What's the Big Deal About Healthy Gut Flora?
Healthy gut flora. You've heard about this before. But did you know that altering gut flora has the possibility of turning an anxious, depressed individual with a digestive disorder into a happy, healthy individual? Of course there are many facets of disease and getting the gut microbiota in balance is just one of many other things that must be addressed. In this blog we will focus on why good bacteria (flora) in your gut is necessary and what can hurt our stores of good bacteria in our gut.
New research has demonstrated good bacteria in the digestive system benefits both the gut and the brain. According to a study published in March, 2017 in the Neurobiology of Stress scientific journal, critical communication pathways exist between the microbiota–gut–brain axis. These comprise some of the mechanisms through which the gut microbiota have the ability to signal to the brain. Dysregulation of the gut microbiota leads to a disruption and alteration in all of these central processes potentially leading to stress-related disorders.
The gut has been referred as the body's "second brain" due to its unique role of regulating so many bodily functions. A whopping eighty percent of serotonin is produced by the gastrointestinal tract. Many other neurotransmitters are also made in the GI tract. Both emotional and mental well being are linked to a well functioning gut. Bacterial DNA makes up 99% of the DNA in our bodies.
What Strips Away Good Bacteria From Our Gut
1. GM Foods
Ok so maybe your child's science class in public school is going to tell you this is all hype and not scientifically proven. That is what my daughter came home telling me. Fortunately she knows better. Genetically Modified foods are routinely sprayed with Roundup containing glyphosate. The amount sprayed onto the plants wipes out significant levels of beneficial microflora. A 2013 study published in Journal of Organic Systems discovered pigs fed genetically engineered food were much more likely to suffer from severely inflamed stomachs. Don't participate in being a human experiment. Choose organic foods. It's a wise decision at so many levels - preserving your healthy gut bacteria is one of them.
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup
Due to the high level of energy required by the gut to break down HFCS, leaky gut and inflammation are likely end results of consumption of this highly processed, industrial fat. Unhealthy levels of mercury were also detected in HFCS from soft drinks. Instead of HFCS, choose foods containing less processed more natural oils that haven't been stripped of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Antibiotics have saved countless lives through their ability to destroy infection-causing microorganisms. So if your doctor prescribes an antibiotic by all means take it. Just remember to get in your probiotics when your course of antibiotics is over. While taking care of the harmful bacteria, antibiotics simultaneously wipe out communities of beneficial gut bacteria leading to a destabilization of the intestinal microbiome. According to one study there can be up to a 10-fold reduction in bacterial isolates immediately following antibiotic treatment.
Modern day American wheat has been hybridized in order to improve crop yield and make it more resistant to pests. The amount of gluten in our wheat supply has been intentionally increased in order to give bread a lighter, fluffier texture. This is irritating to the lining of the gut and can lead to antibodies attacking the lining of your gut if the proteins are not recognized. There are new proteins introduced with the hybridization of wheat. Try one of the seven ancient grains instead that include:
Quinoa, millet, sorghum, amaranth, teff, freekeh, chia seeds, farro, spelt and kamut (the last three are not gluten free)
Although I used to think it was fine because it comes from seaweed, dietary doses have been demonstrated to cause GI tract inflammation that triggers an unhealthy immune response similar to a response to the pathogen Salmonella. You find it in ice cream, yogurt, sour cream and soy milk. Even organic foods may contain this thickening agent. Watch for it on your labels when you shop. Many dog foods contain this ingredient too.
6. NSAIDs - non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs
Aspirin, Advil and Motrin sound innocent enough but unfortunately they damage the gut lining allowing microbes, toxins and partially digested food into the bloodstream. This process is known as leaky gut. While NSAIDs block pain through their ability to stop inflammatory producing eicosanoids and cytokines, they also reduce the body's ability to release the chemicals that repair and heal your gut lining.
One thing rang clear in nutrition class that was not easily forgotten. The list of foods that interfere with the body's ability to absorb vitamins and minerals has a common denominator: alcohol. While alcoholic beverages contain few nutrients they require many nutrients to metabolize. B-complex vitamins are depleted rapidly with alcohol consumption. Toxins from alcohol have to be either broken down or stored by the liver. Working the liver above and beyond its normal capacity leads to compromised digestion and may negatively impact the intestinal tract.
According to an article written by professor Gary Wu, U Penn, Philadelphia,
With the advent of metabolomics and deep sequencing techniques, researchers are beginning to decipher the role of specific microbes as well as specific global microbiotic profiles associated with different cancers. These discoveries are leading to new avenues of research into cancer prevention and treatment," she writes. "The relationship between our gut microbiota and cancer appears to be complex, involving both specific microbial species as well as dysregulation of the global microbiota, called dysbiosis."
Probiotics And Fermented Foods
The likelihood is pretty high that you have had some kind of flora altering food or drug in the past few years. Taking a probiotic may be a good way to start repopulating the good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are live microorganisms. The word probiotic comes from the Latin roots "pro," - to promote, and "biotic," - life.
An August of 2017 gastroenterology study demonstrates the ability of a specific probiotic strain improving symptoms of depression. Another study published November of 2016 confirms mental health improvement of petrochemical workers with daily consumption of a probiotic yogurt and probiotic capsules. Purely Integrative offers a variety of over 20 different probiotic supplements.
If you want to boost your beneficial gut flora from food here are some good options:
- Fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut, carrots, green beans, beets, lacto-fermented pickles, traditional cured Greek olives)
- Fermented soybeans (miso, natto, tempeh)
- Cultured dairy products (buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, cheese)