When I was in nursing school, and even as a practicing RN on pediatric floors, my understanding of gut health was very minimal and was limited almost solely to the disease process- not the healing process.
We were adept at treating GI ailments with medications that MAYBE would bring some relief to a patients symptoms, but certainly did not bring them to a state of greater health. For example, my understanding of digestive health was limited to diagnoses such as: IBS, Chrones disease, diarrhea, vomiting, diverticulitis, and maybe a few more. I thought "we give them a pill that removes their pain, and all is well!" but there was never discussion of how gut health impacts mental health and overall physical health. I was vastly uneducated in how what we eat can be the underlying cause of skin issues like eczema, dermatitis, and numerous other skin conditions.
Why is this relevant? Well, you know that phrase "you are what you eat?" it is only becoming more true with every passing day. It is estimated that approximately 70% of the cells that make up your immune system are in your gut! I was blown away when I learned this. Did you also know that the gut and brain form out of the same tissue in utero? This is why when you go to a naturopath for depression, anxiety, insomnia or other mental health issues, they will automatically start treating the gut. If you want your brain to function more optimally, you have to start helping your gut.
What happens over time is that we are exposed to foods that cause inflammation in the intestines that creates what is now known as leaky gut. Essentially what this means is that allergen proteins that would otherwise be filtered out through your intestines are being allowed into the bloodstream. Antibodies to those proteins are made, and the body begins to attack those proteins leading to things like skin rashes of many kinds, mood swings, diarrhea, constipation, food allergies and intolerances and autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disorders, hashimotos, graves disease and many others.
Here is a list of foods that tend to cause inflammation in the gut. You will find that this information varies among sources, so keep in mind YOUR body and your genetics (meaning to a certain degree, your heritage plays a role in the types of foods you digest better than others):
Dairy (if you think about it, dairy is made to grow a 200lb + animal...it is full of hormones that cause liver and gut disruption in most people).
Vegetable oils (especially corn and canola)
Artificial colors (most are made from petroleum...that's right.)
Grain fed and conventional meats
Antibiotic use- this kills both the good and bad bacteria, and most studies show that it takes at least 6 months to get the gut bacteria back to its former state prior to antibiotic use. And this is not taking into account the time it takes to bring it to OPTIMAL function.
Before you get overwhelmed by this list and look at your pantry crying, pick ONE thing to start with! Cut it out and once you're adjusted to having that food eliminated, add another and take note of how you're feeling!
Of course, eliminating is the first step. The next step will be replenishing the bacteria in your gut with healthy gut bacteria, healing the lining of your gut and reducing inflammation. If you or your children have any of these issues: vomiting, diarrhea, rashes that come and go, eczema, mood or behavior issues, thyroid disorders, hormone or weight issues that won't budge, it may be time to start thinking about your gut health!
In my next post, I will be discussing simple and affordable ways to replenish your gut with good bacteria, reduce inflammation and heal the gut lining.
To your wellness,