Our gut. Our body’s second brain… That all health begins in the gut, is an understatement at best.
Our gut microbiome (or gut microflora – the bacteria composition in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract) makes up about 2kg weight, tens of trillions of microorganisms, at least 1000 species of bacteria, and over 3 million DNA genes (we have more bacterial DNA in our gut than our own DNA). Two-thirds of our microbiome is unique to each and every individual and is responsible for affecting our entire body and health in various ways. Technically we are more bacterial than we are human. Are you squirming yet??
Not only does our microbiome aid digestion, regulate metabolism, produce certain vitamins, and play a major role in immune function (about 70% of our immune system is in our gut), but more and more research is being conducted and showing that the health of our gut is associated with and effects body weight, allergies, mental health, reproductive health, chronic disease and cancer risk, and inflammation. Medical professional are stating that gut health is the key to everything from obesity, type 2 Diabetes, to depression and anxiety, as well as autoimmune, inflammatory and neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s, Chron’s and many other diseases that such a large part of society lives with. Gut health is one of the most fascinating and exciting hot topics of medicine at the moment!
Maybe you or someone you know lives with one of these diseases, or maybe it doesn’t apply to your life. Your thinking, “I’m fit and healthy so why do I need to worry?” Ever feel bloated? Sluggish? Trouble losing weight? Tired? Certain foods don’t agree with you? Often get sick? Healthy gut bacteria is crucial to maintaining healthy weight and metabolism, strong immune system, preventing diseases and generally makes us feel healthy, energetic and happy.
Several factors of everyday living negatively effects the health of our gut including:
- Processed foods, genetically modified foods (GMO), preservatives, additives, hormones, pesticides and herbicides from foods
- Sugar and refined carbohydrates
- Hydrogenated fats and industrial seed oils (margarine, fried foods, canola and sunflower oil etc.)
- Low fibre – its time to rethink your low carb diets
- Chronic stress
- Contraceptive pill
- Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and drugs in general
- Intestinal parasites
How can we restore, improve and maintain a healthy gut?
- Eat mostly a whole foods diet (plants, vegetables, fruit, legumes, hormone-free animal products, nuts, seeds, plant oils (avocado, olive etc.) whole grains and flours etc.)
- As much as possible eliminate processed foods, sugar and refined carbohydrates (think most foods in packets)
- Manage stress (exercise, meditation, yoga, read a book, seek professional help)
- Eat fibre rich foods everyday (legumes, whole grains, vegetables, certain fruits)
- Eat probiotic foods (they contain good bacteria) – fermented foods, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, natural yogurts)
- Eat prebiotic fibres (they feed your good bacteria to produce more good bacteria) – whole grains, artichoke, underripe bananas, cooked and cooled potatoes, bone broth, gelatin).
Which brings me to the super nutritious Gelatin. I love this stuff! For a start it makes Panna Cotta and jelly (yum) and you can even make sugar-free gummies with it. Gelatin is collagen from bones, hide and connective tissues from animals, made up by 18 amino acids. Not only is it amazing for improving gut health but also joint health, supporting skin, hair and nail growth, skin tone/tightness and muscle growth. Just be aware of the brand you buy and ensure it is 100% natural from pasture-raised beef (highly important).
Coconut Lemon Gummies (Sugar Free)
- 3 + 1/2 tablespoons gelatin
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 tin coconut milk
- Fresh juice of 2 lemons
- 1 tablespoon sugar-free sweeter (I use Natvia)
- Dissolve gelatin in cold water and let sit for 5 mins until mixture hardens
- Heat coconut milk, lemon juice and sweetener over the stove until simmering, stirring throughly as lemon and coconut milk will split a little, then remove from heat
- Add gelatin mixture into heated coconut milk and whisk until gelatin is dissolved
- Pour into a silicone mould and refrigerate for a couple of hours until set
- Cut into squares
Whitney, Rolfes, Crowe, Cameron-Smith, Walsh. (2015). Understanding Nutrition. Cengage Learning.