A Healthy Gut – Can it lead to improved Mental Wellbeing and an Immune System?
Do you feel like you’re eating more since we’ve been spending so much time at home? The many snacks we stocked up on before the Covid 19 lockdown have disappeared and let’s not forget about the excess Easter eggs? Whilst we may not think we’ve overindulged; the need for our more “comfy clothes” might tell a different story.
We hear many stories about needing to improve your Gut health, and perhaps now is the right time to make a start. Pharmhealth would like to help you understand its importance. Believe it or not but to accommodate a large meal your stomach has to expand from the size of a fist to around 2 litres. That’s a 40-fold increase!
What is our Gut and how does it work?
The Gastrointestinal Tract or Gut runs from your mouth via your stomach and intestines to your bottom and makes up your digestive system. It’s one very long “tube” comprised of nerve cells (neurons), muscle and blood vessels. All designed by Mother Nature to breakdown foods to get the nutrition we need to survive and expel any toxins and waste out.
The digestive system is controlled by what’s sometimes called “the second brain” (Enteric Nervous System/ENS), a network of over 100 million neurons that line your stomach and your gut. The ENS does not do a lot of complex thinking but it does get on with the essential daily grind involved in digesting food – lots of mixing, contracting and absorbing, to help break down our food and begin extracting the nutrients and vitamins we need. And all those neurons lining our digestive system allow it to keep in close contact with the brain in your skull, via the vagus nerves, which often influence our emotional state.
An example of this is if you have “butterflies in the stomach”, this really is the brain in the stomach talking to the brain in your head. As we get nervous or fearful, blood gets diverted from our gut to our muscles and this is the stomach’s way of protesting.
Why do we need to look after our Gut?
Since our primary brain’s feel-good chemicals like serotonin are synthesised in the gut, it’s clear how backed-up bowels can affect your mood. While your two brains are entirely distinct, they are both wired electrically. For instance; constipation (a slowing/blockage of the bowel movements) signals disregulation in your gut, this in turn affects your neurotransmitter levels. So maybe the key to your happiness is keeping the electrical circuits of both brains moving.
We exercise to keep our hearts, bones and muscles healthy so why not tone up your digestive system to keep both brains healthy, happy, and in sync. This way, waste will pass out of your body efficiently and your gut will make those chemicals like serotonin that keep you feeling good.
How can I get a Healthy Gut?
Do you think bacteria are bad? Think again. Bacteria and other microbes (including fungi and viruses) are often thought of as sources of disease, but in fact many play an essential role in keeping you healthy. Your body contains trillions of microbes, most of which are beneficial. The highest microbe population is in your gut, where they play a critical role in digestion, immune function and weight regulation.
Bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E coli) or Staphylococcus (staph) have a “bad” bacteria reputation, but we live with these bacteria every day in our gut and on our skin. Not all bacteria are either inherently bad or good. When our body is out of balance, the bad bacteria take advantage of the opportunity and proliferate, potentially causing harm to our bodies. A healthy balance between the two is around 85 per cent good and 15 per cent bad.
What you eat can quickly change your microbes, so it’s essential to eat the right foods to help your good gut bacteria. Fermentable carbohydrates like garlic, leeks, asparagus and chicory root are more effective in the process of rebalancing the gut.
What if I already have Digestive problems?
Common symptoms of digestive problems like bloating, abdominal pain, cramps, flatulence and constipation can be caused by the wrong type of bacteria or an imbalance in your gut.
Most people who suffer from digestive disorders have trigger foods that cause these common symptoms and painful conditions. The only way to identify your triggers is awareness. Keep a food diary and study the various effects of different foods on your condition.
Having identified your food triggers, for example eggs or onions; reduce, substitute or cut them out of your daily diet.
In addition, a good quality probiotic supplement should see an improvement (See further details below about Probiotics).
What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?
Prebiotics are naturally occurring foods in our diet which can’t be broken down by the body. But the probiotic bacteria can break them down. Prebiotics act as food for the probiotic bacteria to feed on and grow. Prebiotic foods include:
- Raw Jerusalem
- Raw Garlic
- Skin of Apples
- Raw Chicory
There are also prebiotic supplements available to buy. Some people find that they don’t tolerate prebiotic foods very well – if you find you are one of these people then you may want to consider a prebiotic supplement.
Probiotics contain live bacteria to help to regulate an imbalance in the gut or promote the “good” bacteria. Gut-friendly bacteria are found in some fermented food items such as yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. They are also available in the form of supplemental tablets or capsules that can be ingested daily. Probiotics supplements can be useful to replace the gut microbes which may have been missing in your gut after a dose of antibiotics; due to stress or disease. Not all probiotics work in the same way though. Different probiotic strains offer specific benefits, and it is important to use probiotics that are high-quality and contain strains suited to your health requirements.
Of the numerous probiotics available to buy at pharmhealth.com there are three suggested standout products that immediately come to mind, these being Biokult Advance, Alflorex and Aqua Biome.
- Biokult advance contains 14 strains of live bacteria to complement the existing natural ‘good’ gut flora in your digestive tract.
- Alflorex is a unique Precisionbiotic which works only where it is needed in your GIT tract. Unlike other probiotics, Alflorex’s patented formulation reaches the required area of your digestive tract fully intact, thus being able to fully unload its full benefits reducing abdominal discomfort and IBS symptoms.
- Another great product which cares for your gut microbiome is Aqua Biome by Enzymedica. This supplement helps to support your body’s immune system through its influence of your microbiome. Studies show that higher intakes of omega EPA, DHA and DPA are crucial for promoting microbial diversity which helps to promote proper digestion and immune system support. Aqua Biome is one of the purest, cleanest and most
sustainable omega supplements on the market.
Why are some health supplements more expensive?
Choosing a supplement that gives value for money can be tricky. Different brands have varying quantities/strains of bacteria. Some cheaper products may require several doses per day meaning it’s per day cost is actually higher than it initially appears. Most quality made products daily cost works out about one third the price of an average cup of coffee. Check out our range at www.pharmhealth.com or ask one of our helpful staff instore at Pharmhealth or via online webchat if you have any specific requests.
See our Digestive Health Range