You may have heard the words 'microbiome', 'dysbiosis', and 'leaky gut' in magazines or in the media but what do these crazy words mean? Do you suffer from bloating, pain, constipation, diarrhoea or reflux? Uncomfortable gut symptoms indicate an imbalance in your digestive system. Gut health can affect your whole body, with digestive imbalances related to allergy, autoimmunity, brain fog, fatigue and even may lead to diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Not everyone with leaky gut gets a gut ache.
The microbiome is the billions of bacteria and micro-organisms that live in our gut. These bacteria live in your digestive system and they play a major role in digesting food you eat, absorbing and make nutrients. They are also involved in your metabolism, body weight, immune health and may also contribute to healthy mood. Everyone's microbiome is individual and is different due to genetics, stress, diet, where we live or grew up, medications we take etc.
A healthy gut has a barrier that is effective at keeping the contents of the gut, such as its microbiota, undigested food particles and toxins, from escaping into the bloodstream. If the gut is healthy then it can perform all its functions of digestion, absorption and synthesis of nutrients and keep out the nasties.
If gut microbiome becomes imbalanced or disrupted – this is called dysbiosis or leaky gut. This can be caused by many things, including stress, illness, being overweight, overuse of antibiotics, or eating a poor quality diet or eating foods that are not appropriate for your body such as dairy or gluten.. If your gut barrier is not strong then small particles, like bacteria or small bits of food are able to escape into your bloodstream, where they are seen as invaders and the immune system strikes an attack. When the immune system is activated long term, this can lead to inflammation and can potentially lead to issues with physical and mental health.
Your body produces digestive enzymes to help break food into smaller particles, so they can be absorbed. If you are stressed, tend to eat on the run, or have a digestive disorder of some kind, you may not produce sufficient enzymes. This can lead to symptoms of bloating and fullness after meals due to slow or incomplete digestion.
Certain herbs and nutrients can improve digestive enzyme function and help heal a leaky gut:
Gentian and dandelion root: these naturally bitter herbs stimulate your body’s production of enzymes
Vegetarian digestive enzymes: plant-derived enzymes which can boost your body’s own supply, improving nutrient absorption and reducing bloating.
Glutamine: a component of protein that improves the integrity of your gut lining, therefore can help reduce gut symptoms.
Zinc and vitamin A: nutrients essential for keeping the cells in your gut lining tightly packed together, reducing the gaps that result in a ‘leaky’ gut.
Increase your intake of fruit, vegetables and fibre-rich foods such as legumes and wholegrains, which promote beneficial gut bacteria and overall digestive health.
The addition of an appropriate probiotics (good gut bugs), fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, good quality yoghurt and other nutrients may help in some instances if you suffer digestive issues. These are not appropriate for everyone though and can cause some people increased symptoms such as bloating or nausea.
Reduce your intake of alcohol and processed, sugary and fatty foods which can harm your gut lining.
Focus on stress management. Stress reduces digestive enzyme production and can lead to a decreased absorption of essential vitamins and minerals.
Eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and don’t eat on the run. Eating slowly signals to your gut that food is coming, stimulating enzymes and improving digestive function.
Leaky gut is not generally something that is corrected overnight and it may take some time to mend that lifetime of damage, but with help and the correct nourishment you can get your gut healthy and happy again
In health and happiness