Dear Women of the Natural Healing for Women Community,
Hippocrates, 460-370 BC
Here’s some background: I suffered with stomachaches and constipation for the whole of my childhood. Some time in my teens I was diagnosed with IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. After a barium enema and some other invasive testing, I had a diagnosis that was little more than an umbrella term for poor bowel function that couldn’t be explained. I was told to eat more fiber and sent on my way.
What’s the big deal about a young girl with stomachaches and constipation, right?? Wrong! So, so wrong!
What I now understand is that poor digestion set me up for a lifetime of chronic health issues. The good news is that the body can regenerate. And, after years and years of putting together the most important pieces of this puzzle, I can now share them with you.
Digestive health lies at the root of the overall health of your body. It took me a long time toreally get this, but now it couldn’t be more crystal clear. The health of our digestive system determines our capacity to assimilate nutrients and to eliminate waste and toxins. If either one of these things are compromised, it’s going to effect every other bodily system.
Perhaps the most enlightening book that I’ve read on the topic is Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. After I read this book and saw the Youtube videos in which she was interviewed, a huge light bulb went off for me.
Here are the take-homes:
Digestive health is determined by an intricate bacterial micro-environment that lines the intestinal walls. There are of hundreds of species of microbes that are vital for healthy digestion and immune function, and when these microbes are in proper balance, all goes well.
But the reality of gut flora is not at all simple : a healthy adult carries approximately three to four pounds of bacteria in the gut. As stated in Gut and Psychology Syndrome: “All these bacteria are not just a chaotic microbial mass, but a highly organized micro-world with certain species predominating and controlling others.”
When gut flora loses it’s healthy balance, referred to as Dysbiosis, it opens the way for issues such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and also immunologic issues such as allergies, asthma and autoimmune disease. (Although beyond the scope of this article, Dr Campbell-McBride has done amazing research on both mental health issues and spectrum disorders relating to Gut Dysbiosis.)
Here’s the other big piece to understand: A mother’s gut flora gets passed down to her baby during the birth process. All is well if her gut flora is normal and healthy. But here’s the issue: As a collective, our digestive health has been in a steady state of decline since the regular practice of antibiotic overuse, denatured food consumption, and increase of refined carbohydrates in the diet. All of these unhealthy practices create an environment where the beneficial bacteria coating the intestinal lining becomes overrun by other bacteria that aren’t supposed to be running the show.
Therefore, gut dysbiosis has become more and more the norm with each passing generation. In turn, the digestive health of the population has been declining. As has been said earlier, the result is not only poor digestive function, but also immunological issues such as allergies, asthma and autoimmunity.
If you’ve had chronic digestive issues that were worked up by a gastroenterologist, and nothing was found, or you’re given a diagnosis of Irritable bowel syndrome (which means that nothing was found), this generally indicates some combination of gut dysbiosis (including yeast overgrowth), parasites and/or food intolerances (most common here are gluten and dairy.) These are the places to start investigating as you’re looking to resolve this issue.
Here are my #1 tips for healing gut dysbiosis
- Stop feeding the “bad bacteria” – these little critters thrive on processed sugar, refined carbohydrates, and denatured foods. Just one more reason to decrease your consumption of these foods, and instead concentrate the diet in vegetables, fruits, organic animal proteins, nuts and seeds.
- Eat fermented foods daily – this will help repopulate your gut with the healthy bacteria over time. Try some raw saurkraut with breakfast, or fermented carrots with your salad at lunch. Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 16oz of water for a refreshing beverage.
- Probiotic– the most important thing to consider here is quality and quantity. In other words, the probiotic at the local drugstore generally won’t cut it. There are many good brands out there, for instance I’ve taken to the company Pharmax. Also, you need to take a healthy dosage if you going to see a marked change, which means somewhere between 25-50 billion colonies daily.
- Bitters Tonic – this is a combination of bitter herbs that help to stimulate digestion. Taking approximately 1/2 tspn before meals can greatly improve the way that the food is broken down in your system.
- L-Glutamine – this is an essential amino acid that is anti-inflammatory and helps repair the gut lining. Dose is approximately 2-5 gms daily.