Healing my gut! How the microbiome impacts wellness
Disclaimer: I know absolutely nothing. I am not a doctor and I don't even play one on TV. I’m just really adamant about relieving my own suffering and by extension the suffering of others. Take what resonates and leave the rest. All opinions shared are my own.
I’ve oscillated from one extreme to the next looking for a diet that will help me maintain my ideal weight, keep my skin clear and my hormones in check. When I first started my health journey, I went completely plant based and was doing a lot of raw foods and juicing. It felt amazing initially, but it was not sustainable. When I went to add in more cooked foods, a blood test revealed that I was deficient in essential nutrients vitamin d and vitamin b12 which is common with a lot of people who do not consume meat and dairy. But once I noticed I was losing way too much weight and my hair was not growing I knew that something was wrong. So now I am focusing on healing my gut by utilizing a scientific approach. There is so much fake science and pseudoscientific theories out there, like alkaline vs acidic, that even I have perpetuated. Now I am ready to go on this journey and am taking y’all along for the ride!
what is gut health
Our gut or gastrointestinal tract, run from our mouth to our anus and is the gate keeper to overall health and immunity. The gut is a very complex system, home to living organisms, immune and nervous system cells, and hormonal glands. It’s where we regulate many essential hormones and neurotransmitters, metabolize nutrients and neutralize pathogens, and where you’ll find 70% of our immune system
The human body is host to tons of microbes, on our skin, hair, mouth, and vagina but our gut is home to the largest proportion of them. Before we are born, we are free of microbes but whether we’re born vaginally and get colonized by our mothers bacteria or c-section play a factor in the development of our own unique microbial blueprint by age 3. These bacteria digest your food, govern your appetite, control metabolism, orchestrate the immune system and influence your mood. When these bacteria flourish, we flourish, when they struggle, we struggle, when they crave sugar we crave sugar. Metabolism is the key to weight loss. And the microbiome is the key to metabolism.
why is it so important
Our gut is like a garden. We, the host provide microbes with nutrients and a homely stable environment - a healthy garden in which to grow. Our metabolism, weight and overall health depend on the balance of microbial life within our gastrointestinal tract. What we eat determines the fate of our microbes. We can positively affect our bacterial composition through our diet and lifestyle choices. When we eat foods that keep this inner world in balance, our metabolism runs at peak efficiency, we maintain an ideal weight and develop healthy glowing skin and hair. But when we consume foods and medicines that throw this inner world out of balance we put ourselves at risk for a bunch of diseases - from skin rashes to cancer, we feel hungry all the time, anxious depressed and just no like ourselves.
Many health and skin issues are caused by inflammation which is our body’s protective immune response to a perceived threat or injury. When our gut wall is damaged, substances pass through the gut lining (known as leaky gut) and end up in the blood stream leading to low grade systemic inflammation, which is linked to acne, auto immune disorders, depression and anxiety, obesity and diabetes. This is why it’s so important to eat a diet that supports the integrity of your gut wall.
The general principle to gut health is “eat to share”. Different bacteria feed on different nutrients so we want to eat a healthy balanced diet that covers all nutrient groups. Protein and fat are essential nutrients for gut health and I overlooked the importance of maintaining a balanced diet when I went plant based. It’s all about balance, there’s no need to cut out meat, just enjoy it alongside fiber rich plant foods. I’m learning that a healthy diet balances moderate amounts of meat with good sources of complex carbs, fibre and phytochemicals.
How I knew my gut was out of balance.
Behind water, protein is the most plentiful substance found in our bodies and makes up the structure of our hair, skin, nails, gut lining, organs and tendons. Low levels of testosterone indicated that I wasn’t getting enough good quality protein.
Cravings for sweets.
My craving for sugar, carbohydrates and just overall starch has gotten pretty out of control. It lets me know that there is an overgrowth of bacteria that crave starches and I need to starve them out.
It’s really sad how much my hair has thinned out over this past year. The microbiome is essential for manufacturing the key nutrients that are necessary for hair growth.
Depression, anxiety, brain fog, fatigue, inability to concentrate.
These symptoms were initially why I got the blood work done. I tried taking Vitamin D and B12, and Omega 3 supplements but I know that my microbiome is off. There is so much evidence to support the relationship between our gut and our mood, the gut brain axis, the fact that there is more serotonin in our guts, etc. I’m beginning to see a relationship between my low moods and the levels of inflammation I’m experiencing.
how i'm healing my gut
I’m following a four step 8-week program towards healing my gut known as The Four R’s.
Remove from the diet and gut anything that disrupts microbial balance
Replace the stomach acid and enzymes we need to boost metabolism
Reinoculate with probiotics and prebiotics that help friendly bacteria flourish.
Repair the gut wall and the intestinal lining by eating foods and taking supplements that support gut health
Additionally, incorporating regular stress reduction techniques like movement, breathwork and meditation are also key to healing the microbiome. Our guts are so sensitive to stress so making these rituals a regular part of my lifestyle is so necessary!
Stay tuned next week when I show what I eat once I’ve removed all inflammatory foods during my 2 week elimination diet. I’ll go into why these foods are reactive and how removing them for brief period of time gives the gut a chance to heal. Have you noticed any changes to how you feel depending on how you eat? Are you a good host to your microbiome?
The Mircrobiome Diet, Raphael Kellman M.D. 2014
The Beauty Chef Gut Guide, Carla Oates, 2019