support and improve our gut health.
- Eating real food
- Eating bone broth to increase dietary levels of collagen, proline, and glycine.
- Eating fermented foods or raw, cultured dairy daily.
Fermented carrots have been a hit. Watermelon rind pickles, not so much. Today I’m going to attempt to make yogurt for the first time.
- Supplementing with probiotics.
I know that my whole family has been exposed to things that will compromise healthy gut bacteria. To aid in healing, we are supplementing with Life 5 probiotics from Young Living. Life 5 builds and restores intestinal health with five strains of bacteria, including two superstrains.
- Supplementing with digestive enzymes as needed.
Eating processed foods deplete the digestive enzymes our bodies need to digest food and allow for absorption of nutrients. By taking digestive enzyme supplements, we can help with digestion and reduce the amount of undigested food proteins that escape the gut. Young Living offers Essentialzyme for adults and MightyZyme for children and teens.
I know that the process to heal my family’s guts and improve our health will take time and effort, but I am committed to doing everything that I can do. I know that I can make a difference, and you can too. If this is all new to you, please don’t get overwhelmed. If you don’t know where to start, I encourage you to start with gut health. Without a healthy gut, you aren’t able to absorb nutrients or improve your immune system. Adding Life 5 probiotics and beginning to make dietary changes is a great way to start. You also can’t go wrong with adding Essentialzyme and MightZymes. You and your family are worth it!
If you are interested in learning more about Young Living products, please let me know. I would love to share more about how these products are making a difference in many people’s lives. YL Member 1628286.