Gut health. It’s so… gross sounding, isn’t it? But for those of us who suffer from gut issues, it can be all encompassing, limiting, life-sapping, and very distressing. For those who don’t suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) distress, did you know your skin issues, migraines, nerve issues, autoimmune disease and mood issues VERY likely stem from issues in your GI tract?
Anatomy of Inflammation
The gut lining is super-duper thin, at only 3-5 mm thick. The GI tract, if laid out flat, is the size of a studio apartment (about 400 square feet). This cellophane-thin layer of “skin” is the ONLY barrier between whatever junk you put in your mouth and your blood stream. It has a VERY important job. It decides what is allowed in and what stays in the lumen (the tube that runs from your mouth to you-know-where). But it must have a back-up plan, because unfortunately, this super thin membrane is constantly barraged and harmed by foods, toxins, and pathogens. It’s back up-plan is two-fold: First, our gut is teeming with microbes that help digest, break down toxins, liberate nutrients, and bind up junk for the dump. These microbes also communicate and assist the lining and the enteric nervous system (the nervous system in our gut lining) to do their jobs of keeping the bad guys out and the nutrients in. The second part of the back-up plan is the immune system. Referred to as the GALT (Gut-associated Lymphatic Tissue), the immune system sits just on the other side of the gut lining and makes up 80 percent of our entire immune system. This is because the GI tract is basically outside our bodies, and the job of determining what moves from the lumen to the blood stream is literally a life-or-death process.
This is where inflammation really becomes important. If your gut lining is not in good shape, your diet is not ideal for you, and your gut bugs are unbalanced, your immune system has to kick into high-gear. It is going to be literally attacked by particles, pathogens and toxins flowing in through a destroyed and porous gut lining. The job of the immune system is to fight, and in the process of fighting, it creates inflammation. Since the enemies it is fighting have direct access to the blood stream, the immune system’s army proceeds to follow the enemies throughout the body, bringing inflammation wherever it goes. Think of that foam stuff you spray on a fire to put it out. THAT IS INFLAMMATION. As the preverbal “fire” spreads around the body via the blood stream, foam is being sprayed everywhere to control the burn. When the foam travels to the joints you have joint pain; in the brain, you have brain-fog, memory impairment and mood issues; in the nerves, you have neuropathies; the skin, you have rashes; etc.
See why the gut lining is so essential to protect? If you HAVE gut issues, you have a strong warning that you have a problem there that needs attention; BUT if you don’t have gut issues, you just aren’t getting the ALERT, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have issues.
The Path to Recovery for the Gut Lining
I call the top offenders of gut health the “3 F’s.” They are fiber, foods and fake stuff. These are what to avoid, and I will go into that in the next article and constantly talk about them over on my website and FB page. I will also be speaking at Mom Mondays on the topic on August 27, so check that out here!
But today, I want to talk about your gut bugs and how to keep them healthy so they can assist the immune system and quell inflammation.
Probiotics – Supplements and Foods
One way to support the gut microbiome is by taking probiotics. This is especially essential after a round of antibiotics. But so many things wreck havoc on the microbiome that they need support MOST of the time. The key is variety. You do not want to take the same probiotic all the time. You need to vary your species and sources. You also need to find one the that FEELS right to you. NOT everyone needs the same species. So if one brand makes you feel worse, switch and find one that helps your symptoms. Find 2-3 brands you can rotate.
Fermentation is at least 9,000 years old. Humans likely discovered it by accident. It is the natural process of rotting. However, when properly controlled, humans discovered that food could actually be preserved and enhanced by the right fermentation environment.
Kombucha- What’s the Big Deal?
Kombucha is one example of a centuries-old fermented beverage. For most of human existence after civilization began, drinking municipal water was deadly. Fermenting things like juice and tea created a probiotic, anti-pathogenic beverage that was safer to drink than water.
Today, Kombucha is a craze, and here are just a few pros and cons:
Kombucha contains a combination of living, beneficial bacteria and yeast that can be healthful as they pass through the GI tract. It also is acidic, which has digestive and detoxification benefits. The acids that make up a properly made Kombucha are beneficial to the gall bladder, liver and gut.
Kombucha contains antioxidants that decrease inflammation and prevent disease. It has anti-bacterial properties, anti-fungal properties and can heal and protect the gut lining, and heal and protect against ulcers.
Many people feel alive, clear-headed and healthy drinking Kombucha. It has been shown to alleviate depression. Made properly, Kombucha has a whole host of health benefits! But you must judge for yourself how you feel and ALTERNATE Kombucha with other fermented foods.
Commercial Kombucha can be high in sugar. This makes it much more like a soda than a beneficial elixir. It is also a bit ambiguous as to how many probiotics the drink actually contains. Many are pasteurized, which kills all beneficial bacteria. This just leaves a sugary soda drink.
Homemade Kombucha is more likely to have the beneficial bacteria, and the sugar content can be adjusted. However, if made too acidic, it can be dangerous. If you are home-brewing, be sure to get acidity test strips and keep the brew in the prescribed range. Kombuchakamp.com is a great site for info, recipes, tools and starters. Many home-brewers judge sugar content and acidity by taste: the more acidic, the lower the sugar content. However, again, drinking too low on the acid scale can be dangerous. So keep the sugar content down, learn how to watch for mold and pathogens, and monitor the acidity. If you do all this, then home-brewing is the way to go!
MY BIGGEST CON: Acidic drinks are harmful to the teeth. If you do drink Kombucha of any form, you MUST NOT SIP IT ALL DAY LONG. You need to drink your allotted amount then rinse your mouth out with water, wait 20 mins, then brush. This is essential or you will erode away your tooth enamel! This is a huge detriment to Kombucha.
Drinking Kombucha daily is not advisable, both from an acidity standpoint and from a variety standpoint. It is very important to VARY your fermented foods so that you are supporting the largest variety of species in your gut. ONLY drinking Kombucha is like taking ONLY 1 probiotic strain all the time — you are essentially “mono-cropping,” which can cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome. VARIETY is ALWAYS the answer when it comes to a healthy gut.
My Verdict on Kombucha
If you: drink in moderation, listen to your body, make sure the sugar content is below 8g/serving, properly home-brew (or do your research on brands), rotate with other fermented foods (like sour kraut, pickles and Gut Shots) AND properly care for your teeth when you drink Kombucha, I say go for it! But a bottle per day is too much. Do not drink daily, do not sip and stop if you don’t feel right.
Read more about fermented foods here.
Other Fermented Foods You MUST Try:
- Pickles — Bubbies, Sonoma Brinery — look for the words, “raw,” “probiotic rich,” “fermented,” “live cultures.” Avoid shelf stable products, because they must be refrigerated. Avoid brine and vinegar — these are just pickling flavors.
- Sauerkraut, kimchee, fermented veggies of all kinds: Pickles Planet, Farmhouse Culture and the above names.
- Kombucha — I believe GT’s is the best, but do your own research.
- Gut Shots by Farmhouse Culture are a simple, easy-to-digest way to shoot back a strong fermented beverage. Tons of flavors for variety.
If you have gut issues the are unresolved with the typical recommendations, Dr. Katania specializes in difficult-to-treat, stubborn GI issues. Work with her at : kataniataylor.com/rock-your-gut,kataniataylor.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook @kataniataylorblog. See her Live at Inspire Reno on Aug. 27. Purchase tickets here.