A healthy gut is critical for good health as it promotes normal gastrointestinal function, protects against infection, regulates metabolism and comprises more than 75 % of our immune system.
An unhealthy lifestyle, chronic stress, excessive use of antibiotics and bad nutrition such as a diet high in sugar, processed foods and refined carbohydrates all contribute to an unhealthy gut and poor immunity, says nutritional consultant, Vanessa Ascencao.
Ascencao says an unhealthy gut may contribute to autism, depression, ADHD, acne, psoriasis, eczema and autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s disease (chronic inflammation and failure of the thyroid gland), Crohn’s disease (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and type 1 diabetes.
The gut is a hollow tube which passes from the mouth to the anus. Its main purpose is to prevent foreign substances from entering the body.
When the gut or intestinal tract becomes penetrable, large protein molecules escape into the bloodstream and are attacked by the immune system.
Studies show that these attacks contribute to autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s and type 1 diabetes. In addition, the breach of the intestinal barrier by food toxins like gluten and certain chemicals causes an immune response which may also affect other organs and tissues.
In addition to consulting your GP, Ascencao recommends these tips for a healthy gut:
- Chew food properly.
- Follow an anti-inflammatory diet and avoid all food toxins. These include refined grains, industrialised seed oils, sugar and processed soy. O Avoid sweetened and spicy foods.
- Eat fermented foods like plain (sugar-free) organic yoghurt and kefir. Sauerkraut and kimchi are also excellent gut foods.
- Avoid coffee
- Take a high quality probiotic.
- Follow food combining principles and leave at least four hours between meals for optimal digestion.
- Don’t eat late at night.
- Get eight hours sleep a night.
- Manage stress, practise breathing exercises to relax.