Poor gut health may be the underlying reason for fatigue, anxiety, depression, back pain or skin problems. Find out about assessment, testing and treatment possibilities...
The underlying health issue for many of my patients, whether it is fatigue, anxiety, depression, back pain, skin problems or classical gut symptoms such asked in the above question is often connected with diet and gut health.
Uncomfortable gut symptoms indicate an imbalance in your digestive system. Gut health can affect your whole body, with digestive imbalances related to allergy, autoimmunity and even cardiovascular disease. So don’t ignore your symptoms – read on to find out how loving your guts leads to good health.
Your digestive system is highly efficient at breaking down food to obtain the nutrients it needs to nourish your body. In a similar way, you might think of food scraps in a compost bin that break down into nutrient rich compost to nourish your garden.
However, to function optimally, care must be given to all key aspects of your digestive system - from the foods you eat, to how well they are digested, the health of your gut lining, and the beneficial bacteria in your gut (the gastrointestinal microbiome).
If one aspect is out of balance, the whole system is put under pressure. Over time, this can lead to uncomfortable gut symptoms and compromise your overall health.
Your body produces digestive enzymes to help break food into smaller particles, so they can be absorbed. If you are stressed, tend to eat on the run, or have a digestive disorder of some kind, you may not produce sufficient enzymes.
This can lead to symptoms of bloating and fullness after meals due to slow or incomplete digestion. Supporting enzyme production can provide relief from these symptoms.
Just as a well-sealed compost bin contains the compost until it is ready to nourish your garden; a healthy gut lining contains digested foods until their nutrients are ready to be absorbed.
Providing a robust barrier, your gut lining also keeps harmful substances (e.g. waste products) within your digestive tract, allowing only beneficial nutrients to enter your bloodstream.
If the integrity of your gut lining is weakened (known as ‘leaky gut’) due to stress, alcohol, poor diet, or a digestive disorder; this may allow incompletely digested food particles and/or waste products to leak into your bloodstream. This is associated with symptoms including bloating and gas, but also fatigue, ‘brain fog’, allergy, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The good news is that certain herbs and nutrients can improve digestive enzyme function and help heal a leaky gut:
Gentian and dandelion root: these naturally bitter herbs stimulate your body’s production of enzymes to strengthen your overall digestive capacity.
Digestive enzymes can boost your body’s own supply, improving nutrient absorption and reducing bloating.
Glutamine: a component of protein that improves the integrity of your gut lining, therefore can help reduce gut symptoms.
Zinc and vitamin A: nutrients essential for keeping the cells in your gut lining tightly packed together, reducing the gaps that result in a ‘leaky’ gut.
Implement these key suggestions to improve your gut health:
Increase your intake of fruit, vegetables and fibre-rich foods such as legumes and wholegrains, which promote beneficial gut bacteria and overall digestive health.
Reduce your intake of alcohol and processed, sugary and fatty foods which can harm your gut lining.
Focus on underlying emotions and stress management. Stress reduces digestive enzyme production and increases leaky gut.
Eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and don’t eat on the run. Eating slowly signals to your gut that food is coming, stimulating enzymes and improving digestion.
From a holistic perspective, the treatment of all diseases must start with healing the gut. Most people who present to the clinic have gut issues. They may have other problems as well, which may seem unrelated to the gut.
Some people get better quickly with some fine tuning of their food timing and choices. A food and symptom diary is a great way to begin this “detective” work.
Many people will need specialised gut tests for gut health and function. These may include the latest microbiological and genetic DNA stool tests to assess both “good” and “bad” bacteria, yeasts and parasites. Breath Testing for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is another useful test.
Sorting out general health issues including uncomfortable gut symptoms is best done with a tailored treatment plan to address all the key aspects of your health, so you can feel your best!
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