Sorting Through the Gut Health Craze
In the health world these days, there are many different words pertaining to gut health that are thrown around, and they can quickly confuse the average person looking for answers as to how to attain gut health.
Words like microbiome, leaky gut, gut diversity, IBS, and dysbiosis are just some of the terms used when talking about gut health. Dysfunction of the gut can cause things like autoimmune disease, irritable bowel syndrome, excess gas and bloating, and nutritional deficiencies. If you have any of these symptoms you likely have a dysfunction in your digestive system. I want to share with you the 3 aspects of gut health that will help you make sense of why you may have these symptoms and all the mounting information and opinions out there.
We have to look at this in the context of how our physiology in the gut works, and my context is always how our physiology was formed by evolution in the natural world over the millions of years humans lived in close contact with nature. If we compare the natural world of humans to the current environment most of us live in, we can start to see how it can affect our gut health.
In nature we would have been in direct contact with many different microbial environments. Whether it was the microbes in the soil we walked on, the animals and plants we ate for food, or in the various microbes in the air we breathed, we would have had many different stimuli that diversified our own personal microbiomes. Research today is showing that the more diverse our microbiome is the better health outcomes we will have, this is because our physiology evolved with multiple natural exposures to different bacteria. Compare that to living in modern society where we are not in contact with these microbes and where bacteria actually have a negative connotation as far as health goes (we use hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soap as well as overuse antibiotics) and we can see why the diversity of our microbiomes is suffering. One of the best ways to restore diversity of your microbiome is to expose yourself to nature, but you can also take the diversity creating probiotic justThrive.
Now, there is more in our soil than just good bugs. The contact with the Earth in nature would have also given us exposure to compounds in the soil called fulvic and humic acids. These compounds have a very interesting ability to bind toxins that may harm our gut lining, as well as give the cells the ability to reconnect and restore communication with one another. This is very important when it comes to the modern-day phenomenon known as leaky gut. Leaky gut is when the cells that line our gut become broken apart and things are allowed to leak into the bloodstream where they shouldn’t be. Natural exposure to these molecules in dirt would have kept that leaking from happening and helped restore the connections when leaking did happen. Compare this to the overly clean environments we live in today where we are very rarely in contact with dirt, especially dirt in a wild environment, and you can start to see why we are getting an increase in leaky gut. Obviously, getting dirt exposure is the way to get the compounds, but you can also take the supplement Restore which contains some really effect forms of these compounds in a supplement form.
While the first two steps to gut health are important, the third step is the most important. In nature our guts would have only been exposed to the toxins of the natural word, which are only ones made by plants. Some plant foods have very high amounts of anti-nutrients that can cause gut health problems, the most famous one being gluten (found in grains) but there are also anti-nutrients found in legumes, seeds, and nightshade vegetables. While these foods caused us problems they were nothing compared to the onslaught of toxic chemicals found in our modern-day environments. There are many pesticides that not only kill bugs on the farm they kill the bugs in us when we eat them, and one herbicide in particular, glyphosate, is known to be an antibiotic in humans and directly poke holes in our gut linings. We would not have had any contact with these man-made chemicals living in the wild and therefore our physiology does not know what to do with them and does not know how to keep them from harming us. We have no defense mechanism against them. You can see how this is vastly different from our natural world and is resulting in gut health issues. Going 100% organic and eating a low anti-nutrient diet is the way around this particularly harmful mismatch.
Lastly, lets discuss all the talk about microbiome testing through stool sampling. This has really grown in popularity over the last few years. Turns out it can actually be very useful, as long as the company gives you diet suggestions based on your microbiome. If you do stool testing to just measure the bacteria in your gut, that is good to know but not very practical about what to do with the information. Companies like Viome will test your microbiome and let you know what foods your gut is best set up to digest which can help with your diversity and stop leaky gut. However, the best way to increase diversity is the ways discussed above: exposure to microbes in your environment, exposure to the Earth and its dirt, and avoiding as many toxins as possible mainly by going organic.
To close I will use a quote by the microbiologist Rene Dubos. He said, “The earth is literally our mother, not only because we depend on her for nurture and shelter but even more because the human species has been shaped by her in the womb of evolution. Our salvation depends on our ability to create a religion of nature.” This is especially true for creating health in our gut and health of our microbiome.