There’s plenty of research out there to explain how important the health of the tiny bacteria in your gut is to your health, and actually, these days there are a number of great doctors translating the information into specific, practical suggestions. The gap I see is between people who are very sick with auto-immune diseases and how many of them do not realize that information about the health of gut microbiota is relevant to them. Most folks with auto-immune diseases are caught up in the world of medical intervention – focused on the symptoms of the disease and using medications to alleviate those symptoms. Two things happen with this focus: one, it is common for new symptoms to arise from the medications, and two, it distracts from the question “what is actually causing these symptoms?”
My family members have ulcerative colitis, all to varying degrees. Colitis, like so many other diseases that on that are on the rise, is related to the immune system. Much of what the medical world prescribes is mean to disrupt the functioning of the immune system so that the problematic reactions of the system (and the symptoms) will be alleviated. The trouble with those solutions is that we actually REALLY need our immune system to fight all kinds of other diseases, including cancer. In order to help my family heal, it has been necessary to help them heal their immune system – and the key to that lies within the zillions (technical term) of itty bitty bacteria living within their intestines.
So how do you nurture those little guys?
- Stop killing them. Pesticides and herbicides can kill your gut microbiota. Don’t eat them. If a food is certified organic, they can’t use those toxic chemicals. Eat organic foods or foods from sources you know are not sprayed with bacteria poisons.
- Feed them their favorite foods. Fermented foods like kimchee and sauerkraut, cooked vegetables (of as great a variety as possible), and bone broth are at the top of the list of foods your good gut bacteria love and can use immediately. Because the lifespan of the bacteria is so short, they can be healthier within a few hours of giving them nutrients.
- Add them. Probiotics and prebiotics allow you to supplement the community as you are healing. We use VSL#3 for colitis.
- Starve their enemies. There are competing interests in the gut and there is such a thing as “bad” bacteria. Bad gut bacteria feeds on sugar, so sugar and foods that quickly turn to sugar (like bread) give the enemy an advantage. Avoid those foods while you are healing.
By the way, there is evidence that shows the bacteria in gut can cause you to “crave” foods they need, so if the bad bacteria is winning in there, you might find yourself craving the sugar they need to grow and thrive, which is bad news for the good guys.
You are not just a body, you are a microbiome, an environment. To be a healthy host to your good gut micobiota, you have to think about how your food choices affect them. Once they are healthy and numerous, they can go to work fighting diseases and strengthening your immune system. A great bonus is that since the majority of endorphins reside in the gut, a healthy gut also elevates your mood and creates a strong feeling of “well-being” and optimism. We can all use a bit optimism. Cheers to healthy microbiota!