Why Is Gut Health Important?

I had ear surgery back in October. One-third of my eardrum was missing since adolescence. I haven’t been able to swim since my early teens. I figured another attempt to fix it was warranted.

After surgery, I had some ‘potential’ complications. The doctor quickly prescribed antibiotics. Knowing what I know about antibiotics and how they can affect the gut, I passed on taking them. The problem went away. If it was more serious I would have taken them and only then should I have been prescribed them in the first place.

This is just one example of the torture we put our gut through on a daily basis. And trust me, your gut is a lot more important than you may think.


You’ve heard the expressions, ”butterflies in your stomach” and ”gut-wrenching’”. There’s a reason why our emotions stir up our gastrointestinal tract or gut. You effectively have two brains, one in your skull and one in your gut. Both are created from the same tissue at fetal development; one develops into the central nervous system (in the brain), with the other becoming your enteric nervous system (in the gut), boasting over 100 million neurons.

These two systems are connected by the vagus nerve. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that your gut health will have a profound effect on your psychological health. Surprising to many, approximately 90% of the serotonin (a happiness hormone) is found in your gut. A happy belly equals a happy person. Your gut is truly the Holy Grail when it comes to your overall health and happiness. Nurture your gut and your body will thank you for it.

There are trillions of cells in your body, yet, oddly enough, over 90% of the genetic material in your body—not your genetic material by the way—is found in the gut in the form of fungi, bacteria (both good and bad), and microflora. This under-appreciated and rarely understood part of your physiology influences your moods, is your portal for getting healthy nutrients to your organs, and represents the majority of your immune system.

The gut is the body’s first line of defense. It is estimated that up to 80% of your immune system resides in your gut, so once your gut is compromised, all bodily functions, and thus overall health, may be compromised as a result. Unfortunately, few people realize how critical your gut is to how your overall immune system functions.

 

What is compromising our gut health?

The following have been shown to destroy your gut flora:

  • Genetically engineered foods: these foods typically contain higher levels of toxins, which can wreak havoc on gut flora.
  • Sucralose: it has been shown to destroy upwards of 50% of your beneficial bacteria and affects the efficacy of your digestive enzymes¹. I really do think the motto of the 1970s and 80s was how much shit can we invent to trick the public into eating our crap. Just in case you missed my point, sucralose = crap. It shouldn’t go near your mouth, let alone in it.
  • Processed foods: they contain little to no beneficial bacteria and their typically high level of sugars creates an environment for pathogenic anaerobic bacteria to thrive, thus suppressing good bacteria. These pathogenic microbes damage the integrity of your gut wall. Once the good bacteria have been compromised, it allows the toxins and “bad” bacteria to enter the bloodstream, potentially increasing the risk of developing a host of conditions, including allergies and ADHD.
  • Antibiotics: as I alluded to in the intro this deserves a lot of attention. While there are many different types of antibiotics, all antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria. While killing the infections they’re meant to attack, antibiotics can also destroy beneficial bacteria in your gut. And I’m not just talking about what your doctor prescribes for infection—most people are ingesting antibiotics regularly in their food without even realizing it. Caged Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs), now a conventional method of raising livestock, routinely use antibiotics to keep the cows, chickens, and pigs alive. It’s also instrumental in helping animals to grow bigger in a shorter time. Don’t even get me started on the animal cruelty. I’d like to be in a room with the sickos who mistreat defenseless animals.

The U.S. FDA reported that over 29 million pounds of antibiotics were used on factory farms. It is estimated that over 80% of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are utilized for some agricultural purpose. It gets worse. Manure from these operations is laden with antibiotics, contaminating the crops it is used to provide nutrients for. Eventually, it makes its way to your stomach, and so the damage begins.

Our need to pile fast-food burgers down our throats has turned food into a manufacturing business instead of an agricultural one.

When you neglect gut health, the good bacteria (approximately 85% of all bacteria in your gut) is compromised and yeast can grow unabated; literally creating holes in your intestinal lining. This is referred to as leaky gut syndrome, and it can cause a host of problems, such as giving pathogens and other food particles a clear path into the blood stream. Once they get past this first line of defense, these particles are then recognized as invaders, instigating an immune response. This response comes with it a variety of potential complications, namely, allergies and autoimmune disorders.

 

Protecting and Repairing Your Gut

Let’s look at how you can protect your gut. Hopefully after learning about your gut, you will realize how critical this part of your physiology is to your overall health.

Here is a quick list of what you can do now to keep it functioning well:

  • Avoid the good-bacteria-killing culprits previously listed, with a caveat that antibiotics—medication designed to kill bacteria—should only be taken when entirely necessary. The problem lies with these antibiotics being broad-spectrum (non-specific), as they kill both good and bad bacteria. Good bacteria need to be nourished, not destroyed. Since non-medical use of antibiotics is not allowed in organic farming, ensure you eat organically raised animals. For beef, look for grass-fed and free-range, and for chickens try to find “pastured” sources.
  • Nourishing your gut flora with fermented foods and probiotics is extremely important for brain function—key to regulating your moods. Whole fermented food sources, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, are excellent choices. Organic yogurt, preferably non-dairy, is another good source of beneficial bacteria.
  • Load up on fiber-rich foods. Prebiotics are the foods that good gut bacteria feed on. High fiber foods such as beans, celery hearts, and leafy greens are great options. Your diet should be loaded with fiber-rich foods If it isn’t this is probably the most important aspect of your diet to brush up on. Aim for over 40 grams of fiber every day. This is equivalent to about 3 cups of black beans.
  • Control your stress. If you don’t control your stress, your gut health will be but one of the many negative consequences. Stress has been shown to increase the permeability of your gut and be detrimental to your sensitive microflora².

We are in the platinum age of understanding how the gut works. The theories that researchers had in the 90’s are now being witnessed and understood. Gut health should be your #1 health focus if it isn’t already. When you focus on keeping a healthy gut, your whole diet and lifestyle improve as a result.

 

 


Sources
1.Abou-Donia MB, El-Masry EM, et al. “Splenda Alters Gut Microflora and Increases Intestinal P-Glycoprotein and Cytochrome P-450 in Male Rats”, J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2008;71(21):1415-29.
2.P.C. Konturek, T. Brzozowski, S.J. Konturek, “Stress and the Gut: Pathophysiology, Clinical Consequences, Diagnostic Approach and Treatment Options”, Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 2011, 62, 6, 591–599.

Author Description

Gary LeBlanc

Gary LeBlanc is recognized as an international thought leader in coaching individuals towards their purpose. Although Gary found success in the corporate world, his former career as a Vice President for a Fortune 500 company left him searching for his own purpose. When a close friend got diagnosed with cancer 8 years ago, Gary realized that health & wellness was more than just an interest, it was his passion. He has spent the better part of 20 years researching the latest diet, health, and fitness trends. As CEO of Ikkuma Inc., Gary is focused on living his purpose by helping people find their SuperHuman. A McGill University engineering and MBA graduate, Gary is also a certified coach practitioner, personal trainer, and most recently a published author, with his book titled ‘Ikkuma: Evolution of Vitality’. Follow Gary on Instagram & Twitter @ikkumagary/@IkkumaGary, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/gary.leblanc.5209, and his website http://ikkuma.com/.

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