Staying healthy can be a challenge in the modern world. Our bodies have a natural ability to get rid of harmful substances through the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract (stomach and bowel) and the skin. However, modern lifestyles expose us to a lot of toxins, through food (additives, preservatives, processed and junk foods), drink (alcohol, soft drinks), cigarettes, recreational drugs, medicines, environmental pollutants, cleaning products, make-up and more. This abundance of toxins in our modern lives can place stress on our bodies.
To fight these toxins, our immune system needs to be working efficiently. About 70 per cent of the immune system is located in the gut, as this is where protection is needed most from the onslaught of daily toxins. Food and water are the most common sources of toxic invasion.
When immunity is down and inflammation is up, it’s harder for our bodies to respond to toxic parasites. And when there is damage to the gut, there is more strain on the liver.
Good gut health can address many symptoms, underlying causes and inflammatory processes of illness. Improving digestion also reduces reactivity to foods that can impact health and wellbeing.
Conditions associated with poor gut health:
- Bloating can be caused by weak digestion, lack of digestive juices, parasites, fungus, food intolerances, fluid retention, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, gas and cancer.
- Irritable bowel can result in a range of symptoms, including cramping, bloating and constipation alternating with diarrhoea and gas. This can be caused by stress, food intolerances, a poor diet and lack of nutrients, e.g. magnesium.
- Leaky Gut is a common condition that people often don’t know they have. Over time, the gut lining can become disrupted from constant irritation, allowing bacteria, toxins and food to leak into the bloodstream via the cells of the gut lining. This can lead to food intolerances, candida, parasites, fatty acid and mineral deficiencies and overall gut inflammation.
Other conditions associated with poor gut health include appendicitis, candida, colitis, constipation, diarrhoea, fissures, flatulence, hypoglycaemia, reflux, ulcers, insulin resistance and weight gain.
Antibiotics can cause havoc in the gut as they kill off the good, as well as the bad bacteria. When we have good bacteria there is a 40 per cent increase in mineral uptake from the diet! After a course of antibiotics, it may take six months of probiotic supplements to return to the same state of good gut bacteria.
What’s the solution?
Eating more whole foods, eating mindfully, and reducing our intake of chemicals, preservatives and additives, can all help to maintain good gut health.
Foods that help the digestive system:
- Magnesium-rich foods such as buckwheat, brown rice, nuts and seeds, help with spasms and cramps.
- Protein and silica rich foods help strengthen the connective tissue on the bowel wall. Eggs, fish, beans, legumes, whole grains, horsetail tea, vegetables and fruits also help.
- Liquorice and turmeric help with inflammation.
- Fermented foods help promote good flora / probiotics in the gut.
- Apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, turmeric, coriander, fennel, liquorice, cardamom and fermented foods all help the stomach, small intestine and pancreas.
Foods to avoid:
- Gluten, dairy, peanuts, sugar, junk food and alcohol.
If we can make a difference to our digestion early, and give our kids a healthy start to their digestive health, there’s a lot less work to do to maintain good health when we get older.
Michèle Wolff is a leading health practitioner and a qualified naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist and nurse. Her new book ‘Digestive Solutions – 101 Proven Methods to Solve Your Tummy Problems Naturally’ is available from bookstores and good online booksellers. Visit www.digestivesolutions.com.au RRP $39.95