by Ronit Mor
The gut is the gateway to health—not only does the gut transfer food to vital organs, but it plays a role in our physical health, mental health, emotional stability, immunology, neurology, endocrinology and pathology. If aliens were to take a human body and analyze it closely enough, they would come to the conclusion that we are mostly a mass of bacteria, with just a few human cells mixed in. Our body is a complex ecosystem made up of more than 100 trillion microbes (10 times the number of cells) that must be properly balanced and cared for if we are to be healthy.
Collectively, these trillions of bacteria are called the microbiome. Most reside in our gut, and similar to fingerprints, each of us has a unique combination of types and proportions of gut bacteria. Most of us have become familiar with the term “good” bacteria and the positive role it plays in digestive health, and how it also influences the state of our mental and emotional health. Scientists studying this micro-biota say that a healthy gut consists of about 80 percent good to 20 percent bad bacteria. These levels may vary, but as long as we maintain an approximate balance, our gut and immune system are able to function most efficiently and our body stays in good health overall .
Changes in the gutcan affect the brain andchanges in the brain can affect the gut. The new model of brain chemistry holds that inflammation in the gut travels through the bloodstream, enters the brain and suppresses the activity of the frontal cortex, which deals with higher mental functions. This results a vicious cycle, so that an imbalance of microbiota is associated with depression, anxiety and other neurological problems, from epilepsy to Parkinson’s disease and autism spectrum disorder.
The gut is also an important barrier between our body and the outside world, housing 70 percent of the cells that make up our immune system. Think of it—anything inside our gut is technically outside our body, with several defenses between it and our blood-stream. That makes the gut our first line of defense. Many conditions such as allergies, arthritis, autoimmune diseases (irritable bowel syndrome, acne and chronic fatigue), mood disorders, autism, dementia and cancer can be attributed to our gut health, or lack thereof.
The gut microbiota protect against invaders by strengthening the physical defenses of the gut wall; increasing the chemical barriers to infection by affecting the pH of the gut environment; competing with potential pathogens for space and food; regulating inflammation and the inflammatory immune response; and producing antimicrobial substances. The skin, our largest organ, is a barometer by which to monitor internal health. Acne, facial redness, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin and rosacea are all skin conditions which may have the same root cause: poor gut health.
To improve gut health, eat a diet rich in organic fresh, unprocessed foods such as nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables that support and feed healthy bacteria; avoid excess antibiotic use, headache remedies and antacid medications; and increase intake of prebiotic whole foods. Raw onions, garlic, dandelion greens, artichokes and bananas are some of the best prebiotic foods to add to our diet. We should also eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, microalgae and goat or coconut kefir. Vinegar-based and/or pasteurized foods should be avoided because they kill good bacteria.
Other tips include: severely restrict intake of refined sugar and processed foods; eat regularly, but not constantly or late at night; stay hydrated; manage and minimize stress; and add a high- quality probiotic supplement to our daily routine.
Ronit Mor is a naturopathic doctor and owner of Ronit Mor Spa and Wellness, located at 6400 W. Plano Pkwy., in Plano. For appointments, call 214-973-0482 or visit RonitMor.com.