Arguable the biggest health problem facing us today is gut health rivaling the current obesity crisis and tobacco smoking in its impact on our health. Every health condition is linked to gut health and gut healing either directly or indirectly through inflammation and oxidation. Historically every culture understood this and were involved in extensive practices of gut healing and even our own up until 60 or so years ago. The first thing health practitioners throughout history would do is to start to fix the gut.
Until recently the positive effects of the gut microbiome on our digestive system and health has been severely under rated. Wisdom of Chinese doctors from centuries ago, who somehow knew that the intestines were not merely a digestive organ, but the centre of health and wellbeing. Hippocrates was recorded as saying that all illness begins in the gut. Throughout history from the Egyptians till around 80 years ago medicine and the bowels were frequently mentioned in the same sentence and good health revolved around gut health.
Even today the nomadic Maasai tribes in Africa attribute most illnesses to the effect of “pollutants” that block or inhibit digestion. In these communities the plants are used to cure diseases served mainly as strong purgatives and emetics; they “cleanse” the body and digestive system from polluting substances.
With thousands of studies released each year the gut is known to play a major role in many health conditions including mental health issues, cardiovascular disease, allergies and asthma, autoimmune diseases, some cancers and even diabetes and weight gain. Many of these conditions which are now reaching epidemic proportions have been linked to a dysfunctional gut. Studies have shown a strong link between mental health issues including depression and what is called the gut brain axis. We also know the gut is the centre of our immune system and is strongly influenced by the gut microbiome. As a result the gut has a strong link with allergies and asthma. Peanut allergies for example are not caused by peanuts they are brought about by a dysfunctional gut microbiome.
Antibiotics and many gut medications used for controlling acid reflux have been shown to be devastating to gut health a healthy gut microbiome, as well as many of the chemicals we use around the homes and even the personal care products we apply to our skin. Even our activities either promote gut health and gut healing or harm it. Stress sends messages to the opportunistic (bad) microorganisms in the gut to tell them to start to take over from the good ones. Exercise promotes gut health and healing while no exercise or too much exercise does the exact opposite.
Fortunately, in animal studies we know that many of these conditions can be improved and even reversed if the gut microbiome is repaired. 50% of Parkinson’s Disease has been directly linked with poor gut health while improving the gut microbiome has been shown to dramatically improve symptoms.
The research also shows that while probiotics can be useful in gut healing, repairing the gut microbiome requires an understanding of what encourages a healthy gut microbiome in our diet and lifestyle as well as what causes a dysfunctional microbiome. We now know that all the healthy foods we eat, the vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and fruit all feed the gut microbiome which then feeds us and looks after our health. All the studies on healthy diets from the Mediterranean to the original Japanese or the low inflammatory diet (DII) benefit us because they work through the gut to promote gut health and subsequently our health.