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When I was about 25 years of age I started having some GI problems. It started occasionally and then became more and more consistent.

Ok, it is a topic most people don’t like to talk about. Diarrhea! Yup. I said it. Now it is out. Everybody now knows about my little problem.

After going to multiple doctors and specialists and trying a variety of medications that didn’t work or made matters worse I started to do my own research and 17 years later was able to successfully treat my condition.

I now live a normal life. —Well, at least my bowel habit is normal(ahem).

Our Second Brain

Do you think our stomach is strictly for processing the food we eat? Think again. Our gut has been called the second brain by some scientists.

Our “gut”, also called our alimentary or digestive system goes from our mouth to our anus and is approximately 30 feet long.

It is called the second brain due to the similarities to our “1st brain”. The gut is embedded with sheaths of neurons and a lot of them. About 100 million which is more than either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system according to Michael Gershon who is an expert in the field of neurogastroenterology and the author of the 1998 book, The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine.   This system known as the “enteric nervous system” sends and receives messages, and responds to emotions just like the brain.

So although the gut cannot think deeply or intellectually it can affect the entire physiology of the body just as our brain can. The brain can affect our gut and our gut can affect our brain.

What are some of the problems that might be caused by poor gut health?

  • High cholesterol
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression
  • Chronic anemia
  • Menstrual complaints
  • Hormonal problems
  • PMS
  • Breast enlargement in men
  • Prostate issues
  • Candida infection
  • Chronic vaginal infections
  • Anemia
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Vitamin B deficiencies
  • Neurological problems

So how do we improve our gut health?

Our intestines contain Trillions of bacteria which are necessary for good health. Unfortunately, our intestines also contain bad bacteria which is OK except when there is an imbalance. When there are more bad bacteria than there are good bacteria the lining of the intestine can be compromised and the bad bacteria or endotoxins can leak into the bloodstream. This causes an inflammatory response.

Not good!

So, the number one thing we want to do is make sure our microbiota are balanced. Here is my 7 step system.

The 7 Step System

1. Consume a variety of fruits and veggies:

Don’t just eat the same old banana every morning or green beans, corn, or peas with your pork chop.

Experiment with different varieties and make sure to include all the colors. This will help increase the number of different kinds of beneficial bacteria which will make your army even stronger against the bad guys.

2. Consume Fermented foods:

These will increase the number of lactobacilli which are very good guys!!

You would not believe how easy it is to ferment your own veggies. This book, Home Fermentation: A Starter Guide will give you all the information necessary to become a master fermenter.

And here is a complete kit that will give you everything you need to get started on your new hobby.

  • Yogurt (beware many yogurts are full of sugar or artificial sugar which is not good for healthy bacteria)
  • Kefir
  • Kimchee
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Fermented veggies

3. Get rid of artificial sweeteners:

For those of you that don’t know me yet, I am a true believer in real food. Call it clean eating, paleo, whatever. I just think if it didn’t come that way naturally it is not going to be recognized by my body. Therefore, there might just be a problem with how it is assimilated into what my body needs.

Now am I 100% clean? NO! But again I try to follow the 80/20 rule. One thing I don’t consume is artificial sweeteners. EVER! NEVER EVER!

Too many studies have shown me the negative effects including weight gain. (what?) Yes! Not to mention many others.

4. Add Prebiotics:

You may be getting some these without even knowing about it. But some folks may find it hard to get enough of these in their diet. What are they? Food for the probiotics!

Without prebiotics, the probiotics have nothing to eat and no way to become strong soldiers! If you are eating these foods you are good to go. If not you may want to take a supplement like this one.

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Bananas
  • Oats
  • Berries
  • Legumes(beans, peas)
  • Chickory root
  • Berries
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Dandelion greens
  • Asparagus
  • Leeks

5. Consume bone broth:

Some studies have shown promising benefits of amino acids that are in bone broth to be helpful for digestion. The amino acid called glutamine seems very promising.

Glutamine helps heal the intestinal barrier according to a 2017 study in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care.

This may be very beneficial with conditions such as leaky gut where the mucosal lining of the intestines becomes irritated and inhibits the body’s ability to digest food.

What is interesting is what was documented in the journal Nutrients based on another study in 2017. They state people with inflammatory bowel disease tend to have lower levels of some amino acids.

Drinking bone broth on a regular basis may be a simple way to get anti-inflammatory amino acids into the body.

Here is a recipe that calls for adding eggshells for additional benefits of highly absorbable calcium along with other needed nutrients.

6. Get off those PPI’s!:

Proton Pump Inhibitors are not meant for long-term use. If you have been on them longer than a month or two talk to your doctor about how you can taper off.

Proton Pump Inhibitors are those anti-acid meds your doc gives you for heartburn (Omeprazole, Prevacid, Prilosec, Aciphex, Protonix, etc).

You should not attempt this without the help of your medical provider.

There are many natural alternatives to help you with this but you will have rebound acid while trying to get yourself off of them(future blog coming).

The stomach is supposed to have an acidic environment. When we change that for an extended length of time it creates an uncomfortable environment for our healthy bacteria(aka the good guys).

If you decide to stay on the PPI’s then you need to work a little harder to keep the guys strong and healthy.

7. Eat your oats!

Whole grain is digested in the large intestine and increases the amount of the good guys!! Whole grains also contain a lot of nutrients, decrease inflammation, and create a feeling of fullness.

8. Finally, (and what I started with) was a quality probiotic.

They are not all the same. Many over the counter expensive name brands do not have all the necessary strains or the number of active cultures your GI tract is lacking.

I had actually tried some of those common ones you see advertised (I won’t mention any names) and they did not help me at all.

I now maintain my gut health by utilizing numbers 1-6 but initially, I took this brand because of the high number of strains and cultures, and within 3 weeks I was normal.

Again, I realize this only normalized my bowels and not all the other aspects of my life but we have to start somewhere right?

2 Comments

  1. Ann

    Thank you Lisa. This article is very helpful.

    Reply
    • Lisa Manzer

      I am so glad to hear that.. thank you Ann

      Reply

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7 Essential Steps to Improving Gut Health and Why its Important