Updated: Apr 29, 2020
The gut brain connection is something that has intrigued me for years. I am so excited that there is more and more research being published that conclusively demonstrates the important link between the health of our gut bacteria and our overall physical and emotional health. Scientists have now realised that many symptoms of dis-ease in our body can be influenced by our gut flora. Everything from digestive issues like bloating, diarrhoea, constipation through to skin complaints, insomnia, depression, anxiety and autoimmune conditions are being connected with our gut bacteria. Do you know that we have over 40 trillion micro-organisms in our gut? That means we have more bacteria in our body than we do human cells! These microorganisms help us digest food, produce neurotransmitters and chemicals within the body, influence our emotions, control infections and regulate our immune system. It is pretty safe to say that if you are exposed to every day modern life that your microbiota has been compromised. Antibiotics, pesticides, chlorinated water, alcohol, exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, stress, commercial perfumes and deodorants, bleach and other cleaning products … they all work against the efforts of the good guys. Unfortunately, it has been shown that good bacteria once it has been damaged, struggle to recuperate and replenish themselves. They rely on more good bacteria being introduced into the system to flourish. So what can you do to help the good guys in your gut?
Small lifestyle changes can have a big impact on your overall health and wellness.
Reduce the toxic load in your environment.
As much as some days I wish I could, living in a bubble isn't exactly practical. There are lots of things that we dont' have control over in our wider environment but we can control what we use in our homes, put in our bodies and on our skin. Consider switching your cleaning products to more natural alternatives, avoid synthetic fragrances which are known to be endocrine disruptors as well as gut disruptors (!), use filtered water wherever possible and avoid the use of BPA plastic water bottles which have a tendency to want to leach chemicals into the water, watch out for artificial flavours and sweeteners in your food as well because as yummy as they taste to our tongues, our gut bacteria doesn’t agree.
Some things which are bad for our gut can also be life savers. Literally. Antibiotics will save your life if you have a serious infection and chlorine in dirty water will kill harmful pathogens and prevent some pretty nasty diseases. You need to use your common sense when considering when and how you are going to remove toxins from your environment. There is a time and place for everything.
Reducing the toxic load in your life doesn't have to be hard. It is about making some simple switches that can have big long term pay offs. Water, vinegar and essential oils instead of commercial cleaners, an aromatherapy diffuser instead of plug in synthetic air fresheners... start small and introduce one low tox, sustainable change at a time. Before you know it you'll be clean and green and low toxin' with the best of them.
Drink lots of water We all know that we should drink lots of water to keep our cells happy but our gut flora like a good drink as well! A well hydrated body is able to better absorb nutrients from the food we eat. So how much is enough? There are no hard and fast rules. The amount of water that we need each day depends on our gender, weight, activity level, weather conditions and general health. Most health professionals recommend that the average guy needs about 10 cups of water per day and girls, 8 cups. For the more precise among us, that’s about 30ml per kg body weight.
There are apps for your phone that help you keep track of how much you are drinking but I prefer my favourite 1L water bottle… I know that I need to fill it twice during the day and that if I’m still drinking it after dinner that I will be getting up to go to the toilet at least twice over night! It’s a good incentive to get my water in earlier in the day. I love adding foodsafe lemon and grapefruit essential oil to my water. Adds an all natural flavouring that is also great for helping my body detox.
Eat organic wholefoods Our body loves fresh foods. It loves organic fresh foods even more. Organic foods have less chemicals to interrupt our microbiota and more helpful bacteria to feed our gut… but they can be expensive. If your budget doesn’t stretch to organic fruit and veg then it is way more important that you just eat fresh food than not eating it because it’s not organic. Our bellies in particular love green leafy veg, beans and legumes. Wholegrains are also helpful, they contain lots of indigestible carbs and fiber which pass through the small intestine making their way to the large intestine where they get broken down by microbiota and promote good gut bacteria. The key to a diverse gut flora is to eat a diverse range of fresh foods. And if you want to make life harder for the bad gut bacteria, then you are best to avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates. The baddies thrive in a sugary, refined environment.
A high quality nutritional, essential fatty acid and wholefood supplement can also be helpful for your overall health. If we aren’t eating the colour of the rainbow every day then chances are we also aren’t getting the full range of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids that our body needs to thrive. Invest in a superior supplement that compliments your diet. You get what you pay for, so no finding an el cheapo bargain at the supermarket otherwise you may end up peeing the bright yellow supplement into the toilet rather than absorbing it in your gut!
Eating out doesn't have to mean breaking all the rules. This Buddha Bowl at my local cafe has kale, kimchi, fresh pickled onions, beetroot hommus, sprouts, seeds, fresh atlantic salmon... delicious!
Fermented food and drink
If you really want to supercharge your microflora naturally then consider introducing some fermented food or drink into your diet daily. This type of food and drink were common place in our ancestors times. You don’t need to read much into eastern medicine to see that they understood the importance of fermented foods in the diet for maintaining overall physical and emotional health long before the term microbiota was ever created. Miso, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt… these are all fabulous ways to help introduce beneficial bacteria into your gut.
Fermented foods are generally pretty easy and economical to make yourself at home but with ever increasing awareness of the importance of gut health, we are now seeing a surge in these foods and drinks being sold commercially.
Making your own fermented food and drink at home is a really affordable and fun way to introduce beneficial bacteria into your diet. I'm making water kefir with these little SCOBY grains, 48 hours fermentation and I have a drink the whole family loves and is actually good for them!
If you want to restore your good gut bacteria quickly consider using a high quality probiotic. These will contain upward of 6 billlion CFU (colony forming units) and preferably a mixture of bacteria strains. Two friendly strains that you want to look out for are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These are some of the most researched bacterial strains and are well known to be strong against the environment of our gut which can kill off some bacteria strains before they’ve even made it to your intestines where we want them to work!
Cleanse and Restore Our bodies are incredible powerhouses that are perfectly designed to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste. With sustained exposure to toxins and the stressors of modern day life even the most efficient machine can need a little maintenance from time to time. I love doing a gut cleanse and restore every 6 - 12 months for just this reason.
A gut cleanse can be a little different from the usual detox program in that the aim is to fuel your body so it can perform at its best, support your liver and kidneys so that they are well prepared for what’s coming next then cleanse your intestines of bad bacteria, sludge and parasites. Such a relief! Then most importantly is the restore phase where we reintroduce beneficial bacteria into a more friendly environment.
I use the dōTERRA cleanse and restore supplements to achieve this and always feel so much lighter and better for it. This particular cleanse and restore program goes for 30 days and during this time I love to focus on re-establishing good lifestyle habits as well. I rarely do anything in extremes so I concentrate on lifestyle habits that I think are maintainable and achievable for the long term - better nutrition choices like we mentioned earlier, practicing good sleep habits and moving for 30 minutes every day. Small changes or improvements that can have big flow on effects for my health and wellness.
If you want to learn more about some of my favourite things that can assist you with low tox household cleaning, plant based skin care, natural food flavourings, nutrition & cleanse and restore supplements then please message me or check out www.GraciousGoodness.me. I would love to connect with you and help you on the path to better health. Sandra xo