Welcome to the Gut Honest Truth blog where a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner gives you digestible information to tackle your chronic health concerns.
That’s me, Katie Morra;
Side note- If you want an even deeper dive into understanding and resolving Irritable Bowel Syndrome - check out my "How to Get Rid of Your IBS" e-book. This book aims to help you reduce symptoms of food sensitivities, bloating, excessive gas, constipation, diarrhea and other symptoms of poor gut health by getting to the root cause and supporting a healthy gut microbiome.
And as always, working one-on-one for your specific needs is always our top recommendation, check out our appointment options to get started with one of our licensed health care professionals today.
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What is the gut microbiome?
The microbiome aka the vast community of various bacteria, yeast, parasites, viruses that live harmoniously or not so harmoniously together is the most studied and most diverse biome that humans have.
The gut microbiota have roles in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, as well as cognitive and immune system function. The notion that all bacteria is “bad bacteria” is antiquated, as we’re seeing a symbiotic relationship between the commensal bacteria and the human body. The balance of the microbiome is impacted throughout the entire lifespan, the first few years of life having a significant effect. Research even indicates that the microbial balance and diversity can play a role in the development of eczema, asthma, and allergies.
Your microbiome is sensitive to your diet, lifestyle, stress, and exercise. Meaning, we do have a say in our gut health by way of our actions and choices. If there is an imbalance of the bacterial harmony, you might experience health consequences as a result.
Gastrointestinal tract facts:
The digestive tract is about 15 feet long from mouth to anus, and consists of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, rectum and anus. It also requires the work of the accessory organs- the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and salivary glands
The gut microbiome is composed of 100 trillion microorganisms
The gut is not just responsible for the digestion and absorption of food, but houses about 70% of the immune system
A specialized subsection of the nervous system called the enteric nervous system (or ENS) is specific to the digestive tract and acts independently of the autonomic nervous system. The ENS is a bidirectional highway between the brain and the gut
The distribution of microbes along the GI tract vary and are influenced by pH, anatomy, oxygen, and nutrient availability
Peristalsis is the scientific term for the wavelike contractions that move food through the GI tract
Your stool and digestive symptoms gives us a snap shot of your hydration, diet, and overall health
The terms gut health and microbiome get intertwined quite often, but there is a difference between the two. The microbiome is referring to the microorganisms that are housed within the gastrointestinal tract. So, what exactly is gut health?
What we mean when we say “gut health”
“Gut health” is a broad term for how the microbiome and its functions benefit you (the host). Since we know your microbiome has an impact on your health and well-being, it’s no wonder there’s an influx of tips and tricks to support you best.
That said, when we refer to “gut health", we’re speaking to many factors such as proper digestion, absorption, and synthesis of nutrients in a digestive tract. Optimal gut health is capable of adapting to stressors, serving as a defense against pathogens, and performing vital functions to support your nutrient absorption. The goal then is to have a symbiotic relationship between you and the gut bacteria to maintain the integrity of the intestinal lining, synthesize nutrients, and aid in the modification of metabolic and immune function; some of which relies partially on your diet, physical activity, and lifestyle choices.
Research and the Gut Bacteria
Though still in its infancy, research on the microbiome and the overall health and well-being of the individual does highlight a few focal points to optimize your health. Though there are different dietary approaches and ideas, it seems that fiber intake has a distinct impact on microbiome diversity and SCFA production. Fiber or prebiotic foods, in this case, serves as the fuel source for the good bacteria.
Knowing that one of the only generalized pieces of advice that is supported in the scientific literature is the positive impact of fiber (type, quantity, and consistency) and it’s impact on aspects of your health such as cholesterol, blood sugar control, cardiac health, and of course normalized bowel movements, amongst others.
Fiber is something many people do not get enough of. It is the part of plant foods that your body doesn’t digest or absorb.
Types of Fiber:
Soluble (dissolves in water): forms into a gel-like material. It aids in lowering blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels. This is commonly found in oats, peas, beans, apples, carrots, barley, and psyllium husk.
Insoluble (does not dissolve in water): promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk. The most common sources are whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, and vegetables.
The current recommendation for fiber intake is 15g for every 1,000 calories you consume.
However, when intending to increase your fiber intake, please take 2 things into consideration:
1. Increase fluids first.
2. Increase fiber slowly (2-3g/day per week before increasing anymore) to avoid GI discomfort or constipation.
Do you need a supplement for gut health?
There is no shortage of supplement stacks that are meant to optimize, fix, or otherwise support your gut health. Take probiotics for example. In theory, adding good bacteria (also found in fermented foods) could be a supportive approach. However, the research is lacking on the efficacy of generalized or prolonged use of probiotic supplements. In fact, most of the research is actually condition specific. Meaning, not all probiotics are going to be tolerated well or positively impact you the way you’ve (probably) been lead to believe.
Of course, there is a time and a place for certain supplementation but it’s important that you take into consideration why, if, and how any supplement is meant to be before you introduce it.
Creating a healthy gut is more involved than just adding a supplement or two. And while some of these supplements can absolutely have a positive impact on your health, we’d all be remiss if we didn’t highlight lifestyle and dietary facts that influence your gut health.
A final note:
As a whole, we’re still in the very beginning stages of understanding the gut microbiomes effect on the body, and how to best support your health by focusing on your gut health. In the future, we hope we all have a better understanding of microbial diversity and how to target nutrition, herbal, and supplemental approaches in order to best optimize health.
5 Tips for a Healthy Gut:
Focus on eating hygiene. Chew slowly; avoid eating in the car and under stress; take time to be present with your food.
Mix up the colors. Different foods (colors) have different nutrient profiles… otherwise everything would be a blueberry. Get in as many colors per week as possible.
Find stress management techniques, deep breaths, implement vagal nerve toning, & practice being in a parasympathetic vs sympathetic state.
Reap the health benefits of movement and find a form that you can commit to daily.
Ensure you’re eating enough fiber per day.
If you have spent time optimizing all of these things and still aren’t feeling entirely symptom free, we recommend working with a health practitioner at Gut Honest Truth.