Take Back Your Health Through the Gut Microbiome
BY ANNA CHECKET
It’s time for us to give up this victim mentality when it comes to being healthy – to stop claiming with exasperation and resignation that we don’t understand why we can’t lose weight, why we have digestive issues, sleep problems, anxiety, and other health challenges. It is impossible to ignore the facts that research and experience have put in front of us – that we have power and responsibility over most of the health issues we face. And we control them by choosing what we put into our bodies.
The negative effects of the Standard American Diet can no longer be overlooked by those of us seeking systemic health and balance in the body. In order to have a healthy immune system, properly functioning metabolism, and effective digestion, we simply have to have a healthy gut microbiome. Period. And clean, proper nutrition is the only way it’s going to happen. There are no shortcuts, magic pills, or denial strategies to change it. We need to come to terms with the fact that our bodies are a part of nature, and like the Earth, they need to be nourished and taken care of in order to thrive. If you dump a bunch of toxic waste into the ocean, there will be consequences. The same is true with our bodies. Pour in the sugar, hydrogenated oils, and highly processed carbs, and watch things fall apart.
What we once suspected about “junk” food is becoming crystal clear in the research; many foods in the Standard American Diet have been shown to severely damage gut lining, leading to poor immune health, trouble maintaining healthy weight, depression, fatigue, poor skin health, digestive problems, arthritis and many more. Modern medicine is taking a closer look at the gut than ever before, and finding it to be the main governing factor in overall health and function. The gut microbiome, otherwise known as the ecosystem of trillions of bacteria that live in our digestive tract, thrives on diversity and competition. Like a rainforest, the more diverse your gut microbiome, the healthier you are. Everything that goes into the body affects this balance, and the more toxins, refined sugar, and chemicals we put in, the more this delicate environment is violated.
When we are ready to let go of our entitlement to eat crappy food, and ready to embrace the power of choice over our health, a solution awaits. First, take the harmful, destructive substances out. Think refined sugar (soda, sweets, pastries), alcohol, processed foods, hydrogenated oils, and antibiotics from non-organic meats. Next, add in the healthy foods that will populate a thriving gut. This includes a wide-array of whole, colorful plant foods, healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil and fish oil, and whole grains and legumes. All of these foods, plus meats and animal products (if they are included in your diet) should be chosen organic whenever possible. If you suspect an imbalance in your gut, talk to your doctor about supplementation with probiotics and high-quality vitamins to get your body back to optimal function.
It’s time for us to affirm the power of our evolutionary relationship with the trillions of organisms living inside of us, that have helped us and our ancestors survive in our environment. It’s time to marvel at our intricate and complex digestive systems, which reward us when we provide them with nourishing foods that grow from the Earth. And it’s certainly time to stop pouting or feeling cheated because we “can’t” have a donut in the breakroom or scarf down a plate of cheese fries made in some shady bar-kitchen. Perspective is everything, and our good choices around nutrition certainly don’t deprive us. They empower us to live the most vital, fulfilling lives possible.
Shreiner, Andrew B., John Y. Kao, and Vincent B. Young. “The Gut Microbiome in Health and in Disease.” Current opinion in gastroenterology 31.1 (2015): 69–75. PMC. Web. 20 Apr. 2018.
Turnbaugh, P. J. et al. The effect of diet on the human gut microbiome: a metagenomic analysis in humanized gnotobiotic mice. Sci. Transl. Med. 1, 6ra14 (2009)