FODMAPs, lactobacillus, IBS, dysbiosis, vegan, raw, paleo, macrobiotic, what the hell is a scoby, and how do I know if my gut’s sprung a leak?
Does the intro above sound familiar? Does it make you want to run off and eat cake in bed? I don’t blame you.
The world of nutrition has never been more confusing, especially when it comes to gut health. But, underneath all of the noise and confusion it’s still back to basics and keep it simple that works!
We know now that our gut acts as a second brain and has a very close link with mental health. A healthy gut makes nutrients, produces digestive enzymes, prevents food molecules leaking into the blood, helps us to stay hydrated and keeps our bacteria balance in check. A healthy gut pretty much means a healthy everything else too, so it’s worth looking after.
One to one consultations can be invaluable in helping you get to the bottom of specific gut issues. But, probiotics, anti-inflammatory foods and different types of fats can most certainly influence gut health.
It’s easy to knock the ancient wisdom of naturopathy, but we humans have been successfully evolving for millennia without the need to scientifically prove everything we put in our mouths. Look at Western medicine and it’s clear to see how modern science has done some undeniably incredible things, but whichever way we look at it, we weren’t designed to eat processed or non-organic food, laden with chemicals. It was never going to be a good idea for long-term health.
The paleo and raw vegan diet debates can get heated to say the least. I think whilst relevant to consider what we might have eaten back in cave days, we also need to account for environmental changes and inherited baggage passed down through generations, particularly the last hundred years or so since our environment has became increasingly toxic.
Essentially, children today are born on the back foot; what could be tolerated by previous generations is not necessarily what can be today.
What on Earth could paleo and raw vegan diets have in common though?
Well. It’s not so much about what they do eat, it’s about what they don’t eat; we’re talking about grains in particular and here’s the thing – both camps are seeing incredible results, particularly with autoimmune diseases, and that largely comes down to improved gut health.
There are various issues with modern farmed grains, which helps explain why grain intolerance has been on the rise alongside environmental changes. They can affect our blood sugar and pH (two important factors in our homeostasis), they can cause intestinal damage, bacteria imbalance and mineral malabsorption.
Also worth considering is that the quality of our food and soil is not what it was years ago, and with grains dominating the western food pyramid, it’s probably safe to say we’ve caused an imbalance!
Here’s the good news though, giving up grains completely isn’t altogether necessary, and if you do feel the need, it can be for a shorter period, while your gut heals, before gently reintroducing them – if you want to.
I’m a mother of 3 children who were born vegetable phobic and leave the room at the smell of chicken broth. Thankfully I embraced a ‘do your best with what you’ve got’ attitude, and discovered pseudo-grains such as buckwheat, and fermentation. Pseudo-grains make a brilliant, much less taxing alternative, and fermentation partially digests the grains. It helps to eliminate plant toxins, reduces the GI content, breaks down gluten, and makes the food less acid forming.
It may take a little more time, but as Sandor Ellix Katz says: “The revolution will not be microwaved”. Quote from a brilliant book that talks about all things ‘Gut Health’.
So, if you are looking for simple ways to look after your gut health, be sure to include some probiotic foods. Be aware of how your body reacts to mainstream gluten-based products and make small changes to allow your gut to heal.
Above all, if you are having gut health issues, please visit a qualified dietician or nutritionist and they can help you analyse any issues.
Lucy Davies is a Naturopathic nutritionist based in South West Wales and she runs workshops on fermentation and gut health.