As modern medicine evolves, we learn more and more about our bodies and the vast number of ways various parts of our system are interconnected.
Recently, great strides have been made in understanding the role that the gut has to play in our overall health – from chronic disorders to mental health problems.
The health and balance of the bacteria in our guts can determine many aspects of our health, and if our guts are out of balance, it can lead to chronic problems – even if you don’t notice any intestinal distress.
If you have an autoimmune disease, allergies, fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, or are simply struggling to lose weight without much success, the key to your health problems may in fact lie in your gut.
While there are other possible imbalances that can also cause or otherwise impact such disorders – including hormone imbalances and a compromised immune system – the gut is undeniably important as a potential source of health difficulties.
Gut Flora And Chronic Illness
A recent study comparing the naturally occurring bacteria from the stomachs of children in Italy to that of children in a West African village in Burkina Faso found that the West African children – whose diets consisted of beans, whole grains, vegetables and nuts – had healthier, more diverse, and more robust gut flora than the Italian children, whose diets were high in meat, fat and sugar.
In fact, the flora in the guts of the Italian children produced by-products that were shown to cause inflammation, promote allergy and autoimmune dysfunction, and lead to obesity(1).
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This study tells us something important about the role of “good” and “bad” bacteria in our guts. “Good” bacteria helps extract energy from food sources like fiber, and produce short chain fatty acids which reduce inflammation and boost your immune system. “Bad” bacteria, however, promote inflammation, allergies, asthma, and eczema, as well as other complications(2).
Balancing the bacteria in your gut can help fight acne(3) and help manage autoimmune diseases like inflammatory bowel disease or colitis(4), and there’s even evidence that it can help cure delirium and brain fog in patients with liver failure(5). There’s no shortage to the effects that a properly balanced gut microbiome can have on your health.
Promoting Healthy Gut Bacteria
Here are some simple steps to promoting a healthier, more diverse range of bacteria in your own stomach:
- Eat lots of fiber and whole foods. Beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and veggie all feed “good” bacteria in your gut.
- Cut down on the amount of sugar, processed foods, and animal by-products you eat. Just as fiber and whole foods feed the “good” bacteria in your stomach, these foods can feed the “bad” bacteria.
- Avoid using antibiotics whenever possible. These can have a huge impact on your gut flora.
- Eat foods rich in probiotics regularly. They’re healthy and promote digestive health, reducing inflammation and allergies.
- Ask your doctor about specialized testing. Organic acid testing and stool testing can tell you a lot about the balance of bacteria in your gut and can help catch problems before they develop into crises.