By PAOLA NAVARETTE
The adage “You are what you eat” is closer to the truth than one might think. Gut health is important to a person’s overall well being. In fact, it can be said that the gut is the body’s second brain as it is closely connected to the digestive, immune, and central nervous systems and it can affect both the physical and mental health.
“The brain and gut are intimately connected. Your thoughts and emotions can trigger symptoms in the gut, and the health of your gut can shape your mental well-being,” dietitian-nutritionist Cheshire Que said in a forum sponsored by sanitary napkin brand Jeunesse Anion.
She said that one major factor that determines a person’s gut health is the gut microbiota, which is the diverse population of microorganisms that can be found in the intestine.
“Stress can cause more contractions in the intestines and increase sensitivity. If you don’t eat well, if you don’t eat at the right time, you abuse your lifestyle, and you don’t get enough sleep, you decrease the number of gut bacteria,” Que said. “When your gut lining is destroyed, that is when toxins are allowed into your bloodstream and into your brain, making you more susceptible to exhaustion, nutritional deficiencies, inflammatory conditions, depression, or anxiety.”
To keep the gut healthy, Que said it is necessary to have a healthy lifestyle and consume a well-balanced diet. Here are some of her tips on how to heal the gut and bring back the balance in the body.
Remove the triggers
The first step to a healthy gut is to remove the triggers in the form of gluten, dairy, refined sugar, and soy. In the past, I would only remove gluten in the diet if my patients have celiac disease. But now, studies have shown the gluten from our favorite bread, cakes, and pastries can trigger gut inflammation and increase the permeability of the intestinal barrier.
We also remove dairy because it stimulates our body to produce Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a growth hormone, which when you’re an adult, you don’t really need because it just helps your body develop tumors. For good bone health, you can consume calcium-rich non-dairy foods such as leafy green vegetables and broccoli, both of which are also great sources of vitamin K, another key nutrient for bone health.
Repair with fresh produce, functional food, and supplementations
The second step is to give your body what it needs to rebuild the gut lining. I always give my clients tips on how to make sure that they get fresh produce because the challenge is to make them available. I know it’s cheaper to buy one-piece chicken with rice than salad. But you have to be creative—if you cannot help it, make sure that when you get home, you have fruit waiting for you. You can make a fruit and vegetable smoothie to reduce the inflammation in your stomach.
In addition, you can also ask your dietitian about how to include supplementations and functional food in your diet. Functional food is a food that provides benefits beyond basic nutrition. They play a role in reducing the risk of certain diseases and can increase the healing ability of the body.
Once your body has patched up the leaks in the gut, you need to help it grow a healthy layer of good bacteria—flora that helps protect the gastrointestinal tract and assist with digestion.
These beneficial bacteria strengthen your immune system, help your body make vitamins, improve metabolism, and aid in the absorption of minerals. The two most important groups are lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
Prebiotics also help by feeding and promoting the growth of the right organisms. Honey is a good example because it assists your body in producing insulin. If you have difficulties falling asleep, consume honey—not milk—and it will help you have a good sleep.