gut health | women's health

Gut Health: The Delicate Balance to Ultimate Health

By on February 16, 2019

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Gut health and the human microbiome have been recurring themes in my blogging. On Monday, I received my 25 week pregnancy update and in the article it stated that during these next few weeks of pregnancy, the baby is establishing and developing her immune system. I started thinking, and researching what to do to make sure her immunity will be the best it can be.

Maternal Microbiome

All of the research pointed back to gut health, and the microbiome. Ah-ha! Something I am familiar with. Why is gut health so important? Our guts are literally our second brain, there are over 100 million neurons that line our digestive tract. Our guts house more neurons than our spinal cords! That is pretty incredible! These neurons, along with over 100 trillion bacteria need to stay in perfect balance to help maintain our health.

When the “bad” bacteria is abundant, we see many problems. Compromised immunity, skin issues, trouble achieving and maintaining our ideal weight, brain-fog, lack of focus, and even our emotional/mental health are linked back to this delicate balance of gut bacteria. Craving sugar, wheat, starches and gluten is a warning sign that the bad bacteria is “louder” than the good bacteria in our gut. When this happens, it is possible to starve out the bad bacteria and nourish the good to begin to find that balance. Removing grains and sugar from the diet will starve the bad guys. Foods that nourish the good bacterias are fermented foods, such as keifer or sauerkraut, and fibers from dark, leafy green veggies.

Knowing what your “second brain” is telling you by listening to your food cravings is a great way to build your own immunity, which in turn will give baby a heads up as she develops in-utero, and if mom’s microbiome is functioning well, baby will receive what she needs during the birth process and the “good-guys” will colonize quite quickly. When our microbiome is uninterrupted, that is when we are in “good” health.

The Antibiotic Conundrum

When our immunity is compromised it is easier to pick up viruses and bacteria and suffer their ill-effects. We see our doctor and are often prescribed an antibiotic. An antibiotic may kill the bacteria that is making you ill. However, it also wipes out the delicate ecology in the gut. Have you ever been sick after a round of antibiotics? Maybe started having digestive or skin issues? Possibly a yeast infection? All of your “good” guys have been destroyed and now need nourished and fed.

In the medical community, it is often suggested to take a probiotic immediately after taking an antibiotic. This is good advice, although restoring the microbiome to its original homeostasis can take up to 18 months after 1 round of antibiotic. And, no. I am not saying do not take an antibiotic if you are truly ill with a bacterial infection! The moral of this information is to get your microbiome and immunity in tip-top condition by taking care of your gut health to prevent the need for an antibiotic.

The Body’s Biggest Job

All day, every day our bodies are working on ingesting food, digesting food, assimilating the nutrients from the food, and eliminating the remainder. This is another piece of the puzzle that will boost immunity and microbiome for mom and baby. In our gastrointestinal tract, having an appropriate balance of digestive enzymes supports the digestion and assimilation process.

We need support breaking down proteins, carbs, and fats from the foods we eat. The Standard American Diet, along with commercial farming practices and cooking methods do not allow us to receive adequate enzymes from our food alone. One of the benefits of adding additional digestive enzymes to the body is increased energy. This is because our body is adequately breaking down and assimilating food without increased energy output going to the GI tract just for digestion.

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Postpartum & Beyond

Knowing that gut health is linked to so many disorders of the human body really is great information when it comes to postpartum health and beyond. No matter who you are, pregnant or not, male or female, young or old, gut health is the place to start when wanting to achieve wellness.

For me, learning that certain strains of gut bacteria are responsible for emotional and mental health was quite enlightening. After delivering my second son I suffered from postpartum anxiety. Luckily, I was able to change my diet and add a few good supplements and I received relief from my symptoms very quickly. Knowing this information, I can prepare myself for what’s to come postpartum with this birth by adequately nourishing and supplementing during my pregnancy. So, my supportive methods are supplementing my diet with fiber, digestive enzymes, and probiotics. The benefits for me are increased immunity, better skin and slower aging.

If any of these issues spark your interest, or you know your gut is something you are needing to rebalance and restore. Feel free to email me and I am happy to help you with get started choosing food, supplements, or even just to point you in a direction to do your own research.

 

 

 

 

 

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family wellness | gut health

Tummy Troubles

By on March 19, 2018

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Hippocrates, the Greek physician and “Father of Medicine” stated that “all disease begins in the gut”. Leaky Gut Syndrome is becoming quite the catch word these days. A few years ago I was at a conference and heard a presentation about this issue. I listened, found it fascinating, but did not see the connection to it and my health problems at the time. Having digestive issues, skin issues, and hormone issues were just my lot in life. Maybe passed down genetically, or quite “normal” to feel this way. Taking a dose of Pepto Bismol was pretty standard practice during my childhood.

Babies are in fact, born with a “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability. This means that there are small gaps in the intestinal lining, which are beneficial in a new baby because larger immune-boosting molecules can pass directly into the baby’s bloodstream. As a newborn, this is important because the baby is using the antibodies of mama’s milk to protect against viruses, bacteria, and other dangerous microorganisms. During the first few months after birth, a baby’s organ systems develop rapidly and the gaps in the intestinal lining begin to close. That is if all systems are working appropriately– the best case scenario. In my post on the microbiome I share that Ezra was not born in the best case scenario for gut health.

In our world, much about development is based on facts and figures. Conventionally, if a baby is 6 months old, has a pincer grasp, and can sit up– it is time to start solids.  I am not sold on that school of thought. Leaky Gut Syndrome is not recognized in western medicine, although I believe it is gaining some popularity in functional or integrative medicine. My little guy has been showing symptoms of digestive discomfort since we brought him home from the NICU. He had reflux, was a “happy spitter“, and grunted constantly for several months with very uncomfortable gas. We kept him as comfortable as possible with many holistic interventions. The biggest shift in Ezra’s health occurred when I changed to a ketogenic diet. He immediately began to gain weight at an accelerated rate, and managed to grow off the preemie charts and on to the full-term charts, and sleep through the night. He was meeting his growth and milestone requirements, so I took it for granted that his internal environment had caught up. The diet was helpful for us both, and a wonderful system reset– however not quite sustainable for a long period of time.

When the gut is “leaky”, the one layer thick lining of the intestines has tiny holes scattered throughout. These essentially spring “leaks” allowing undigested food particles, bacteria and other substances to pass directly into the bloodstream. The immune system is then fired to attack these foreign invaders, creating a near constant immune response. So, what is designed to protect you in times of distress is over functioning and going a bit haywire. When the body is in this near constant state of distress, chronic inflammation begins to set in. After only a few months of eating solid foods, Ezra began to have many symptoms of chronic inflammation.  At the 12 month mark, we had several indicators that his gut still needed quite a bit of support, so some changes were in order.

Some symptoms are: eczema, psoriasis, anxiety/depression, migraines, respiratory problems, chronic fatigue, sugar cravings, allergies, behavior problems, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, weight loss or weight gain issues, and so many more. Navigating the world of infant feeding is difficult. We all want to give our children the best start. Often cereals are the first recommended food, then moving on to green beans or peas (legumes), many fruits are suggested, and age 1 is the magic age for whole milk. What if our recommended feeding guidelines are keeping us and our children sick? How do we discern what the experts are suggesting?

If Hippocrates was correct that “all health begins in the gut”, what can I do to ensure our guts are healthy? For Ezra the diet change begins with me, since he is still breastfeeding. My internal environment will be the precursor to his. At this point, our family diet is roughly 80% vegetables. We stick to leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, small portions of pastured/grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, and A2 dairy. We are avoiding grains, root vegetables, legumes, nightshade vegetables, most fruits, conventionally farmed meats/fish, and sugar. So far, we are adapting quite well and my husband and I have both released some weight within just a few weeks of this switch. This week I will introduce a new supplement into my daily regimen,  I will adjust and adapt as we go along, although right now I am seeing the proof that our systems are beginning to heal and shift toward wellness.

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