Gut Health for Good Health

Large and small intestines on an xray screen

What does the gut do exactly? The role of the gut is to absorb nutrients IN from the food we eat and excreting OUT the waste and by-products.

A healthy gut can do all that but also serves to regulate hormones, detoxify and works as an effective barrier. The gut is composed from one layer of epithelial cells, which have a special structure with microvilli increasing the digestion/absorption surface. Those cells are linked to each other by tight junctions composed by proteins which keep the cells close to each other and allow to open to let through some components.

Food can damage the gut barrier. There are compounds in some food that are harmful to cell barrier or can open up the tight barriers of the gut, like grains, pseudo-grains, legumes, alcohol, alcohol sugar (-ol), nightshades. Those compounds are agglutinins, prolamins, alcohol, saponins. However, there is a lot of bio-individuality on what sort of damage those compounds can do.

Not only food is damaging the gut’s integrity. Cortisol level is also impacting the gut and can lead to gut dysbiosis. Our cortisol level is influenced by the stress but also sleep, via the circadian cycle (melatonin vs cortisol), and physical activity.

The best-known damage is to have a leaky gut (or increased intestinal permeability). It means that food not digested, bacteria, or other components supposed to stay out are entering between the epithelial cells due to the tight junctions being loose, resulting in inflammation and chronic diseases.

What about gut dysbiosis? Our human body is populated by more than 100 trillion of microbes, with around 70% of this microbiota living in the gut, representing 300 to 4500 species. The gut microbiome is our fingerprint, unique to each of us and it is changing based on the food we eat, environmental and emotional factors. The gut microbiome helps the digestion process, elaborates the tight function by producing the proteins composing those junctions, synthetizes vitamins, regulates our immune systems. Gut dysbiosis is any unbalance in this microbiome population (in term of number, proportion of the species, location of the microbiome, etc.). Drugs and medications also impact the integrity of our microbiome and can have a huge impact on our overall health and ability to heal.

How to feed this microbiome for optimal health? Here is the list of the gut microbiome superfoods. Diversity is key as each of those foods favorize certain species of our microbiome.

  • Lot of vegetables and fruits (raw and cooked)
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, arugula, etc.)
  • Root vegetables
  • Alliums family (onions, garlic)
  • Leafy greens (content unique fermentable sugars that feed some species of good bacteria)
  • Pea (fresh/split)
  • Apple (Renetta, Granny Smith have the highest level of polyphenol)
  • Berries (raspberries are the most potent pathogen inhibitors, cranberries, blueberries)
  • Citrus family (lemon, orange pulp and peel)
  • Mushrooms
  • Extra virgin olive oil (the real one from high quality)
  • Honey (and propolis, royal jelly)
  • Green and black tea
  • Chocolate/cacao powder (unsweetened)
  • Nuts (walnuts are best, pistachios, almonds for the butyrate level)
  • Crickets and insects (those with an exoskeleton)
  • Bone broth (for its content of glycine, glutamine and arginine)
  • Fish (for the protein, omega 3, vitamins A and D)
  • Shellfish (for the Zinc)
  • Fermented foods (sauerkraut (careful of the ingredients), kombucha)

In conclusion, eat nutrient-rich food is essential to feed our microbiome and heal our gut, but also it is important to regulate our stress level, ensure to sleep 7 to 9 hours consistently and exercise regularly.  A healthy gut microbiome means a healthy body and mind.

 

 

*Source: Dr Sarah Ballantyne (aka The Paleo Mom)

Ludy de Menten is a Certified Health Coach and an Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) Protocol Certified Coach with a PhD in Biology. She can be reached by email (healthywithludy@gmail.com), by phone (919-724-1107) or via her website www.healthywithludy.com.