Problems in our gut can cause more than just tummy troubles; they can be a root cause behind many chronic health issues. Gut imbalances have been linked to hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and hashimotos thyroiditis, diabetes, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, eczema and rosacea?and scientists keep finding more links. A gut healing program is central to effective nutritonal therapy.
The healing program follows the “5R protocol”:
Remove: harmful and inflammatiory foods, unwanted bacteria and parasites, environmental toxins and other detrimental lifestyle factors. This would involve an elimination diet based on your symptoms and test results but likely to include removal of the prime suspects of dairy, gluten and other grains, sugars, excessive caffeine and alcohol. In addition, stress reduction, and improved sleep is likely to be key. Removal of unwanted micro-organisms will be helped by not feeding them sugars, starches and refined foods, but also by including foods with anti-microbial properties, such as garlic, oregano, thyme, coconut oil and apple cider vinegar in your diet.
Replace any missing elements. Most people with gut issues will benefit from measures to improve enzyme production, adequate stomach acid, promotion of good gut motility (i.e., the ability of the gut to move the food along its length at the right tempo), enhancement of the diet to ensure all the nutrients needed for good health are included in the diet and support for the body’s own detoxification pathways. First steps might be to take apple cider vinegar before meals, inclusion of bitter leaves (e.g., rocket and other salad leaves), black pepper, ginger, and eating a nutrient dense diet.
Reinocculate with beneficial bacteria. Once any harmful micro-organisms have been removed, it is time to encourage the growth of friendly gut bacteria. Fermented foods (such as natural, unpasteurised yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh) are a great way to do this, but remember at the same time to feed your gut bacteria with the right foods (aka prebiotics), such as asparagus, leek, onion, garlic, radish, carrot, jerusalem artichoke, chicory root and green bananas.
Repair the gut wall. Enhancing your good gut bacteria will help repair the gut as these microorganisms produce compounds that feed the cells of your gut wall, but you can also include foods that encourage repair such as (preferably home-made) bone broth or chicken stock, eating the crispy skin from chicken or fish (all of these are high in collagen an essential component of the gut wall), including plenty of foods rich in vitamin C in your diet (brussels sprouts, peppers, blackcurrants, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage all contain good amounts of vitamin C) will also help the body to repair the gut.
Rebalance. This is a key element that must not be neglected. All gut issues and indeed health problems are worsened by stress, not enough sleep, being too busy to switch off and neglecting our social and emotional support systems. Take time to rebalance your life. Indeed if you do none of the other steps in the 5R program, make sure you do this one!