Do you suffer from excess weight, low energy, fatigue, foggy brain, food cravings, fatty liver, diabetes, mild depression or even obesity and metabolic syndrome? The root cause may have more to do with your gut health than you realize.
There is growing acceptance that there is a direct connection between your gut health and that of other major bodily organs, such as your liver, heart, kidneys and, surprisingly, your brain. You may have even heard of the gut-brain connection, and a condition called leaky gut syndrome, caused by gut dysbiosis, where due to an overgrowth of toxic bacteria, the lining of your stomach develops small gaps. These gaps allow undigested food and toxins to enter your bloodstream, rather than be processed through your liver and kidneys and eliminated as designed.
These toxins eventually make their way to your brain, creating the condition known as foggy brain, and are also laid down in fat reserves around your organs and your waist as they cannot be properly processed and eliminated by your body. Because the gut is overwhelmed with toxic bacteria, it struggles to extract nutrients from food, so you feel tired and lethargic.
Added to that, your body most likely has become addicted to certain foods (mainly those containing sugar and processed ingredients), so you may be overcome by food cravings, which can result in your eating more of the very foods that are, in essence, “poisoning” you and your gut.
When your gut health is sufficiently compromised, your overall health is put at risk and your body can become susceptible to a host of infections, such as those that hit the urinary tract and the kidney, and chronic illnesses like adrenal fatigue.
Poor gut health is a nasty syndrome to get caught up in, but rest assured, you are not alone, and there is a way out!
How Does Leaky Gut Syndrome Develop?
Leaky gut develops when your “good” or healthy gut bacteria and your “bad” or toxic gut bacteria get out of balance, due to any and all of the following factors:
• A diet high in sugar and other processed foods
• Overuse (abuse) of antibiotics
• Use of immuno-suppressants, such as steroids
• Use of the birth control pill
How Do I Restore My Gut Health?
The first thing is to recognize the connection between your gut health and the health of your body and brain, and start to eliminate the contributing factors in your life.
• Dispose of anything in your pantry or fridge with sugar and white flour in it. This includes crackers, bread products, pasta, cakes and pastries. Read food and drink labels, looking for sugar content. Sugar comes in many natural and artificial forms, including fructose, sucrose and aspartame, and is hidden in many “healthy” items, such as yoghurt, muesli bars, even fruit juice. Especially avoid “fat-free” and “lite” items; they usually are flavored with sugar, to make them palatable.
• Keep a food and drink diary for a week. You’ll be shocked at how much sugar you’re consuming in your drinks (yes, even tonic water has sugar added!). Just eliminating sugar-based drinks will make a huge difference. Don’t be tempted to switch to artificially-sweetened products. You don’t need any more toxins in the mix. Try quality mineral water if you want an effervescent drink, or chilled filtered water with a slice of lemon and some ice.
• Cook with fresh unprocessed, spray-free, grass-fed or organic wholefoods. If you can’t source fresh vegetables, snap-frozen are the next best thing. Search online for simple whole food recipes.
• Make and eat bone-broth-based soups regularly — the nutrients from fish and animal bones will help heal the lining of your gut, and warm, delicious soups packed with vegetables will fill you up.
• Make green smoothies daily — include dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, rocket and broccoli, boost with nutritious chia seeds, nuts, coconut water and anti-oxidant-rich blueberries — one of these will set you up for the day, and suppress the sugar cravings.
• Substitute those milky, sugary coffees and hot chocolates with delicious herbal teas, such as chai and licorice, which have lovely chocolate notes.
• Use coconut sugar or Stevia in place of sugar, only where needed.
You may experience a reaction when you eliminate sugar from your diet: you may feel nauseous, distracted, tired, lethargic, irritable, even moody. Your bowel habits may change. This is elimination at work.
Make sure you drink plenty of water, to aid elimination, and ensure you have plenty of healthy options in your fridge and pantry, such as nutritious soups, fresh vegetables and quality meats such as fish, chicken and grass-fed lamb and beef, and nuts and seeds for snacks. This way, you won’t be tempted to revert to processed snack foods.
With your doctor’s support, wherever possible, start eliminating medications, or find natural alternatives, particularly for hormone-based medications. Consider taking mineral and vitamin supplements to boost your energy and health.
Apart from the high levels of sugar in alcoholic drinks, especially wine and beer and associated mixers, alcohol is a significant toxin, affecting the brain, liver, kidneys and gut, and should only be consumed in moderation, if at all.
When we are experiencing a state of fight or flight (stress), our stomachs cannot digest food properly, resulting in a toxic soup in our gut. Modern life presents an ongoing parade of often chronic stressors.
Eliminate stressors from your life where you can, minimize others, and learn methods to manage your stress responses, such as yoga, meditation, talk therapy and light exercise. Eat meals at a table and take your time to chew your food properly and enjoy your meal. Your gut and the rest of your body and brain will thank you for it.