Our gut is comprised of trillions of microscopic organisms that live within our gastro-intestinal tract. These bacteria make up over 90% of the cells of our body. The health of these cells is vitally important to the overall health of our bodies. These cells need to exist in a delicate balance between “good” and ”bad” bacteria. When our bacteria balance gets disrupted, weight gain, depression, brain fog, headaches, skin rashes and anxiety can all appear. When our body is in balance, our healthy bacteria produces over 80% of our body’s serotonin, produces vitamins, digests our food, extracts the nutrients from food, help control our appetite, and regulates our metabolism. These tiny organisms are crucial for our survival! Unfortunately, today’s environment offers multiple assaults on these important microbes.
Items to Eliminate to Promote Gut Health
- BPA or bisphenol A: Research has shown, BPA, found mostly in plastics, can linings and on some cash register receipts, can disrupt hormone signaling and impair brain development in newborns. Other research has found that BPA can damage the intestines, leading to leaky gut. French scientists find that the gut “shows a very high sensitivity” to BPA, increasing intestinal inflammation. This inflammation leads to abdominal discomfort, chronic muscle pain, depressed immune function, and poor nutrient absorption.
- Cleaning and personal care products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and dextran sulfate sodium (DSS). These chemicals are found in many shampoos, toothpastes, body washes, laundry soap and dish soaps because they are foaming agents and cleaners. Unfortunately, both of these compounds have been used in research studies to induce colitis in lab rats. Reading labels on all personal care and cleaning products is key to avoiding these substances.
- Antibiotics: There is no doubt that antibiotics have an important and necessary role in modern medicine. However, there has been a marked increase in the prescription of this valuable medicine. While antibiotics are good at treating many causes of illness, they do not distinguish between good and bad bacteria. They tend to wipe out both, leading to dysbiosis in the gut. It is not only the antibiotics we take to combat illness that impact our gut health but the antibiotics given to conventally raised meats will also impact our gut health. Antibiotics are fed to animals to prevent disease that arises from living in close quarters of feed lots and they are also used to speed up the weight gain of the animals.
- Irritating foods: One of the first steps in restoring gut health is to eliminate common irritating foods from the diet. Foods such as gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, eggs and additives such as carrageenan can all lead to inflammation in the gut. Engaging in a elimination diet of at least three weeks with a gradual reintroduction of each of these foods will help you determine if any of these foods are impacting your gut health.
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners: Sugar has been shown to nourish the disruptive bacteria in our microbiome. It promotes the growth of parasites, worms and fungi, encouraging the growth of Candida Albicans. It also aggravates the lining of our digestive tract. Artificial sweeteners provide sweetness without a feeling of fullness. Our body is programed to associate sweetness with high calorie intake. With artificial sweeteners, our body gets sweetness but few calories, triggering our bodies to continue to look for those calories to the point of over eating. This hunt can lead to weight gain. Artificial sweeteners have also been implicated in increasing glucose intolerance and are poorly absorbed by the small intestine, leading to gas.
- Processed foods: Processed food includes anything that comes in a package that has been altered from its natural state. Processed food such as chips, crackers, cookies and muffins, are filled with simple carbs, an abundance of salt, artificial ingredients, refined oils and many chemicals and toxins that are harmful to gut health.
- Commercial Poly-unsaturated oil or hydrogenated oils: These oils are added to processed foods to make them more shelf stable. They are high in Omega-6 fatty acids which are considered pro-inflammatory. Examples include palm oil, canola oil, soy oil, vegetable oil, corn, safflower oil, corn and peanut oils.
- Alcohol: Alcohol slows the rate of cell replacement in the GI tract and can irritate the stomach lining by stripping away the stomach’s protective mucosal lining. If you are gluten intolerant, alcohol made from gluten containing grains like beer, gin, whiskey and some vodkas can also cause serious reactions.