At The Winchester Institute we focus on the whole health of our patients. One of the topics we encourage our patients to talk more about is their diet. Other important topics we dig deeper into are how we need to stress less, sleep more, and maintain physical activity.
The Basic Do’s and Don’ts of Gut Health:
What does being healthy mean to you? We all have different ideas of what the word health means to us. We often think of health as lack of a symptom or as a feeling. Our medical dictionary says that in order to be healthy, we have to have a complete balance of chemical, physical, and social well-being. Health is not merely the absence of disease. You see, our health is one big complex system and it is a cascade of reactions. Mostly, due to our choices. As long as we are making healthy choices, they compound upon each other and lead to really well results. Similarly, when we make bad choices, they compound one upon the other. Once inflammation begins and overpowers our immune response, we end up with an illness, a symptom, or a “gut feeling” (no pun intended) that something just isn’t right.
Thoughts, Traumas, and Toxins
Preventative medicine agrees, there are three causes of disease: emotional/ physical stress, environmental/dietary toxins, and macro/micro trauma to our tissues, bones, and cells. We like to think of these as the three T’s: Thoughts, Traumas, and Toxins.
A lot of us have gut issues, in fact 70 million people in the United States suffer from some sort of gastrointestinal disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut, a food intolerance, a food allergy, or celiac disease. Our gut is home to 100 trillion bacteria. Isn’t that just amazing? Our gut micro biome’s job is two-fold; to protect the mucosal lining of the gut and to only allow nutrients and water to pass through the intestinal wall. A distressed gut allows dangerous compounds to enter the body which provokes an inflammatory reaction. Remember, one form of inflammation causes another form of inflammation. What is awesome about this topic is that with the right diet and the right lifestyle we can strengthen the gut wall and its guardian role leading to an overall improvement in our health and well-being.
Below are just some examples of good bacteria that call your gut home:
· Lactobacillus Acidophilus
· Bifidobacterium Bifidum and Breve
· Streptococcus Thermophilus and Salivarius
· Bacillus Coagulans
You may find these listed on your probiotic bottle. They are responsible for munching away at the foods that we eat and keeping the gut really healthy!
So, What Could You Be Experiencing if Your Gut Isn’t Up to Par?
· Gas, Bloating, Diarrhea
· Weight Gain
· Sugar Cravings
· Frequent Bad Breath
· Food Allergies & Sensitivities
· Chronic, Pervasive Joint Pain
· Moodiness, Depression, & Anxiety
· Skin Problems Like Eczema & Acne
· Type II Diabetes
These symptoms are all a sign that something is not right in your gut. Did you know that depression, anxiety, degenerative joint disease, arthritis, cancer, and obesity, can also be directly correlated to a gut issue too? How about this! The bacteria in our gut manufacture 95% of your body’s serotonin. Serotonin is our hormone that contributes to feelings of wellness and happiness. Think about how many of us are walking around with a poorly functioning gut. No wonder we don’t feel that great about ourselves sometimes! The more we can do to make sure our gut is well, the better we are going to function and feel!
What can we do to ensure optimal gut health?
I have broken it down to six key principles:
· Whole Foods of Color
· Limit Processed/Artificial Foods
· Less Stress
· More Sleep
1. Whole Foods of Color
Our first gut health principle is whole foods of color. This topic is simple, yet we make it so hard when it comes to eating well today. I always say: 1. get creative 2. get fast, and 3. plan ahead. I have mastered 5-minute salads at my house! Pull out a bowl and throw some veggies in! Make sure to stock up, so the produce items are on hand. You have to be prepared to make healthy choices. Ask yourself why you aren’t taking the time it takes to preparing healthier options? Make sure you really understand the repercussions of not eating health foods!
Organically grown produce is shown to have more inflammatory reducing, gut boosting, cancer fighting, anti-aging properties than conventional produce and livestock. I typically recommend 5-7 servings per day. Remember, it doesn’t have to be difficult! A serving size is small. It could be as much as ½ - 1 cup. Focus on getting more variety and more color into your day.
If we really want to feed the bacteria in our gut, the fiber found in certain foods called prebiotics can be extremely helpful. Here are some foods the bacteria in your gut love to eat:
· Raw and Cooked Onion
· Raw Garlic
· Raw Asparagus
· Jerusalem Artichoke
· Baked Wheat Flour
Additionally, try to incorporate these fermented foods into your diet. They will help your gut bacteria flourish. During the fermentation process, the good bacteria in our gut grow. Examples of fermented foods you could try to incorporate in your diet:
· Refrigerated Sauerkraut and Pickles
2. Limit Processed/Artificial Foods
Our second gut health principle is what we should avoid in our diet. Avoid fake ingredients. Those living bacteria in our gut DO NOT like being around toxins. Processed, packaged foods and foods void of color are not healthy choices for our gut. What we put into our bodies really makes a difference.
Conventionally raised livestock and artificially colored/sweetened foods are full of synthetic hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, fertilizer, and artificial preservatives. Just because it is sold in the store and everyone else is eating it does not make it right.
Stress is a big problem for many of us. Often, when a patient sits down in my treatment room, it doesn’t matter how many children they have, how big their house is, how many cars they have, what type of job they hold, everybody is so stressed out. No one else can help you manage your stress better then you. Generally speaking, we control our own stress levels, which is really empowering. Stress is a choice. List those stressors for yourself. Focus on how you can change the way you look at life’s events.
Chronic exposure to perceived high stress situations and life circumstances, increases corticosteroids and other inflammatory markers which highly damage our intestine lining. Whether stress is psychological or physiological:
· Stress triggers the release of cortisol. Cortisol helps to mobilize blood sugar so that you can run effectively from an emergency or dangerous situation.
· Short term, short-lived bouts of stress are immune boosting and stimulate gut flora growth.
· Chronic stress acts as a systemic immune suppressant, lowering levels of secretory IgA, an important body guard of the gut mucosa.
· To make matters worse, under the perception of high stress, cortisol and insulin are like sisters. High cortisol levels will also contribute to insulin resistance, or high insulin and high sugar while the cells, themselves, are starving.
· Chronic cortisol output also inhibits the conversion of storage thyroid hormone to active hormone leading to states of hypothyroidism even with normal-looking labs.
4. More Sleep
Our fourth gut health principle is sleep. We must make sure we are not over training with exercise and are giving our body the rest it needs. Some of us still have this idea that getting on a piece of cardio equipment and pushing ourselves for sixty minutes is what we need to do to better our health. Research suggests thirty minutes of moderately intense exercise five times per week with weighted resistance is best.
We need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Not getting 7-8 hours? Work harder to get to bed on time. It is important. It is the only time your body gets to rebuild. In fact, we have these caps on the end of our DNA called telomeres. I like to think of them as the protective little plastic caps at the end of your shoe laces. These end caps keep our laces from unraveling. Telomeres are that for our DNA. Our telomeres get worn down by not following our healthy principles, stress, too little sleep, improper hydration, and bad food choices. The telomere caps then begin to unravel causing us to age faster and our quality of life to go down. Sleep helps to protect the length and longevity of our telomeres. Again, you have control! Fascinating research shows that telomere caps are affected by manipulation. When you get adjusted, the nervous system is stimulated in a way that is very protective to our bodies. Visiting your Chiropractor, even when you didn’t feel bad adds to your overall good health!
Movement of our neuromusculoskeletal system is vital to optimal gut health. We have all heard the saying, “the early bird gets the worm.” The saying is super true when it comes to children and physical activity. Get your kids moving! The more we move at a young age, the better the diversity of the bacteria in our gut. Remember, we have to look at the whole, comprehensive picture. Thus, we can’t send our kids out to play, but then feed them a bunch of processed foods. Teach them why we want them to try different foods and why those foods are healthy for them.
Manipulation by a licensed Chiropractor helps our body to be healthier. As a Chiropractic Physician, my primary goal is to improve the function and motion of the spine, in order to stretch and stimulate the nervous system (the spinal cord, and the spinal nerve roots). That is the goal; regardless of why a patient enters care. Whether it be digestive issues, headaches, high stress levels, night time bed wetting, or a herniated disc, my focus is restoring healthy motion and mechanics to the spine. Doing so stretches and stimulates the spinal nerve root to take pressure off, where pressure should not be, and stimulate energy flow through the nerve roots where there isn’t proper flow. Manipulation is proven to stimulate the brain. Research suggests adjusting poorly functioning spinal vertebrae resolves stimuli causing pressure on the associated spinal nerve roots and vessels, improving body and gut performance.
Lastly, at The Winchester Institute we believe firmly in avoiding over the counter supplementation. Our supplements are pharmaceutical grade, tested, and quality proven to be labeled accurately. Today, over the counter supplementation is not safe. Below are the supplements that I would recommend for optimal gut health:
1. Omega 3s- A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports found omega-3 fatty acids allow for more bacterial diversity in the gut. 2,000-3,000mg/day
2. Probiotics- Survivability studies with some of the leading OTC probiotics (250 billion CFUs) indicate that 99% of the bacterial cells in these products cannot survive digestion. Meaning, most people are paying for products with less than 1% survivability. 1-10 billion CFUs/day
3. L-Glutamine- 2-5g/day
4. Turmeric- 1,200-1,500mg/day
5. Boswellia- 1,200mg/day
6. Magnesium- 300-1,000mg/day
At The Winchester Institute all are offered safely and at a pharmaceutical grade.