What are gut bacteria?
Many of us are familiar with the term gut bacteria and have a vague idea that keeping it in balance is important. But did you know that when it is out of balance, the result can trigger your joint pain and other inflammatory conditions in the body?
There are trillions of bacteria in and on our body, made up of many species, and most of these reside in the digestive tract. We can influence them by the foods we choose to eat and conversely, they can influence areas of our body outside the gut such as our brain and immune systems.
Imbalances and gut inflammation
Considering our ability to influence our gut microbiome with the foods we choose, it is no wonder that the all-too-common consumption of a high fat, high sugar, low nutrient diet contributes to loss of beneficial bacteria. Other factors that can disrupt the balance include the use of medications or high levels of stress.
When the beneficial bacteria are reduced it provides the opportunity for harmful bacteria to take hold and cause infection and gut inflammation. This inflammation can cause the tight junctions in the intestinal wall to weaken, a condition commonly referred to as leaky gut. But if you’re not experiencing gut disturbances, does that mean that this isn’t an issue for you? Not necessarily.
How do you know if you have a problem?
When we have developed a leaky gut, some of the bacteria can gain access to the circulating bloodstream and travel throughout the body. These bacteria are very triggering to the immune system causing symptoms of inflammation.
The location of these symptoms in the body will be unique to the individual. For example, some people experience joint pain. Interestingly, in arthritis, parts of these bacteria are being found in the joints. For other individuals, symptoms can present in a variety of ways such as weight management issues, food intolerances, skin rashes, or sleep problems. So, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is prudent to support your gut health as part of your solution.
What can you do?
There are many things that you can do to actively improve the balance of your microbiome. Diet and lifestyle choices are a huge factor in your overall microbiome balance, and is the best place to start. And supplementation can support this process. Here are my top tips to implement into your routine.
Foods to avoid
- Refined sugars and flours decrease the number of good bacteria in the gut and lead to increased sugar cravings which can damage your gut still further. These foods have also been linked to inflammation throughout the body.
- Artificial sweeteners have an association with weight gain which is thought to be linked to their negative effect on the gut microbiota.
- Excessive alcohol intake can interrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut and is also linked to inflammation in the body.
Foods to include
- Fiber (e.g. fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains) enables our beneficial bacteria to produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid which is important to support the mucosal system that protects our gut lining from inflammation.
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi are great sources of beneficial bacteria.
- Foods high in polyphenols (e.g. almonds, green tea and dark chocolate) help to reduce inflammation.
- Stay hydrated since it has a beneficial effect on the mucosal lining and balanced bacteria in the gut.
- How you eat is as important as what you eat. Eating slowly and chewing thoroughly helps to support digestion and absorption of nutrients and can help maintain a healthy gut.
- Manage stress levels since dysregulated adrenal function triggers changes in our gut microbiome that is linked to inflammation.
- Prioritize sleep since insufficient amounts can have serious implications on your gut health, which can then contribute to more sleep issues.
- Daily exercise increases gut microbial diversity and produces more short-chain fatty acids that supports the intestinal barrier.
Key Nutrients and Supplementation
- Taking probiotics can help promote healthy gut bacteria and support an overall balance in the microbiome.
- If you can, get tested to determine if your body is low in any specific nutrients. B vitamins, Omega 3s, vitamin D and Magnesium are all important nutrients to fight inflammation which you can supplement if you are lacking.
Bonnie Flemington, MBA, is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner specializing in helping clients to reduce pain and inflammation by addressing diet, digestive issues, nutrient deficiencies and adrenal stress. She works with individuals and runs online corporate and small group programs that have a high rate of success. You can reach out to book a call with Bonnie on her website at https://bonnieflemington.com/