By Christine M. Okezie, CHHC, Natural Foods Chef
When it comes to optimizing our health, we cannot overemphasize the importance of a healthy gut. In fact, it is said that 75 percent of our immune system originates in our digestive tract, where about 100 trillion bacteria work to support normal digestive function, protect our bodies from infection and regulate our metabolism. That’s more than 10 times the number of cells in the entire human body, making us an amazing walking ecology.
With over 400 species of these bugs in our gut, our health depends on maintaining the critical balance between the good intestinal bacteria and the harmful bacteria. Research shows this balance in our gut flora has a profound affect on our physiology, immunity, and even our mental well-being.
Living with an inflamed, malfunctioning gut leads to further erosion of our health and ultimately full-blown disease. Mounting scientific evidence shows how we nurture this masterfully designed intestinal ecosystem can mean the difference between preventing or promoting a wide range of disease conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, autism and cancer.
Signs Of Gut Flora Imbalance:
- Gas and bloating
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Weight gain and obesity
- Headaches, nausea
- Sugar cravings / carbohydrate cravings
- Chronic joint pain
- Skin problems
- Frequent illness
- Depression or mood imbalance
Most of the damage to our gut comes from the foods we eat, so the number one thing we can do to heal our gut is simply avoid or minimize certain foods. Here is a list to start with:
Foods to Avoid:
- Refined carbohydrates
- Processed Junk Foods
- Excess Animal Protein
Instead, eat a diet of whole, natural, high-fiber foods rich in fruits, vegetables, plant proteins and health promoting fats.
We can also use traditionally fermented foods to heal our gut. Containing live cultures, these foods fortify and rebuild healthy gut bacteria. Some examples include:
- Kombucha tea
If fermented foods are not part of your diet, taking a probiotic supplement is strongly recommended.
Other key factors in gut health include prescription drugs; antibiotics (including those used in conventional meat production); agricultural chemical pesticides and fertilizers; and pollution.
While some environmental factors are difficult to control, simply upgrading your food choices to organic can make a significant impact. This switch alone will not only limit your consumption of sugar and food toxins, but will also decrease exposure to agricultural chemicals and antibiotics as well.
Stress and Your Gut
Finally, it is widely known that constant stress (i.e. negative emotions) is a trigger that causes multiple chronic disease processes to occur. One key to maintaining gut and overall health is finding ways to keep our stress level at bay.
To sum up, there is No Health without A Healthy Gut. Pay attention to those 100 trillion critters in your body and keep them in balance so YOU can be too.
Christine M. Okezie is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York, and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She founded her company, Your Delicious Balance, where she councils individuals to heal themselves through real food and positive lifestyle choices. Her healing strategies are based on whole foods nutrition, and guides her clients to adopt a plant-centered way of eating that offers anti-inflammatory and detoxifying benefits to the body. For more information or to contact Okezie, visit her Web site atwww.yourdeliciousbalance.com or call (201) 880-5001.