Healthy Gut, Healthy Life
Digestive issues are on the rise causing many different diseases and ailments. But why has this become an epidemic with new diseases popping up, and why didn’t people experience this centuries ago? When we think of how much the food industry has changed and the staple foods that we eat less and less of due to the convenience of processed fast foods, we can begin to understand how much these changes are affecting our digestive system and health.
Everything we consume and the way we take care of our digestion all affect our overall well-being and the way we feel every day. Taking care of your digestive system and gut health is the single best thing we can do for ourselves, as it impacts all areas of our body including the immune system, our skin health and even mental health.
It is typical for us to neglect our well-being without fully understanding the repercussions. Everyday choices can either push us in the right direction for feeling great and living a healthy lifestyle, or they can drive us into unhealthy routines leaving us feeling unhappy and unpleasant. Most of us have forgotten what it feels like to actually feel good. When unhealthy habits become the norm, it not only affects the state of our mind but also how we feel from the inside out.
Gut Issues on the Rise
Within the United States, there are approximately 70 million people with digestive issues, with almost 22 million of those ending up in the hospital due to those issues. This results in about $200 billion from those visits alone, which doesn’t include ongoing treatment.1 This number continues to rise as more and more people are developing digestive issues that, at many times, can be prevented. So why does this number continue to grow? Why are so many of us suffering throughout the day, weeks, months, to where we can’t even remember the last time we actual felt “good”?
Many different factors influence our overall health and how we feel. These factors can impact each aspect of our lives. Everything we consume and use as fuel for our bodies can either hinder or support the way we live. Our metabolic rates are also decreasing from this, slowing our metabolism and holding onto toxins that further negatively impact our well-being as well as causing weight gain. Having busy lifestyles often lead us to prioritize cost over quality; however we shouldn’t sacrifice quality if we can help it.
Silent but Deadly…Digestive Diseases
The most common digestive problems can start out small and without the proper diet or supplementation regimen they can develop into devastating problems. At many times we do not notice these ailments starting as we may not feel their damaging effects until it is too late. Most digestive disorders include Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Celiac disease, gallstones, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Diverticulitis, and Leaky Gut Syndrome to name a few. Most of these can be easily treated or prevented by maintaining a healthy gut, and helping to reduce inflammation caused by processed foods.
Having an unhealthy gut not only leads to these digestion issues, but also affects the entire body and can cause severe damage. Our gut is the start of our immune system, controls our mood, and affects the health of our complexion and skin. It also monitors which vitamins, minerals and nutrients to absorb so each system can function properly. Poor gut health goes beyond the gut and can even create deficiencies in other areas.
Nourishing the Second Brain
The digestive tract is not just a muscle that moves the food we eat from one place to the other. It is a complicated system that controls its own environment and influences the entire body. Scientists have even begun calling the digestive system the “Second Brain” for the way the neurons in the lining control and affect the body, and how it communicates to the different systems throughout.2
Our Second Brain controls what we absorb and what we don’t, protecting us from any toxic outside enemies and building our immunity. Our intestines are lined with mucus membranes and thousands of villi which are finger like structures that aid digestion. They help travel food down our intestinal tract in a wave like movement. As long as the cells of the villi are healthy, they will be strong, durable and bound together to help prevent toxins from absorbing into our bloodstream. Remember playing “Red Rover” when we were younger? On each side we would link arms and provide strength against the other team from breaking that barrier. You didn’t want the bad guys in. This is how the villi and cells within our intestines help to protect us from harmful bacteria or toxins. They won’t let the bad guys in.
But what happened when the arms weren’t strong enough to hold off the bad guys? As the game went on and one side grew stronger and the other weaker, we would be spread thin trying to keep the strength which was one tough task. This is also how we protect our gut health, and what we do to ward off disease. Digestive issues begin when we aren’t taking care of our gut, weakening the villi’s strength as they loosen their bond, making it easier for toxins to enter our bloodstream. We see this happening in diseases like Leaky Gut, IBS, and Diverticulitis.
Gut Health Warriors
The lining of our intestines where the mucosal membranes and villi are located also have help from friendly bacteria and enzymes in protecting and strengthening our digestive system. We need healthy bacteria in order to stay healthy, and taking care of our gut takes care of the environmental factors within. This is why the digestive tract is a complex microbiome; it has its own ecosystem that houses trillions of different types of bacteria, all of them having their own roles and functions in supporting the villi and mucosal lining, as well as synergistic properties with one another. These healthy microorganisms that set up the perfect setting for proper digestion to take place are called Probiotics.
Probiotics have an extremely important role in our gut health and how our bodies help facilitate many functions. They are so abundant that they outnumber cells in a ratio of 10 to 1.3 These friendly bacteria regulate our internal environments and help protect us from any harmful threat trying to enter our systems. They control the input and output of food and nutrients, playing a major role in deciding which nutrients to absorb in our intestinal tracts and what to pass along as waste. Although found abundantly within our digestive tract, probiotics are also prominently located throughout all organs and systems, balancing the internal flora and maintaining a pristine environment. They increase our immune system and help fight against bad bacteria and the buildup of yeast and other fungal issues.
The American Diet Desolating Our Gut
The issues people are facing are due to the foods we eat, stress, alcohol and pharmaceuticals. We all know the Standard American Diet is not a healthy one. Over-processed foods are loaded with unrecognizable ingredients and preservatives that have made our digestive tracts barren. This results in the imbalance of probiotics and enzymes in our system, and our inability to replenish them through our diet and lifestyle choices. Not having enough healthy bacteria in our intestines can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria or fungal infections, causing disease and illness stemming from the digestive system. And since probiotics play a huge role in supporting the villi and controlling what nutrients we absorb, not having enough of them presents the opportunity to absorb harmful bacteria and even large molecules through the intestinal walls and into our blood stream, creating adverse effects. These effects can be as detrimental as clogging our arteries, tainting our blood with toxins, as well as causing major deficiencies.
This is a main reason for why so many of us have health issues or just do not feel well on a daily basis. The foods we eat and how we take care of ourselves affect how we feel, ranging from feeling bloated and having an upset stomach, to headaches and mood. Every aspect of food is utilized by the body in one way or another; even “waste” byproducts and prebiotic fiber help to maintain the overall health of the large intestine.
Restoring Gut Health
Why are health issues and disease becoming more common as the years pass? The answer is that we are consuming less and less fermented foods, ignoring our internal gut health, and consuming more highly refined foods and over-the-counter drugs and antibiotics. Fermented and natural whole foods provide billions and billions of naturally occurring probiotics, enzymes and prebiotic fibers that help enrich our digestion and establish proper nutrition for all aspects of our bodies. By consuming more fermented foods we are establishing healthy gut flora with nutrients our bodies need, like prebiotic fiber that our healthy bacteria colonize from. Antibiotics and refined foods that are abundant in our diets strip our digestive systems of these friendly bacteria and hinder the environment suitable for their growth. Although antibiotics are sometimes necessary to fight certain viruses and bad bacteria, we also need to make sure we replenish our gut health with probiotics from fermented foods as to not cause additional harm.
With so many digestive issues occurring and becoming more common year after year, we are finally recognizing how important it is to create and maintain a healthy digestive tract with what we consume. It is time we actually take care of ourselves by taking care of our health and digestion, and revamping our diets to focus on our internal health. Fermented foods and prebiotic fibers will support the digestive system as a whole, replenishing us with good bacteria necessary to thrive. Everything starts in our Gut. It is the starting point of our health and, as we like it or not, our mother’s constant reminder always held true in that “You Are What You Eat”, or rather “Digest”.
Fermented foods can come in all different varieties, not only to eat but they are also available in drinkable forms. We all know of the classic fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, or yogurt – but they are typically paired with highly processed foods and refined sugar to make them more tolerable, and that counteracts their health benefits. My personal favorite and healthiest fermented foods include kombucha, tempeh, and even sourdough bread if I’m craving carbohydrates. But those can’t always be easily obtainable and can sometimes be out of my price range. That’s why I also love to keep a few handy supplements in my kitchen such as Apple Cider Vinegar or PlantFusion’s Fermented Superfood protein. The Apple Cider Vinegar is a great pick me up that also supplies healthy bacteria, but if I want more of a meal or I’m in need of additional protein, that’s when I choose my go-to Fermented Superfood Protein. It’s an easy, convenient and delicious way for me to receive the full benefits of nourishing fermented foods, without having any negative impacts. Check it out today so you can also start feeling fresh with a healthier gut!