Balancing Your Flora Written by Hillary Bennetts, Certified Holistic Nutritionist Website Instagram We know that gut health influences the health of just about every system in your body. From your brain function to your skin’s appearance, from how well your immune system works to how your body stores fat, your microbiome is at the root Welcome to Rush-Henrietta Family Chiropractic. Serving the Greater Rochester, NY area since 2002. Our goal is to get you out of pain and on to a path of health and wellness so that you can do the things that you love again!
Weed Seed And Feed Gut Health
Are you gardening this year? Do you love seeing your plants grow healthy and strong? If you are a gardener, you know there are certain things plants need to thrive. Some of the first steps are weeding, seeding, and feeding.
It is necessary to get the undesirable plants out of the way by weeding so that the seeds you want to grow don’t get choked out. Then the desirable seed can be planted. Once planted, these desirable plants need to be fed so they can grow.
The principles of gardening can actually apply to the complex habitat within our gut. To have good gut health, we must get the weeds (bad bacteria) in check. To do this we need the good seeds (healthy bacteria) to take root. And finally, we need to feed this good bacteria (prebiotics).
Let’s look at how we can use these principles to cultivate a healthy gut, and learn why it is so important for our overall health.
Why Gut Health Matters
Have you ever considered how your gut health impacts your overall health? Well, since seventy percent of your immune system resides in the gut, it is imperative that it is healthy. There is also a strong connection between our gut and our skin, our gut and our brain, and our gut and our hormones.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, “The health of the 100 trillion bugs in your gut is one of the biggest things that impacts your health.” When the healthy gut bacteria is out of balance with the bad gut bacteria, we are set up for trouble.
In fact, Dr. Hyman explains that, many “diseases are affected by the health of your gut flora – including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, allergic diseases like asthma and eczema and even depression, ADD and autism!”
How the Gut Gets Damaged
When your gut lining breaks down you develop ‘leaky gut.’ This can be caused by using antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, or excessive alcohol use. But it can also be affected by stress, a diet of processed foods, or even food sensitivities – foods that are generally considered “healthy,” but simply aren’t working for your body.
Once you develop a leaky gut, your immune system must deal with the food particles, bacteria, and microbes that leak into the body through the compromised gut barrier that would normally keep them from gaining access. This creates havoc in your system and triggers an immune response – which can lead to an autoimmune response in which your immune system attacks your own body (Think Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriasis, Chron’s Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis just to name a few.)
Ways to Support Gut Health
In order to heal our gut, we need to bring the good and the bad bacteria into balance.
- “Weeding” out the bad bacteria – This can be done through reducing and eliminating excess sugar, alcohol, and processed foods from the diet. In some cases it is important to reduce the amount of bad bacteria through the use of herbs or prescription medicine.
- “Seeding” Probiotics – Dr. Hyman explains that “probiotics can improve the health of your gut significantly… because probiotics help to populate your gut with good bacteria.”
Eating fermented foods that contain probiotics – like kimchi, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, and yogurt – can increase the amount of good bacteria in your system. However, most people would benefit from a quality probiotic supplement as well.
- “Feeding” the good bacteria – In addition to probiotics, it is important to have prebiotics. Dr. Hyman explains that “prebiotics are a form of soluble fiber that help feed the good bugs in your gut.”
This is because many fruits and vegetables contain fiber and resistant starch that your body can’t digest. These indigestible plant fibers, or prebiotics, become food for the healthy bacteria and other microbes. Common prebiotics include onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, asparagus, leeks, carrots, bananas, apples, and almonds. Aim for a variety of colors of veggies every day to adequately feed the variety of “good” bacteria.
What to Look for in a Probiotic
The probiotic market can be really confusing. It seems like there are hundreds if not thousands of options! How do you decide which to choose?
In his book Healthy Gut, Healthy You, Dr. Michael Ruscio explains the 3 main categories of Probiotics. These include:
- Lactobacillus & Bifidobacterium blends
- Saccharomyces Boulardii
- Soil-Based Probiotics using various Bacillus species.
I recommend choosing one probiotic from each of these categories, and taking them simultaneously for at least 3-4 weeks. Want to learn more about why I make this recommendation? I LOVE this probiotic starter guide by the aforementioned author Dr. Michael Ruscio.
What Brand to Use
Quality really matters when it comes to probiotics. In addition to not containing what they claim, some probiotics actually have been found to contain unacceptable microorganisms. I never recommend buying supplements on Amazon as Amazon itself admits that they can’t guarantee that what is advertised is what you will receive.
The brands that I recommend go through external audits to ensure that the product contains what is on the label while not containing unacceptable organisms, or common allergens such as gluten, dairy, and soy.
There is no one “perfect” brand to use. The most expensive one is not necessarily best, but it is important to notice if a probiotic is much cheaper than other brands on the market. Really cheap probiotics may not have the best quality control practices and likely aren’t independently tested.
If you want to learn what my favorite brands are in each of the 3 categories, feel free to ask me at your next appointment.
As always, I’m available to discuss your gut health or your use of probiotics. Just give me a call, and we’ll set up an appointment where we can discuss it!
THE 3 ESSENTIAL STEPS TO MAINTAINING A THRIVING MICROBIOME
We know that gut health influences the health of just about every system in your body. From your brain function to your skin’s appearance, from how well your immune system works to how your body stores fat, your microbiome is at the root of it all.
Over 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates made the statement that “all disease begins in the gut,” but it wasn’t until recent years that we started paying attention. So what can we do to maintain a thriving microbiome? Here are three essential steps: weed, seed, and feed.
Step 1: Weed
The first step to support gut health is to remove, or “weed out,” the foods that contribute to gut inflammation and imbalance. In other words: cut the crap.
The “Standard American Diet” is packed with processed, inflammatory foods like refined carbohydrates, excess sugar, and industrial seed oils. Even if you seek out better-for-you options, the reality is, most processed food contains inflammatory ingredients and lacks gut supporting nutrients like soluble and insoluble fiber.
So what can you do? Transition to a diet based on healthy, whole, nutrient-dense foods. You may also take weeding a step further by working with a practitioner to run a food sensitivity test or elimination diet. You may find that certain foods (even foods you may otherwise view as healthy, like eggs) are irritating and inflaming your gut. By identifying such foods, you can remove them from your diet for a period of time to allow your gut to heal.
Step 2: Seed
The second step to support gut health is to seed the gut with good bacteria.
You constantly have both good and bad bacteria in your body. The bad bacteria can quickly overrun the good if left unmanaged, so the key is to keep the balance of good bacteria greater than the bad. You can do this by adding good bacteria to your gut, which can actually help fight off the bad and restore a healthy balance. Probiotic foods and supplements are a way to add good bacteria to your body.
So what can you do? Incorporate fermented foods into your diet. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics and include foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, and kefir. You can also supplement with a probiotic. Consult with your provider on specific strains if you have a known gut issue (like SIBO, leaky gut, histamine intolerance, IBD, or IBS).
Step 3: Feed
The third step is to feed the good bacteria in the gut with prebiotics. Just like us, bacteria need to eat specific food to survive and thrive.
So what can you do? Increase your intake of fermentable fibers. These are found in foods like unripe (green) bananas, plantains, artichoke, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, and dandelion greens.
Taking care of your microbiome can have a broad range of benefits. As every microbiome is different, every body will respond differently to weeding, seeding, and feeding. However, incorporating these steps can improve allergies, brain function, skin health, immunity, digestion, and bone health. In addition, it can reduce the risk of autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
It might sound miraculous, but that’s just how powerful a thriving microbiome can be. Try these three simple steps and see what benefits you notice!
Hillary Bennetts is a nutritionist and business consultant focusing on prenatal and postpartum health. In addition to nutrition consulting she provides business consulting and content creation for companies in the health and wellness industry. Hillary spent almost a decade in corporate consulting before shifting gears to combine her lifelong passion for health and wellness with her business background and nutrition education.
Hillary holds a Bachelors in Economics from Washington and Jefferson College, an MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, and is certified as a Holistic Nutritionist through Bauman College. She lives in Colorado with her husband and toddler son.
Weed, Seed, and Feed – How to Heal the Gut!
Last week we discussed how inflammation can start in the gut, how it can lead to many systemic problems, and how tracking foods that trigger inflammation can help reduce symptoms. What happens if the inflammation is out of control? If the symbiotic relationship between gut and bacteria begins to break down, it may be necessary to use nutrition to completely rebuild the system. Let’s dive into how inflammation can go too far and what steps we can take to fix the environment in the intestines.
WHAT IS INFLAMMATION DOING
The intestinal tract is lined with cells that have been specifically designed for their location. The top of the cell that faces the inner surface where digestion takes place is covered in finger-like projections called villi. These create little folds and ripples along the digestive tract that increase surface area and allow for optimal absorption of nutrients. The sides of each cell are lined with sticky protein complexes called tight junctions; these keep the intestinal lining held together, preventing toxins or forign entities from entering the blood-stream.
Inflammation can begin to break down both of these cellular structures. The villi will begin to flatten out causing reduction in absorption of nutrients and tight junctions break down, allowing toxic substances to permeate inside. The inflammation will also begin to kill off the good bacteria found in the gut, allowing bad bacteria to thrive. These bacteria produce toxins that further breakdown the gut and increase the inflammatory response. This begins an endless cycle of damage to the intestinal lining.
WEED, SEED, AND FEED – HOW TO HEAL THE GUT
One of the ways nutritionists deal with IBS or IBD is by taking specific steps to heal the gut. If you were to ask your nutritionist in Rochester, NY, he would suggest a very specific protocol to get your gut back in shape! The weed, feed, and seed protocol uses dietary changes at specific times to return the gut to a healthy state.
Weeding is the first step. The goal is to transform the gut into a hostile environment for the bad bacteria. Grains and sugars can’t be consumed during this phase because these types of foods are consumed by bad bacteria to thrive. Different antibacterial herbs will be introduced in different meals. These include garlic, oregano, and goldenseal. A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar each day will also disinfect the gut.
Seeding is the second step and will begin the repair process in the intestines. The goal is to introduce foods that are the building blocks of healthy gut bacteria. At this point, probiotic foods need to be introduced into the diet. These will reintroduce the good bacteria back into the gut. One of the best probiotic foods is yogurt. To speed up this process, it may be necessary to supplement with a probiotic. To help feed the new good bacteria, the diet during this phase needs to have plenty of fiber as well since good bacteria live off of the fiber that we can’t digest. They get a delicious meal while we have healthier bowel movements.
Feeding is the final step to continue healing the gut while maintaining the new healthy bacteria. The diet at this stage needs to continue to have plenty of fiber, but this step will also introduce new prebiotic foods to the diet. Foods like onion, asparagus, bananas, and garlic all contain inulin. Inulin is a favorite food for the good bacteria and allows them to thrive. This phase also begins to feed the intestinal lining by repairing tight junctions. Chicken, fish, and other foods high in glutamine will also be introduced to the diet as it is essential in the repair of these tight junctions. At least 5 grams per day should be consumed and can be supplemented if necessary.
Once the protocol is started, modifying your diet between weed, feed, and seed is not difficult. The initial diet modifications of this protocol usually pose the biggest challenge to deal with; grains and sugars are oftentimes staples in a normal diet and can be difficult to cut out. Here at Rush-Henrietta Family Chiropractic, we have experience helping individuals begin these difficult dietary changes. Our nutritionist will sit down with you and set up a personalized game plan to give you the confidence necessary to maintain the new dietary lifestyle.