Is My Gut Balanced
By Omodolapo Familusi, RN MSN ANP-C
It may surprise many to know that the gut controls many systems in the body, most importantly the immune system. The best way to determine if you have a balanced gut is to look at your overall health. The natural flora in the gut are responsible for digestion and production of other chemicals in the microbiota in the intestines. These chemicals can determine insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels, increased blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. Our gut flora can also affect out emotional stability and our overall well-being.
There are 2 types of flora in the gut, good and bad. The bad flora are always present in the body, but can cause serious infections if their growth occurs unchecked. Common examples of bad flora include E.Coli and Streptococcus, as well as C. Diff, and bacteriodes which are common in hospitalizations. The good flora are the kind that keep the bad flora under control. If there is an imbalance, the bad flora increase in number and then the host, or the patient, becomes infected and sick. Good flora work to destroy bad flora, break up gas bubbles from fermenting food, increasing the immune system, synthesizing vitamins B and K, and keep the stool moving through the colon.
Ways to identify an unbalanced gut are:
1. Chronic diarrhea
2. Chronic need for laxative or fiber supplements
3. Abdominal pain or bloating
4. Yeast overgrowth which can lead to itching and burning around the anus
Ways to maintain a healthy and balanced gut is to eat a well-balanced diet full of probiotic rich foods. These should include fermented vegetables, like kimchi, sauerkraut, carrots, green beans, beets, lacto-fermented pickles, and traditional fermented Greek olives. Fermented soybeans in miso, natto or tempeh, as well as cultured dairy products like buttermilk, yogurt, kefir and cheese. Filling your diet with these probiotic foods will help to encourage the growth of the healthy good flora that will keep the bad flora in acceptable amounts. Happy gut management!