The well being of our digestive system plays a key role in our overall levels of health.
For some time, for instance, our Digestive System has been increasingly referred to as the second brain due to it having its own set of nerve receptors. Whilst further research is starting to suggest that it may actually be the Digestive System that ‘runs the show’, so to speak, rather than the traditional view of the brain playing this role! Consequently the health of our Digestive System can impact hugely on our overall self-regulation and control.
It’s therefore easy to see how our digestive health can be linked to many health conditions ranging from traditional gut related issues such as poor absorption of nutrients, food sensitivities and intolerances, IBS and other digestive disorders, through to potentially less obvious problems such as mental health issues, autoimmune conditions, and other chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, and degenerative illnesses.
As a result looking after our Digestive System is an important consideration,
and one of the key aspects to this is protecting the precious inhabitants, our gut flora, or to give it its posh name – our microbiome.
Well, you will probably already know that these ingenious little bacteria are responsible for breaking down our food so that it can be easily absorbed, help to clear up the waste, and protect us from the less friendly bugs, viruses and parasites that can invade our digestive tracts. But, again, recent research has identified that this microbiome can give off chemical signals which contribute to our overall self-regulation – or not if they aren’t very happy, so keeping them content is probably a good idea!
Your first thought at this point would probably be to turn to the use of pro or prebiotics to improve your digestion, but whilst these can be useful in some cases, do approach with caution! My own experience, that of many of my clients, and extensive testing in the Practice has shown that these can cause more harm than good, often just putting the Digestive System under more, and usually unwelcome, pressure. It would appear that the effectiveness of these very much depends on the level of disturbances being experienced and the underlying causes, with pre and probiotics being, in many cases, more useful to help maintain good gut health rather than achieve it in the first place.
So if pro and prebiotics are not always the answer what can you do to improve your microbiome?
Well here are some interesting facts you may not be aware of that can help us answer that question…
Firstly our microbiome is unique to each and everyone of us, so what will work for one person won’t necessarily work for another. As a result, you may find you need a little trial and error to find what’s right for you. And the colony of bacteria isn’t stable. In other words it can change and adapt, being highly influenced by our environment. As such eating ‘in season’ locally sourced produce is much better for us as our microbiome is naturally set to deal with it. And of course it’s not just the good stuff in our environment that affects it. Toxins, chemicals and EMF disturbance will all have a detrimental effect and should be avoided as much as possible.
A microbiome will adapt to the types of food we are regularly eating, so a person who is vegetarian will have a different overall make up than someone who eats meat, and the more diversity in the good bacteria community you have the better, so eating a varied diet, particularly a wide variety of fruit and vegetables is also good.
And look at other health issues you have. As noted above, poor digestive well being can lead to various health issues, but these themselves can then negatively impact back on the microbiome. To really protect and improve your digestive function it is therefore important to address any additional health issues you may have.
So how good is your digestive health?
How happy is your microbiome, and is there something you can do to make it happier and then keep it content?