Good Health begins With Gut Health
Our inner health landscape is changing and we find ourselves in a time where our food supply is being degraded, there is over prescribing of medications like antibiotic and NSAID’S and an increases in environmental toxins like vaccinations, pesticides, herbicides, food additives etc.
What I’ve seen
In my clinic over recent years I have seen a steady increase in the number of people coming in and complaining of various acute or chronic digestive problems ranging from abdominal cramping, bloating, constipation and or loose bowel movements. These symptoms can often be accompanied with fatigue, joint pain, muscle soreness, headaches, insomnia, irritability or inability to tolerate certain foods to name a few.
Worldwide emerging science studying human bacteria is proving that the microscopic bacterial colonies living in our digestive tract are important for both our physical and mental wellbeing. For hundreds and thousands of years bacteria and human cells have existed in a harmonious symbiotic relationship but with the onset of modern times this relationship is breaking down and the average person’s health has been significantly challenged and weakened.
What do we mean by ‘gut’?
A person’s gut namely the small and large intestine host hundreds of different kinds of beneficial bacteria that perform numerous functions required for healthy metabolism and immunity. Healthy gut bacteria help our bodies digest and absorb nutrients, synthesize certain vitamins and the rally against intruders such as influenza, toxic cancer forming carcinogens by boosting our immune systems.
What’s going wrong?
Disruption to our beneficial gut bacteria leads to our intestinal barrier being compromised and the generation of intestinal toxins leading to gut inflammation. This increase in metabolic and microbial toxins then creates more load on the liver and the lymphatic system. This eventually puts stress on the immune system then over time as the immune response diminishes and we become more susceptial to invading microbes (bacteria, virus and fungi), which leads to a chronic debilitating state.
CHINESE MEDICINE PERSPECTIVE
Chinese medicine has understood for many centuries that the basis for good health is to maintain the health of the spleen stomach, which equates to digestive health. An important doctor of Chinese medicine from the Ming dynasty wrote, “The doctor who wants to nourish life has to tonify the stomach and the spleen”. This is one of the most important energy centers in the body, the place where food if converted to Qi and blood
Living in our modern world and the various stressors that go with it (food choices, lifestyle, chemicals) disrupt spleen-stomach harmony and deplete qi in the intestines thus impairing the digestion and absorption of food and fluids. When spleen Qi becomes depleted dampness and heat can form impairing the liver function affecting its ability to move and cleanse the blood and over time the combination of spleen –stomach deficiency, dampness, heat and liver Qi stasis can affect our gut flora leading to gut inflammation and deficiency.
WHAT TO DO
Healthy eating means healthy spleen – stomach and liver function.
- Limit processed food (avoid foods where the list of ingredient reads like a chemical formula)
- Eat more plants and dietary fibre, mostly organic fresh fruit and vegetables
- Eat less red meat, animal products, gluten, dairy and coffee
- Moderate alcohol intake
- Don’t eat: meat fed on antibiotics or hormones; sugar (more here: www.thatsugarfilm.com)
- Eat prebiotic foods every day, e.g. pickles, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut (enhances the growth of beneficial bacteria)
Become less obsessed about sanitization – normal household cleaners are like antibiotics. They
obliterate everything, which includes bacteria that are helpful to us. Choose less toxic cleaning products like vinegar, lemon juice or castile soap.
Limit your exposure to other toxins in your immediate environment like the type of shampoos, cosmetics, and bug sprays to name a few things.
Reduce stress and get consistent sleep. If you tend to be stressed and lack sleep all the time, your immune system response never stops sending inflammation messages to your body all the time, your gut bacteria included.
Regular acupuncture to support your spleen- stomach, liver and kidney organ networks. I would recommend regular acupuncture for best results.
The herbs used would depend on your individual presentation,
Some useful digestive formulas include:
- SI Jun Zi Tang (a basic spleen and Stomach Qi Tonic)
- Liu Jun Zi Tang (spleen and Stomach Qi tonic complicated with damp)
- Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang (Tonic, anti microbial, strengthen and moves spleen and stomach qi)
- Bu Zhong YI Qi Tang (Immune Tonic)
- Ban Xia Hou Po Tang (Harmonizes stomach and spleen qi)
- Bao He Tang (facilitates digestion
- Shu Gan Tang (Sooths and the Liver and the stomach)
- Xiao Chai Hu Tang (Sooths the liver and the stomach-spleen, it is anti-inflammatory anti-bacterial antiviral and an immune stimulant)
This is a just a small example of some of the herbal formulas that would be useful, alongside dietary changes and acupuncture.
These can be useful to confirm and gauge various aspects of digestive function, including gut microbial analysis, food allergies etc. These test are usually expensive but very useful to identify and qualify exactly what is going on with your gut micro biome.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, the right diet for you will depend in part on your constitution. For example: a person a slow metabolism will have some different dietary requirements to a person with a faster metabolism.
In a consultation we will work out your constitution type and best food and diets suited to you and your gut bacteria.
Reference: Flaws, Bob. Li Dong-Yuan’s Treatise on the Pi Wei Lun, 2nd Ed. Blue Poppy Press, Boulder, Colorado. 2004)