Your Gut and Your Health

Delving into your Digestive Garden

A healthy gut is a crucial part of maintaining your overall health. It seems today that many diseases and health concerns have root in an imbalanced gut. The foods we consume, the stresses we experience and the exposure to a number of toxic elements has created a dysbiosis of the gut. This leads to changes in our moods, our vitality, and our energy. We feel less inclined to get through the day, and most of our day becomes a task rather than anything else.

What does your gut do? Our digestive system is involved in the digestion of food and drink. It controls the breakdown of these foods and the production of energy from the food and drink we consume. By doing this task it is involved in regulating our metabolism, moderating our immune system and making sure toxins are eliminated regularly. When the gut is imbalanced, all these simple yet intricate tasks do not work properly, and we end up feeling sluggish, getting bloated after meals, always getting sick, and feeling swollen and tired, amongst other symptoms.

The digestive system is comprised of 100,000 billion cells within the intestine. THAT’S A LOT! Within these 100,000 billion cells, there are up to 2000 different species and from those 2,000 species there are 7000 strains. Once again, THAT’S A LOT! The digestive system is an intricate system of cells that work together to keep our body balanced and healthy. There are two main parts of the digestive system, the small intestine and the large intestine. The irony in their names is that the small intestine is 20 feet long while the large intestine is 4 feet long.

Stress has a major effect on the health of our gut. When we are stressed out, or if the stress continues for longer duration, there can be effects not only on how we feel but can affect our hormones (ALL OF THEM) and the gut. Stress slows does the digestive process, it increases inflammation in the gut, it reduces digestive enzymes, and leads to leaky gut allowing molecules to pass through that shouldn’t. This ends up creating more inflammation in the body, creates digestive complaints, and over time can lead to the body attacking its own cells.

What do we need to do to support our gut health? Stress reduction is our number one step to reducing inflammation in the gut. Additionally, other very important aspects include a nutritious and allergen free diet, avoidance of processed foods, and avoidance of refined sugars. Our diet should, instead, include fermented foods and drinks, pre and pro-biotics foods, and whole foods.

Supplements can also assist in the healing process, especially when you are already experiencing symptoms of gut dysbiosis.  Gut healing products include L-Glutamine (an amazing amino acid with great gut healing properties), Aloe Vera, and anti-inflammatory and digestive products to name a few. It is always important to meet with your Naturopathic Doctor for more information on the correct uses of supplements and for a treatment plan specifically tailored for you.

In addition to food and supplement protocols, your Naturopathic Doctor can do Food Sensitivity Testing and Hormone Testing. Food Sensitivity testing gives us an idea of how we reactive we are to food groups and specific foods. It is a IgG test, which is a delayed response our body has to the foods we consume. This means the symptoms we experience from the foods we eat can take up to 3 days before it becomes noticeable. Because of this time lapse, it can be hard to understand what foods may be causing the complaints. Hormone testing is also ideal as they are easily affected by the changes in our gut health and overall inflammation.

How do I get started on healing my gut and optimizing my health?

It is important to work with a trained professional to provide you with a framework and foundation to begin the process of healing the gut and optimizing your health. It can involve testing, an in-depth analysis of your current meals and eating habits. Additionally, they will be able to provide you with an individualized plan made specifically for you and your health goals.

Testing can also be beneficial to provide a baseline or a better understanding on what particular “foods” may be the cause of symptoms whether they are digestive or other bodily symptoms.

Symptoms that may be indicative of a digestive disturbance or dysfunction can include but are not limited to bloating, Indigestion, pain and cramping, poor concentration, irregular bowel movements, pain in the body and joints, skin irritations, fatigue, weakness.

– By Dr. Effy Germanis ND, R.Ac

Dr. Effy Germanis

Dr. Effy Germanis is a Naturopathic Doctor and Registered Acupuncturist and is a lover of gut health. She is the owner of Hygeia Naturopathic Clinic in Toronto, Ontario and helps both men and women achieve optimal health by addressing the foundations – the gut. With over 8 years of clinical experience she has helped those with gut issues reclaim their health and their relationship with food.