Most all of us at some point, have experienced an upset stomach. When it’s chronic and persistent this may be a signal to dive a little deeper to see what is really going on. When it comes to our stomach, it’s difficult to physically see what’s going on in there. We can’t always pinpoint exactly what is affecting it, especially if it’s related to lifestyle or environment.
If things are going down in the gut, you may see some symptoms pop up in other areas of our body, sort of like a domino effect. The reason being is that our DIGESTIVE SYSTEM IS COMPLEX! Its not just your stomach, but there are other essential organs within the digestive system: liver pancreas, gallbladder, intestines etc.
What are we talking about when we say GUT HEALTH?
There are around 40 trillion bacteria in your body, most of which are in your intestines. Collectively, they are known as your gut microbiota – they are hugely important for your health. Think of a microbiome as a diverse community of organisms, such as a forest, that work together to keep your body healthy. This community is made up of things called microbes.
Each species plays a different role in your health and requires different nutrients for growth – a diverse microbiota is considered to be a healthy one. The more species of bacteria you have, the greater number of health benefits they may be able to contribute. Diet, lifestyle, environment can all affect the health of your microbiome.
Here are a few of the most common indicators that your digestive system may not be in its optimal state:
- Persistent Upset Stomach –gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or heartburn
- Increased Sugar Cravings
- Unintentional Weight Change – significant fluctuation in weight, whether a gain or loss, without making intentional changes to your diet or exercise habits
- Increased Fatigue – Sleep disturbances such as insomnia or poor sleep, leading to chronic fatigue
- Newly Developed or Increased Skin irritation – itchy skin, acne, eczema.
& that’s just scratching the surface of some indicators!
You might be wondering what are some things that may be negatively impacting your digestive health. Some may not be so obvious so be sure to tune in to your body to see their effects:
When we are in a state of stress, anxiety or fear our body activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). This causes digestive energy to be diverted to other areas of your body where peristalsis slows down (constipation) or speeds up (diarrhea) and there is a reductions of blood flow to digestive organs . The sympathetic nerves also slow down overall gastrointestinal secretions, with a reduction of hydrochloric acid output and digestive enzyme function. We then don’t break down our food properly this decrease in acid can cause opportunistic pathogens to grow in unwanted areas such as the small intestine.
On top of all this our hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis sets in motion a cascade of biochemicals and hormones that end in the stimulation of your adrenal glands and the release of cortisol. This increase in cortisol will cause inflammation in the gut and excess Secretotry IgA response. This leads to indigestion, inflammation and irritation of the mucus lining of your gut.
Excess alcohol intake negatively impacts the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, which can compromise the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream. It also takes many nutrients to metabolize alcohol, and most often vitamin Bs are depleted, especially thiamine. Not to mention alcohol contains substances toxic to our cells, which can cause inflammation in the lining of our gut. As mentioned, the liver is part of our overall human digestive tract and we all know the strain alcohol has on our liver, which overall affects digestive competency.
- INFLAMMATORY FOODS
Some main examples are lectins and histamine producing foods.
Lectins are defined as proteins that bind to carbohydrates. The same features that lectins use to defend plants in nature may cause problems during human digestion. They resist being broken down in the gut and are stable in acidic environments. When consumed, lectins in their active state can cause negative side effects such as nausea, stomach upset, diarrhea, bloating and gas.
Those who have an underlying digestive sensitivity, such as irritable bowel syndrome, may be more likely to experience negative symptoms from eating lectins.
Histamines – People who experience an allergy-like response to histamine-rich foods may have a condition known as histamine intolerance which can contribute to gastrointestinal disorders, acid reflux, imbalance in the microbiome , etc
- Fermented foods – sauerkraut, miso, soy sauce, pickles
- Cured meats – pepperoni, salami
- Cultured dairy products – cheese (esp. cheddar, gouda, parmesan, Swiss), yogurt, sour cream
- Smoked foods
- Beverages – coffee, beer, red wine, white wine, and champagne
- Plant foods – eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, legumes (peanuts, chickpeas), wheat
Increased availability of histamine may result to the development of histamine intolerance which can impair digestive health such as: inability to produce the enzyme (DAO) that breaks down histamine, overgrowth of bacteria that produces histamine from dietary sources, direct increase in the production of histamine.
Certain gastrointestinal diseases, like gastrinoma and gastritis, result in increased levels of histamine due to increased levels of gastrin.
- Food Intolerance/Sensitivities
Food intolerance is the inability to digest or absorb certain foods. You may experience intestinal gas, painful abdominal cramping or diarrhea, as well as potentially serious long-term health consequences. symptoms of a food intolerance or sensitivity may cause extreme discomfort and are typically confined to the gastrointestinal tract.
For example, one of the most common food intolerances is lactose. As we get older, our ability to digest dairy decreases and Our intestines make less of the enzyme (lactase) that processes lactose, a type of sugar present in milk and dairy products. As a result, we have more lactose sitting in the digestive tract, which can cause stomach bloating, constipation, inflammation, and diarrhea. Research has found that only about 35% of people worldwide can digest lactose beyond the age of about seven or eight.
Food Sensitivities is repeated sensitizing of the body by certain substances, usually a protein antigen of foods or specific chemicals. It can takes hours, weeks or months to develop and is triggered by IgG antibodies and create formations of antigen-antibody complexes. When many antigen-antibody complexes are present, our immune system may not be able to remove them all. They can deposit in our tissue and release substances that promote inflammation. This is more likely to occur if the reactive food remains a regular part of the diet. Some signs that may point to a food sensitivity include bloating, migraines, constipation, skin condition and diarrhea. Some common types: Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, eggs, soy, wheat, alcohol, chemicals
5.TOXINS -ADDITIVES, GMO’S & PESTICIDES
If there isn’t proper detoxification and elimination through the colon, there is a re-absorption of toxins in the GI tract– increasing bacteria, leaky gut, IBS, etc .
Common toxins used in our foods are fillers, emulsifiers, thickeners which are a type of artificial or natural additive to improve texture, stabilize form, bind water. Some harmful ones to our GI tract are
- Soy Lecithin. Usually derived from soy – GMO crop. side effects can include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain
- Cellulose gum. *wood pulp – Cellulose gum is known to cause massive bacterial overgrowth, damage to the mucus barrier of the small intestine and inflammation in the small intestine in animals, hallmarks of Crohn’s disease.
- Carrageenan increases intestinal permeability. In fact, extensive research has shown that carrageenan causes gastrointestinal inflammation, ulcerations, and colitislike disease in animals. Furthermore, the products of carrageenan degradation through normal digestion are accepted carcinogens. In fact, carrageenan is used to cause cancer in animal models of various tumor types. There is so much evidence demonstrating that carrageenan is unsafe for consumption, that many researchers are blowing the whistle on it.
6.LACK OF EXERCISE
The abdominal wall muscles and the diaphragm all play a crucial role in the process of defecation. If these muscles are weak, they’re not going to be able to do the job as well. Good muscle tone in general is important for regular bowel movements. Basically, the colon responds to activity. Regular exercise can help with constipation.
Exercise can also change the composition of your gut microbiome and maintain the balance of the microflora or to rebalance dysbiosis. It does this by stimulating good bacteria capable of producing substances that protect against gastrointestinal disorders and colon cancer (such as, SCFAs)
- OVERUSE OF ANTIBIOTICS
Antibiotic use can have several negative effects on the gut microbiota, including reduced species diversity, altered metabolic activity, and may weaken the immune system by harming helpful microbes that reside in our gut. This in turn can lead to diarrhea, inflammation, and bacterial infections. There is damage of the brush borders within our small intestinal tract that could allow toxins to ultimately enter the bloodstream.
- SUGAR – feeds the wrong type of bacteria in our gut , which can throw off the microbiome balance. High-sugar diets have been linked to higher levels of inflammation, especially for sugars like high-fructose corn syrup. This inflammation can irritate the gut, damaging the protective mucus layer and decreasing the amount of good bacteria. Nearly 90% of Americans still exceed the Dietary Guidelines (DGA) recommendation for added sugar. we can then develop candida, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), etc
- VEGETABLE OILS
Vegetable oils (i.e. soybean oil, sunflower oil, canola, safflower oil) are often a blend of oils and therefore you are less likely to know 100% what you are consuming. These oils are also highly processed and refined, damaging the fats which can lead to an increase in bloating and inflammation in the body.
Being high in omega 6, when consumed in large amounts, this decreases our omega 3:6 ratio. Over-consuming omega-6 fats and under-consuming omega 3 fats significantly increases obesity and irritable bowel syndrome .
- LACK OF SLEEP
Poor quality sleep influences the important work of hunger and satiety hormones that regulate our food intake. We already know that the connection between sleep and appetite is extremely important because sleep deprivation can put our appetite out of balance, increase our food cravings, and cause weight gain. That is because lack of sleep decreases the level of a hormone called leptin, which is responsible for our feelings of satiety.
Here are other posts on topics that can help you in understanding your digestive issues:
- What is Candida?
- Bloating & Gas
- Home Remedies to Relieve Constipation
- Food Sensitivities and the IgG Test
If you are confused when it comes to your digestive health, reach out anytime and book a FREE DISCOVERY CALL here!