Lately, it seems that everyone is buzzing about “gut health”. Most of us jumped on board with the push for probiotics, followed by a push for prebiotics. Fermented foods. Wheat-free. Dairy-free. Lemon water. Juice cleanses… we know that there are countless ways to support a healthy digestive system, and that some methods work better for some than for others. It can seem overwhelming, but for those of us who suffer from daily indigestion, it’s a battle we begrudgingly take on. Besides indigestion, an imbalanced gut can be indicative of chronic inflammation and can lead to poor immune response.
At Kimberton Whole Foods, we know that most of our health-conscious customers are already doing their part to eat well-rounded diets, yet many still suffer from gastrointestinal distress. What we have come to learn is that a healthy diet is not one-size-fits-all, and achieving your best health takes a little bit of patience and experimentation. Here, we will break down our current knowledge regarding the expansive topic of gut health, as well as some steps you can take to find relief for your digestive system. We picked the brain of Dr. Zach Bush, co-founder of Biomic Sciences (producer of RESTORE, now called ION Biome) and board-certified doctor in internal medicine, endocrinology, and metabolism. We recommend that you use this information to spark your own research and discussion with your trusted healthcare practitioner.
A refresher on probiotics:
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria or “good gut bacteria” which are the same or similar to bacteria naturally found in the human body. These bacteria are not harmful, and in fact contribute positively to normal growth and development. Dr. Bush says, “A healthy gut should have between 20,000 and 30,000 species of different bacteria. You will not achieve “gut health” with only 5 or 10 or even 100 different strains with massive copies of those 5 or 10. Our goal is to support the bodies’ own ability to proliferate and diversify the bacteria by giving the body the tools to do so.”
Why take probiotics? “Maintaining gut balance is increasingly being shown to be vital to overall health, as a majority of the immune system is in the gastrointestinal tract,” says Dr. Bush. While “good” bacteria are beneficial, some bacteria can have a negative influence and cause various diseases. For this reason, taking a high-quality probiotic can have a positive effect on the digestive and immune systems, by ensuring that enough good bacteria are present and thriving in the gut.
What foods naturally contain probiotics?
Traditionally cultured (fermented) vegetables such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and “real” pickles naturally contain probiotics. The same is true of other fermented foods such as kombucha and water kefir. Regularly consuming these foods is generally considered a good idea, however supplementing with a probiotic is recommended for those who suffer from gastrointestinal upset.
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are naturally occurring fiber materials (not digested by the human body) which may be digested by probiotics to help them grow. They enhance the effectiveness of the probiotics you consume. Find prebiotics naturally in foods like garlic, onions, sunchokes, and jicama.
Should I supplement with digestive enzymes?
Digestive enzymes in our gut break down the food we eat into nutrients that our body can absorb. Yet, for some people, disease or chronic stress/inflammation can impair the function of enzymes in the body. Quality multi-enzymes (containing proteases, lipases, and carbohydrases) may be taken with meals for individuals with an enzyme deficiency, or specialized (single) enzymes may be taken if a specific enzyme dysfunction is identified.
What is “leaky gut” or “gut permeability”?
“Leaky gut occurs when our gut membrane, which is only one cell layer thick, gets injured. Several foods and toxins in our everyday lives cause this injury,” says Dr. Bush. Tight junctions are the specialized connections between cell walls. In the gut, these junctions form the barrier-like membrane of the digestive tract, which serves to regulate the absorption of macronutrients. They are also the frontline of defense. When these junctions are not functioning well, it is referred to as “leaky gut” or “gut permeability”, which is known to lead to chronic inflammation such as ulcerative colitis.
Why do so many individuals suffer from leaky gut? Is gluten to blame?
There are many, many factors which may contribute to a leaky gut. Some speculate that the overuse of antibiotics are to blame. Additionally, gluten is known to impair functioning of tight junctions. Since we know that wheat is widely grown using conventional methods, glyphosate in (non-organic) gluten-containing foods may also be the culprit. There is speculation that if we were to change the way we grow and consume grains, this would no longer be an issue. To learn more, read: What if Everything You Knew About Grains Was Wrong. Clearly, this is an area of science and nutrition in which we have much to learn.
In what other ways can a leaky gut be healed?
There is a growing body of research that is looking to our soil for answers, and Dr. Bush’s product, RESTORE, is at the forefront of this movement. Many believe that our modern agricultural practices (particularly the use of glyphosate) are stripping our soil of its balanced ecosystem of nutrients, minerals, and amino acids, which in turn is causing upset in our own “gut ecosystem”. Some scientists are now turning to fossil soil (also called lignite) extracts to supplement human nutrition. This soil has not yet been “damaged” by modern agriculture, and contains carbon-based redox molecules (metabolites from naturally-occuring bacteria in healthy soil) which communicate with our own bacteria as they are meant to.
RESTORE, available in our apothecary, delivers these lignite extracts in the form of a daily liquid supplement, manufactured in Charlottesville, VA. It is designed to support the protection of the entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract against agricultural herbicides, antibiotics, gluten and food-borne toxins by helping to create an environment where good gut bacteria thrive. (Use it in conjunction with a high-quality probiotic.)
Scientists are also researching the use of Quercetin (a bioflavonoid found in onions, kale, and apples), L-glutamine (an amino acid), and Zinc (a mineral) to balance the human “gut ecosystem”. Find these supplements in our apothecary, as well.
Dr. Bush shares, “If you are looking to achieve health in any fashion, you must support your gut health. Our chemical farming practices are constantly battling a healthy microbiome and injuring our gut membrane integrity. The same membrane structure of the gut lining is also in the blood brain barrier, cardiovascular system, kidneys, and liver. Protecting these membranes has systemic beneficial health effects. We need to love and respect our bacteria, get back in touch with nature and the environment as a whole around us.”
What have you used for gut health that has brought you relief? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
This is a sponsored blog post.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.