Most of us don’t think about our gut until it starts misbehaving. Spending an unpleasant night running to and from the bathroom is guaranteed to draw attention to this part of the body. The problem is that gut health is linked to many other aspects of our health and gut problems have a knock-on effect.
When we eat food, it passes through the gut. Here, essential nutrients are extracted and absorbed through the gut walls. If our gut is not working properly, the entire system falls down and it isn’t long before we begin to suffer unpleasant symptoms.
Symptoms of a Bacterial Imbalance
An imbalance of gut bacteria is often to blame for digestive issues. Common problems of poor gut health include gas, heartburn/acid reflux, bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhoea and constipation. If you suffer from any of these issues, ask yourself, what does my poop mean? The answer is staring right back at you from the toilet bowl.
Unresolved gut issues often worsen and become chronic conditions. What begins as a constant upset tummy can morph into irritable bowel, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, and Chron’s Disease.
Causes of a Gut Bacteria Imbalance
Antibiotics: one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine, but taking a course of antibiotics is usually the main culprit, as antibiotics kill all bacteria, even the good ones that are essential for your health.
Think of your stomach as a garden filled with a wide variety of flora and fauna. Antibiotics act like a powerful herbicide. They kill everything, including the flowers. Unless you do something to correct the imbalance, the healthy bacteria in your gut will not recover and the bad bacteria will run rampant.
Stress is also a common cause of gut issues. Stress raises the levels of cortisol in the blood, make you anxious. Short-term stress doesn’t cause too many problems, but if you are stressed up to the eyeballs all day, every day, for months, the extra cortisol in your system will upset the delicate balance in your gut.
There is also strong evidence to suggest that many autoimmune diseases are linked to poor gut health. For example, people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are often deficient in essential vitamins and minerals such as iron due to issues with gut absorption.
Resolving Gut Issues Caused by a Bacterial Imbalance
You won’t be able to cure your gut problems overnight, but with a bit of effort, you should be able to heal your gut and resolve any symptoms you have. And for anyone with an autoimmune condition, paying close attention to gut health is even more important.
Eliminating sugar from your diet is critical. You don’t have to quit your sugar habit completely but try to cut it out as much as possible. Sugar is a toxic food. It disrupts the gut ecosystem and encourages bad bacteria to thrive. The more sugar you consume, the more likely you are to have poor gut health. If you have a sweet tooth, replace sugary cakes, soda, and biscuits with fruits and other naturally sweet foods.
Clean up your diet in other ways too. The Paleo Diet is a great example of a gut-friendly diet. This diet focusses on healthy proteins and plenty of fruit and vegetables rather than a grain-based diet most of us normally eat. It is worth pointing out that many gut problems are linked to gluten intolerance. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease caused by an allergy to gluten, but you can be intolerant to gluten without being Celiac. Limiting your consumption of grains will help gut health and minimise any unpleasant symptoms such as bloating.
Fermented foods are a natural way of boosting the population of healthy bacteria in your gut. Kefir is a popular option, but don’t ignore the benefits of eating sauerkraut and non-pasteurised cheese and yoghurt. Even bio-yoghurt drinks are better than nothing.
If you can’t stand the taste of fermented foods, try taking a probiotic supplement each day. These small capsules contain millions of healthy bacteria, which should repopulate your gut. Your stomach acid will kill many of them, but at least some will make it through to the gut.
Lastly, resolve to destress and live a better life. Stress will ultimately kill you if you’re not careful, so if your gut is telling you something is seriously wrong, listen to it.