Gut Health and Gut Flora

What is gut health?

These days there is a lot of talk about gut health. When you speak with a health care practitioner you find that often the big topic is gut health. So what exactly is gut health? When speaking about the gut we are referring to the gastrointestinal tract (This includes all the organs from the mouth to the anus). Issues such as bloating, gas, reflux and bowel motions etc are indicators of how well you are digesting your food. Gut health is about encouraging your gastrointestinal tract to work effectively in the absorption of nutrients, in the proper elimination of waste and in helping the immune system to work well.

Why would my gut struggle to digest properly?

There are many factors as to why your gastrointestinal tract isn’t digesting the way it should. This is a reason why if you have any of the problems indicated – bloating, gas, reflux or problematic bowel motions – should see a professional and consider your diet. A naturopath or nutritionist will help navigate the stressor and help create a diet – which may include supplements – to help resolve the issue and return you to full health. Some factors that can cause issues with digestion are an imbalance of digestive enzymes, an imbalance in gut flora or a hyperpermeable gastrointestinal tract.

What is a hyperpermeable gastrointestinal tract?

This is more commonly known as leaky gut. Within your gastrointestinal tract you have a lining that are cells held tightly together. There are substances that people can consume which can cause these tight junctions to loosen up and in doing this substances like gluten leak into the circulation, Hence the term leaky gut. This can lead to inflammation in the body and many other issues. You can improve the permeability through diet and improving your gut flora.

What is gut flora?

This is the bacteria within your gastrointestinal tract. Yes, this can sound unappealing, but there is growing research indicating that our body host’s bacteria all the time – whether it be in your gut or on your skin. There are good and bad bacteria. The aim is to encourage good bacteria within your gastrointestinal tract. This is done by introducing, or increasing the  probiotics (or good bacteria) in the diet. These good bacteria create many benefits for your body. Prebiotics – foods which feed the good bacteria and promote their growth are also required in your diet. Probiotics and prebiotics are particularly important in your diet after a course of antibiotics – which kills all the good and bad bacteria in the gut.

How do I replenish my gut flora?

You can take probiotic supplements. You can also have fermented foods and drink. The most well known of fermented foods would be your yogurt and cheese, but other old fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir, are returning to popularity and bringing many benefits to those who eat or drink them.

What is sauerkraut?

It is chopped pickled cabbage. It’s finely cut and fermented by various lactic acid bacteria. You can buy it in health food stores in different flavours, depending on what other foods have been added to the cabbage to ferment. You can also make your own sauerkraut at home.

What is kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented black, green or oolong tea. It is fermented with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). The scoby feeds on the sugar and releases the good bacteria. After its initial fermentation it can have flavours added and go through a second fermentation process which produces a pleasant bubbly drink. My favorite is lemon and cherry. You can buy Kombucha at health food stores. Woolworths has also begun to stock Kombucha and some health cafes include it as a beverage.  You can also make Kombucha yourself. Scobys can be purchased on the internet (or ordered through Sophie). To learn how to make it you can watch this video by Donna Schwenk

What is Kefir?

Kefir is another fermented drink which is made using Kefir grains. This was originally how people used to preserve their milk. You can make it with milk, water or coconut water. You can buy at a health food stores or make it yourself. Kefir grains can also be purchased on the internet. To learn how to make it you can watch this video by Donna Schwenk

Who benefits from probiotics?

Most people do. There are the small few who don’t because they may have an over production of bacteria in their gastrointestinal tract. Again this is why it is good to see a nutritionist or a naturopath. They will help navigate whether this may be the case for some people.

Some benefits of good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract:

–       Relieve bloating and gas

–       Can help with thyroid imbalances

–       Can help Joint pain

–       Can help with Chronic fatigue

–       Strengthen the immune system

–       Weight loss

Sophie Windeyer

Nutritionist at Health Space Burwood

Consulting on Mondays and Thursdays

Call 02 9745 3700

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