Mom’s and Dad’s will know that it’s a given, right? Eat all your veggies, they’re good for you. Well it turns out that veggies, well at least some veggies, may well be contributing to an unhappy gut.
Gut issues may well be taking over as the no. 1 reason people visit their healthcare practitioner. In just about every communication source, whether it be social media, print or YouTube there is more and more reference to the microbiome and the impact an ‘unhappy’ microbiome is having on, well, just about everything – from one’s mood, immunity, energy, cognition, memory and the list goes on and on.
So, what is the microbiome? In simple terms, and as described in Medical News Today:
• The human microbiota is made up of trillions of cells, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
• The biggest populations of microbes reside in the gut. Other popular habitats include the skin and genitals.
• The microbial cells and their genetic material, the microbiome, live with humans from birth. This relationship is vital to normal health.
• The microorganisms living inside the gastrointestinal tract amount to around 4 pounds of biomass. Every individual has a unique mix of species.
• The microbiota is important for nutrition, immunity, and effects on the brain and behaviour. It is implicated in a number of diseases that cause a disturbance in the normal balance of microbes.
Managing this microbiome, and maintaining the optimum balance of these trillions of micro-organisms is, for many, ‘easier said than done’. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of both internal and external factors that contribute to the management, and destruction, of the microbiome.
What you eat, how much you eat, what’s in what you eat, medications, stress, genetics are just a few of the factors involved in managing this ‘game changer’ environment called the microbiome.
Some of the symptoms and conditions that may alert you to the fact that you may have an ‘unhappy’ gut, vary from relatively benign, to very serious and include:
• Constipation / diarrhoea, or combinations of both
• IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
• Food allergy, sensitivity or intolerance
• Skins conditions, including eczema, fungal infections like Athlete’s Foot, itchy skin
• Memory, mood and concentration issues
• Weight gain and obesity
• Inflammatory bowel disease
• Metabolic syndrome
• Atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular conditions
• Fatty liver disease
Unfortunately, the association between these conditions and one’s gut is often poorly understood by one’s general medical doctor, and even medical Specialists, and therefore is rarely considered as part of a differential diagnosis when one consults such healthcare practitioners.
Functional, Integrative and nutritional consultants, however, are very well versed, and understand the unique relationship between gut and health. Simply attempting to suppress symptoms with medication is a bit like covering up the engine light and hoping that the problem will go away. It’s a very short term solution, usually leading to much bigger problems ‘down the line’.
What then has all this got to do with veggies? We all know that veggies contain all the ‘good stuff’. Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and lots more. However, veggies also contain something else called fibre. Now, fibre is also good, however, in the presence of an unbalanced microbiome, processing and digesting the fibre can be an issue.
The soluble fibre in veggies is the digestible fibre, but it requires the right balance of these gut microbes for this process to proceed along just tickety-boo. Even small imbalances can severely disrupt the process resulting in persistent symptoms, varying from mildly irritating (like bloating or gassiness), to fairly debilitating (like severe IBS).
The foods that are fairly commonly implicated in this are the foods that contain the short chain carbohydrates commonly referred to as the FODMAP foods – fermentable, oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, polyol foods.
These are the cruciferous veggies – broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, onion, garlic!. Who would ever have thought, right! But it’s true. These seemingly healthy, important veggies could actually be the culprits responsible for the discomfort you’ve been experiencing.
Now, it’s very often not the veggies themselves. It’s the imbalance in the gut bacteria that’s preventing the proper digestion and breakdown of the fibre in the veggies. .
So, first step would be to do an elimination protocol. Simply (haha) cut all of these out of your diet for at least 2 weeks. A word of caution though. It actually may take quite a bit longer than just two weeks to heal the gut lining, reduce the inflammation that is caused by the symptoms and calm everything down. If there is an improvement after say a week, persist until all symptoms settle down completely.
This is a diagnostic step actually. Diagnosing that there is a microbiota problem. If eliminating the cruciferous vegetables seems to help then the real work needs to start – Dr Lentin’s Gut Repair Program (well it’s not really my program; that’s a bit of poetic licence!!). The 5 R Gut Repair Program is a well established protocol that is effective at returning the gut to optimum function.
The 5 R’s stand for:
1. Remove – the offending ‘bad’ bacteria, fungi or other organisms contributing to upsetting the microbiome
2. Replace – the naturally occurring enzymes, hormones and acids that can become disrupted
3. Re-inoculate – with the ‘good’ bacteria that become unbalanced
4. Repair – the physical gut lining from the hyperpermeable state that becomes evident and problematic due to the imbalanced microbiome
5. Re-balance – one’s general lifestyle that created the problems in the first place – sleep, exercise, dietary choices, stress management etc.
Completing this program may take months, but the results will be well worth the effort.
So, the bottom line is that if you are experiencing any form of gut related discomfort, or any range of symptoms that are persistent and tending to be chronic (that means they’re ongoing) consider properly investigating, and that doesn’t mean just asking your GP, whether an imbalances gut microbiome may be at the root of the problem.
For more information please call Dr Lentin to book a ‘GUT Repair’ consultation.
Call 021 7978056