Healthy Gut Flora = Healthy Human
Promoting healthy gut flora is common knowledge among holistic health professionals and becoming more a part of mainstream thinking. The gut lining*, and the gut’s flora, is the seat of healthy digestion, healthy immunity, healthy nervous system function, and ultimately healthy human bodies.
Healthy gut micro-organisms help to create and maintain the bodies various immune cells and keeps the immune system balanced. 80-85% of our immunity is located in the gut wall. It just makes good sense to maintain healthy gut flora!
90% of serotonin production happens in your gut. Serotonin is one of the happy chemicals your body makes to regulate mood and keep that smile on your face. Anxiety, depression, and negative moods are not in your head. They are in your gut. Maintain healthy gut microbial balance maintains happy, smiling faces.
Our gut flora help to: digest food so we can absorb and use nutrients (we are what we eat but even more importantly we are what we can digest, absorb into our blood stream, and deliver to our cells. Yup, cellular health again!), manufacture nutrients necessary for health & life, maintain healthy bowel function to avoid constipation or diarrhea, prevent digestive tract symptoms and illnesses, prevent invasion by pathogenic organisms, neutralize toxic substances, maintain a healthy nervous system (think about the saying “gut feeling”), manufacture neurotransmitters that regulate and maintain happy moods, and many, many more crucial functions in the human body. Healthy gut flora is essential to and synonymous with good health.
Taking probiotics to re-establish your gut's microbial health is one part of the equation. *You must heal the irritated & inflamed gut lining before re-establishing the microbial colonies. *Gut lining & healing the gut lining are both marked with asteriks to highlight this point to you: healing the gut lining comes first before trying to alter gut microbial populations.
What compromises healthy gut flora? Some examples:
1. Manufactured, processed 'foods' are devoid of nutrition, they lack beneficial microbial flora and are high in sugar and refined grains that feed unhealthy gut bacteria. Unhealthy gut bacteria compete for space with and can destroy healthy gut bacteria. Manufactured 'foods' are also high in chemicals that destroy healthy gut bacteria: preservatives, artificial flavors & colors, and food 'enhancing' chemicals (MSG, etc.) to name but a few food additives. Recent (and actually evidence that is decades old) evidence has pointed to food additives like carrageenan causing disturbances in gut lining health and gut microbial health. Make note: this is often used in gluten free products to make the free gluten flours bind better. Whole foods are always your best bet for cellular health.
2. Antibiotics destroy gut bacteria. Antibiotics are the prescriptions you take as well as in the food you eat such as factory farm raised chicken, beef, pork, fish and dairy.
3. Drinking chlorinated & fluoridated water. Purchase a filter and use it so you are not drinking, cooking with, and showering in chlorine and flouride.
4. Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners destroy healthy gut bacteria.
5. Genetically modified (GMO) foods disrupt normal healthy gut flora. The human body does not recognize GMOs as nature made foods because they are not!!
6. Drugs, Prescribed & Over the Counter: birth control pills, all hormonal methods of birth control, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), chemotherapy, and many-many prescription drugs (over the counter medications do as well: pain meds, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds NSAID, etc.)
7. Agricultural chemicals used to grow produce in non-organic farming methods.
8. Stress: real & perceived. Turn your distress into eustress! Try yoga or some form of mindfulness activity. Gulping down food, not chewing well, is stress! Hanging around negative and unsupportive/unkind people is stress.
9. Antibacterial products: soaps, hand sanitizers, and lotions. Antibacterial anything... household cleaners, etc.
10. Environmental Pollution: we are the microcosm of the macrocosm. What pollutes the earth, pollutes your body, your gut, and your body cells.
11. Sugar! Sugar you add to your food and sugar in manufactured food. Sugar feeds the unwanted gut microbes so they over power the healthy gut microbes
12. Vaccines: many ingredients in vaccines, including the vaccine viruses themselves, are disruptive to healthy gut flora.
13. Inhaling our food without properly, slowly, mindfully chewing it into luiquid consistency. Chunks of food in the digestive tract do not digest well. This sets the stage for feeding the unwanted gut microbes so they thrive and starving the healthy gut microbes we want to grow, prosper, and thrive.
What builds healthy gut flora?
1. Eat WHOLE foods! Get rid of anything that nature did not make or animal products that were not raised naturally. Chew your whole foods well. If you do not adequately break down the whole foods you have invested $$$ in, your body can not use the nutrients for whole body (including gut microbe) health. Chew well My Friends! http://www.paulayoumellrn.com/blog/2015/5/6/you-are-not-what-you-eat
2. Avoid antibiotics unless it is a life saving thing. Learn to use natural methods of healing. If you must use an antibiotic make certain to follow the course of antibiotic therapy with vigorous methods to re-establish healthy gut flora. See below.
3. Avoid factory farmed meat and animal products as they use antibiotics in the animals feed. Opt for naturally raised animal products from grass fed animals.
4. Eat organic produce to avoid the chemicals used in non-organic farming. Eat organic animal products. If the animal ate pesticides, hormones, etc... those chemical substances are in their meat, eggs, and dairy.
5. Avoid genetically modified foods. They are NOT whole or natural, need I say more?
6. Drink water that is pure, no chlorine or fluoride added.
7. Avoid antibacterial products: soaps, lotions, hand sanitizers, household cleaners, laundry detergents, etc.. Learn natural ways to keep your immune system healthy.
8. Learn natural and non-hormonal methods of birth control. Synthetic hormones disrupt healthy micro-flora and have a host of other dangerous side effects.
9. Eat fermented foods: yogurt, kefir, real sour cream & cultured butter/buttermilk, sauerkraut and kimchi. Make sure they are raw; have not been pasteurized or heat canned to seal their packages.
10. Make healthy lifestyle choices around stress, exercise, time outside, getting natural sunlight* and fresh air, avoiding the news as it is negative and stresses your very being, avoid negative people.
11. Read labels: learn every sneaky way food corporations dump refined sugar into your food. Stop buying sugar laden foods.
12. Make & drink bone broths: See my bone health page for bone broth making instructions.
13. Vaginal births and breast feeding contribute to healthy gut microbes from day 1. As babies pass through Mom's vagina they naturally pick up microbes in their mouth that go on to colonize the gut. C-section? No problem, just swab inside the mom's vagina with your fingers and rub on your infants skin and in infants mouth right upon delivery. When babies nurse the breast milk supports healthy gut microbes and Mom's skin microbes enter the babes mouth through sucking at the breast contributing to the healthy gut colonization. You cannot get these life giving factors from a bottle of factory made formula.
14. Chew, chew, chew... As Dr. Christopher said: "Drink your solids and chew your liquids." Dr. Christopher was a natural healer from the early 1900s to 1983.
*FYI: Sun exposure is NOT bad, we need it to thrive. Over doing sun and burning is not a healthy choice. 15 minutes of naked full sun everyday would benefit body, heart, mind, & soul!
Regaining healthy gut flora
1. Eat WHOLE foods! Get rid of anything that nature did not make or animal products that were not raised naturally.
2. Do not use antibiotics unless it is a life saving thing. Learn to use natural methods of healing. If you must use an antibiotic make certain to follow the antibiotic therapy with vigorous methods to re-establish healthy gut flora. See below.
4. Take probiotics. A brand I recommend, only because I have had personal success with re-establishing healthy gut flora, is Pharmax. I advise using a whole food diet as your source of nutrients. However, after a round of antibiotics, a good probiotic supplement, for several months, helps re-establish the normal gut flora to ensure good health. After finishing one quality brand of probiotics, switch to a different brand to vary the gut bugs you are exposed to in the supplements. Continue to maintain healthy gut flora with whole food eating and a whole health lifestyle.
Many companies have multiple formulas that each have a different blend of gut microbes. You can switch products within the same company. For example, the Toddler probiotic by Flora has bifidobacterium infantis, which is good for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, but most adults would not gravitate towards a toddler's formula.
Flora Health's Probiotics (Some varieties are available at Nature's Storehouse, Canton, NY)
Nature's Sunshine Probiotic 11 (This product is available in the Massena, NY health food stores.)
Pharmax HCL products (Amazon.com)
Mercola.com Complete Probiotics (I recommend the pet ones as well when you have to give your pet antibiotics for something like Lyme disease)
Renew Life is another good manufacturer of probiotic supplements and their kid's formula also has the bifidobacterium infantis for eczema / psoriasis (adult or children)
Wholistic Botanicals Probiotic Formula also contains bifido infantis for eczema / psoriasis
5. Eat root veggies grown in organic soil. Gently wash dirt off so you do not destroy all soil microbes and eat the peelings!
6. AVOID the above known gut microbial killers at all costs. Your gut health is your whole body health.
7. Eat fermented foods: yogurt, kefir, real sour cream & cultured butter/buttermilk, soft cheeses not heated, sauerkraut and kimchi. Any fermented food that has not been heated after fermentation, heating destroys the good bacteria. An example of this is canned sauerkraut. The canning process destroys the good micro-organisms. Raw sauerkraut maintains the healthy organisms. Wild fermented foods are preferable as in making your own sauerkraut.
9. Raw apple cider vinegar contains the mother, the culture that ferments cider into vinegar. Use raw apple cider vinegar to make your own salad dressing, sprinkle over veggies or use as a rejuvenating drink in water mixed with raw, local honey.
10. Understand the risks involved in vaccination. Read ingredients. Read the vaccine product inserts. Do your research, know & understand what you are injecting into your body.
Fermenting your own veggies is a great way to get healthy microbes into your Gastro-Intestinal tract. Here are some general guidelines:
1. Shred and cut your favorite veggies into very small pieces.
2. Juice some celery to use as the brine. Celery is very high in natural sodium and keeps the vegetables anaerobic, eliminating the need for sea salt. Salt prevents growth of pathogenic bacteria.
3. Pack the veggies and celery juice along with the inoculants (starter culture, such as kefir grains, whey, or commercial starter powder all of which can be used for vegetables) into a 32 ounce wide-mouthed canning jar. A kraut pounder tool can be helpful to pack the jar and eliminate any air pockets.
4. Top with a cabbage leaf, tucking it down the sides of the jar. Make sure the veggies are completely covered with celery juice and that the juice is all the way to the top of the jar to eliminate trapped air.
5. Seal the jar and store in a warm, slightly moist place for 24 to 96 hours, depending on the food being cultured. Ideal temperature range is 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit; 85 degrees max, as heat will kill the microbes.
6. When finished fermenting, store veggies in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process.
7. Caution: resist the temptation to eat the veggies right out of the jar. You can introduce mouth organisms into the jar. Use a clean spoon to take out what you're going to eat, then, making sure the remaining veggies are covered with the brine solution, recap the jar.
Culturing your own foods is rather easy, especially once you get into the swing of things. Some just do not have the time or interest in home veggie fermentation. That's just fine but learn to understand and appreciate the value of fermented foods. Several companies make delicious versions for you!!
I do recommend buying locally….The Potsdam Food Coop now carries Wild Brine, a raw, cultured sauerkraut and pickles. Nature’s Storehouse carries a raw brand as well, Hawthorne Valley. I am certain Bing Thomas’s Natural Way in Massena also carries a good fermented veggie product. Perhaps Denise Thomas’s, Herbal Thyme in Massena, does as well!
To view some of the product's pictures, click here.
With the ever increasing realization that gut microbes are important for the health of every cell in our bodies, more and more brands of raw, fermented veggies will hit the market. It IS how our culture functions… when there is a need, it gets filled with the products needed! In this case, it is a good thing!
Try special ordering Deep Root Organics products from the Coop. Here is the product names & information: (you have to order cases, not single packages).
Deep Root Organic Grated Beets, 6/7 oz packages
Deep Root Organic Red Cabbage, 6/7 oz packages
Deep Root Organic Grated Carrots, 6/7 oz packages
Deep Root Organic Daikon Radish with ginger, 6/7 oz packages
Deep Root Organic Green Cabbage Sauerkraut, 12/14 oz packages
I have tried them all, they are very yummy!
Another brand that can be special ordered is Rejuvenate. Information is:
Rejuvenate Organic Kimchi, 6/15 oz jars
Rejuvenate Organic Sauerkraut, 6/15 oz jars
Rejuvenate Organic Vegi-Delite, 6/15 oz jars
Hawthorne Valley, from Columbia County NY http://hawthornevalleyfarm.org/artisen-foods/sauerkraut-cellar/
Wild Brine, http://www.wildbrine.com/
Have fun eating good gut food. Remember to be able to best digest, absorb, and utilize whole food nutrients we must chew our food well. Your mouth is where all the good cellular health action starts (well, after your mind selects the whole foods to indulge in!).
**Click here to invest in the Gut Health for Lifetime Vitality eCourse: http://www.paulayoumellrn.com/online-classes-1/ A 2 hour in-depth look at your gut health (video slide show) from a functional medicine's perspective with a pdf file of gut healing product links, yoga poses for gut health, and so much more.