The phrase ‘gut health’ describes effective digestion and an optimal state of well-being. Just like the saying ‘happy wife, happy life’, ‘healthy gut, healthy life’ may be true as well.
Our digestive tract acts as a guardian between the outside world and the internal workings of our bodies. If this barrier is healthy, it allows nutrients into the body while at the same time blocking foreign invaders.
If the barrier is unhealthy, the digestive material can bypass this process and even healthy food could be seen as a threat. This threat triggers your body’s immune response and can lead to food sensitivities and chronic systemic inflammation.
Scientific research has shown the importance of beneficial bacteria in our digestive systems. Studies also indicate that less diverse strains of intestinal bacteria in infants can lead to increased food sensitivities, which is thought to lead to food allergies later in life. Unhealthy gut bacteria have been linked to obesity, type II diabetes, cancers of the digestive system, anxiety, ADHD, and depression. Most importantly is has been associated with chronic systemic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is an unrelenting, low grade inflammation that your body sends in response to a perceived threat. If it continues unchecked, the response can lead to white blood cells attacking the body’s own organs and tissues.
Early signs of an unhealthy gut are irregular bowel movements, gas, and incomplete digestion. If this state continues multiple symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue, brain fog, skin issues, cardiovascular problems, headaches and others can occur. The question is, how can this be alleviated? The answer is not as simple as eating yogurt every day or taking a pro-biotic supplement. First the barrier must be healed by avoiding substances your body recognizes as a foreign invader, which trigger the defense response. Each person’s triggers differ, so specific blood tests must be ordered to provide individualized and detailed feedback. This testing is not the same as an allergy test because it evaluates delayed reactions. These are very difficult to pinpoint without testing because symptoms happen 3 hours to 3 weeks after the exposure. The comprehensive blood panel, can reveal delayed sensitivities to over 500 potential items from chicken, garlic, artificial colors and preservatives to environmental toxins, such as mold and chemicals.
Essentially, you may be eating a healthy diet, full of greens, fruit, nuts and vegetables, but if you have an underlying sensitivity to even one of those foods, or an additive in a processed product, your health will be slowly compromised by a chronic immune response. If an apple is identified on your food sensitivity results, this would mean that every time you eat an apple your immune system is responding as if it is a ‘foreign invader.’ Imagine your immune system responding to 2 or 3 (in most cases even more) antigens at once over the course of a week, a month, and if left unaddressed, even years. The system can get overloaded very quickly.
By identifying immune triggers and avoiding exposures, the burden can be reduced or even eliminated, allowing the healing process to begin. Additional testing like omega 3 and vitamin D levels let us know how you handle inflammation and the health of your gut/brain communication. Once a healthy environment is created, the ground work has been laid to introduce beneficial gut bacteria, returning the body to a state of optimal health and wellness.
Dr. Jessica Bohl, DC, is a Chiropractic Physician at First State Health & Wellness—Rehoboth. If you suspect your chronic symptoms are stemming from an unhealthy gut, we invite you to schedule a Functional Nutrition consultation. For more information, visit firststatehealth.com or call (302) 454-1200. First State Health & Wellness has been providing award-winning integrative healthcare and education for over 30 years.