Poor gut health affects everyone differently, and when looking at the Standard American Diet (SAD), it’s a no-brainer that health levels in the United States is not what one might expect, especially knowing that we spend the most on health care. We as Americans have the most processed food-like substances in our grocery stores than anywhere else in the world, and yet we have an abysmal record in longevity, infant mortality, anything on the Autism Spectrum, diabetes, heart disease and of course the big C, compared to just about any other developed nation. The list goes on and on, and it seems that society in general, as well as the medical community as a whole is looking the other way.
You’ve heard the saying about putting watered down fuel in your gas tank, and how your car will run as a result; so how can we as humans come close to truly thriving when we are putting watered down, food-like substances into our mouth? We know that the 100 trillion bugs in our gut are actively involved in many aspects of our physiology that affect brain function, and as such these bugs directly impact both overall health and resistance to disease.
The garbage sold in the grocery stores today
News flash everyone…your gut needs living food…things with less than 5 ingredients on the food label…preferably less than 3 if you can. If you’re shopping more in the middle of the grocery store than on the outer isles, you’re likely buying canned, boxed, processed, fabricated, pasteurized, homogenized, lite, low fat, no fat, sugar free, no trans-fat, zero cholesterol substances that the grocery store happily sells you. If you’re eating food fitting any of those labels as your staple, you’re not putting quality food into the tank. It is as simple as that. If you’re not fighting disease, you’re most definitely feeding it. Keep this in mind the next time you grab a burger and a coke of if you’re eating out more than 5 times a week.
Eating whole foods, in their least processed state give your body the ability to build the good bacteria in your gut and keep the less-desirable ones at bay; but it is a constant battle. You’ve heard “an apple a day” and as David Perlmutter, MD says “A healthy microbiome translates into a healthy human.” Excess sugars is one of the top enemies, as they’re found in just about anything, or in the byproduct of how your body breaks them down. Things as seemingly healthy as rice or oats, convert almost instantly to sugars in the body, and our goal is to switch from burning sugars constantly for fuel to burning mostly fats instead. One cannot have a healthy biome when they burn sugars for their primary fuel…they tend to hold belly fat, have cravings and seem constantly hungry throughout the day. Eating healthy fats and lean proteins helps to switch to more efficient fat fueling, and things start to fall into place, feeding the good bugs, clearing the mind and forcing the stubborn pounds away at the same time.
The brain/gut connection
Remember the 100 trillion bugs I mentioned? Well, your gut comprises 100 million neurons as well…more than the spinal cord. Go figure. The gut is obviously not a thinking, reasoning brain, but one that evidence is strongly suggesting affects your mood. Those butterflies in your stomach? About 90% of the cells responsible for that feeling are delivering those messages to the brain, and not the other way around. On a larger scale, what are some of the biggest psychological health dilemmas today? How about anxiety. Depression. Bipolar disorder. ADHD and autism…clinical studies show (here, here, here and here for example) that a healthy gut tends to not be associated with people with these conditions. Bringing in more PREbiotic (fiber based foods you’re likely already eating hopefully like onions, tomatoes, garlic & asparagus) and PRObiotic foods (fermented foods, quality yogurt or supplements) to work in harmony with one another are the keys to building a healthy colony of gut bacteria.
VIDEO! Check out this awesome video by ASAPscience on having a second brain:
Our current personal story:
We’re halfway through an approximate month-long Introduction phase of the GAPS Diet (Gut And Psychology Syndrome). In my home, three of us are on it…while we’re all looking for varied health benefits in the long run, the primary reason we chose this challenging path is for our son’s strong ADD characteristics. We learned about GAPS over 10 years ago, and when reviewing even the most basic information about it then, we said that would simply never fly…WAY too much work!!
Although we’ve always cooked almost every meal at home on a regular basis anyway this was still a huge step up for us, and quite an undertaking. We’ve been gluten free already for many years but finally chose to do the “full Gaps” diet protocol for several months before starting the more in depth and limiting intro diet, so as to make it easier on us all, and we’re glad we did. The GAPs diet experience is multiple blog posts in and of itself for a later date, but the premise here is that without a healthy gut, nothing else in the human body can work efficiently. This temporary diet protocol has different time frames for different people, but the introduction diet is meant to be very restrictive, and yet very healing, before moving into the “Full GAPS” phase, which is quite adaptable to stay on forever, if you like.
In a nutshell it requires no sugars, no grains, no dairy and no starchy vegetables…just easy to digest, nutrient dense foods. For some, one slip or cheat sets you right back enough times to know it’s simply not worth it. For others, if the healing went well a cheat here and there is not the end of the world, and for us, the jury is still out. However, unlike other 3-day to 2 week cleanses we’ve done in the past, we’re stable now, well fed, clear heads and past some of the initial fog and headaches and moodiness of the first week or so. Also, although pretty trim to start with, I’ve maintained my weight, and mysteriously lost a little belly I always kept hidden behind my shirt!
In our house, we’ve tried a lot over the years towards our good health and we lead a very conscious and purposeful effort towards finding the right solutions for our family to thrive in all areas. We’re not done yet, and yet know we’re on the right path by building a healthy gut and building on that premise to support mind, body and spirit.
Future post…top three baby steps towards better gut health