By Jelena Savic
Bachelor of Health Science in Naturopathy (BHSC NAT), Naturopath at Healthy Life Chadstone (VIC)
With more than six years experience as a health professional, Jelena has a special interest in gut health, hormonal issues, skin, stress, anxiety, weight loss and fitness.
As winter approaches, it’s important to understand the important role that gut health plays in supporting our overall health and wellbeing.
According to a recent review of scientific literature published in the BMC Medicine journal, a healthy gut is linked to a strong immune system, good nutrition and even a positive state of mind.
The gastro intestinal tract (gut) is the body’s first line of defense against disease-causing pathogens. It’s also where we digest and absorb nutrients, house our gut microbes (also known as gut bacteria), and regulate immune homeostasis.
The delicate balance between the gut microflora and the immune system play an important role in keeping the body healthy by eliminating invading pathogens and protecting the tissues and organs of the body.
However, medications, poor dietary choices and stress can all have a detrimental effect on the immune system and the body’s defence mechanisms. So as winter approaches, it’s important to understand how to improve your gut health for overall health and well-being.
Food as Medicine
The best foods to support your gut health, especially during a gentle Autumn cleanse (see page 6) include:
Prebiotic foods (including good quality yoghurts, kefir, sauerkraut, oats and indigestible plant fibres such as Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, chicory root, garlic and onions) promote a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut to aid digestion, absorb nutrients and boost the immune function.
Fermented vegetables (such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and tempeh) and fermented beverages (such as kefir, apple cider vinegar and kombucha) promote healthy gut bacteria.
Psyllium husks, chia seeds and flax seeds are a great source of fibre to aid bowel function and regularity.
Apple-cider vinegar or lemon juice – add a tablespoon of either to a glass of water 20 minutes before meals to stimulate digestion, assist the absorption of nutrients and ward off unwanted bacteria and parasites.
Bitter herbs (like ginger, milk thistle, gentian, dandelion greens, coriander, rocket, chicory and globe artichoke) – all help to cleanse the digestive tract, stimulate the liver, gallbladder and kidney function and improve detoxification via the blood.
Foods to Avoid
Poor quality ‘refined’ carbohydrates and sugars (including pastries, white bread and pastas, candy, table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, alcohol and soft drinks). These foods feed bad bacteria and candida in the gut which damages the lining of the small intestine and ultimately interferes with the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. This can also lead to leaky gut, which can cause food sensitivities, generalised inflammation and a compromised immune system – all leading to a reduced ability to ward off disease. The process of refining carbohydrates also removes the fibre and much of the food's nutritional value including B-complex vitamins, healthy oils and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Dairy foods (including milk, butter and cheese) are acidic, inflammatory and mucous-producing and can cause digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhoea. The reason being, that human adults do not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down the lactose in dairy products. So when you consume dairy, your body must also compensate for the increased acidity in order to restore it to a neutral pH balance. Sustained dairy consumption can lead to a range of chronic inflammatory diseases not only in the gut, but throughout the body.
How supplements can help
The following supplements helps to promote gut health:
Probiotics (in powder or capsule form) help to reduce intestinal inflammation and promote a healthy gut by increasing gut immune responses – specifically immunoglobulin A which plays a crucial role in protecting the gut lining against antigens.
Glutamine (powder or capsule) strengthens and supports the gut lining, and helps boost immunity against allergens and pathogenic bacteria.
Bromelain – taken before meals, bromelain aids digestion by promoting the breakdown of protein and amino acid absorption. Amino acids are the building blocks of the body and are vital in the growth, development and recovery of all body tissues including immune cells.
Note: At Healthy Life we recommend consulting with one of our in-store naturopaths to confirm what supplements are the best for you.