Gut Health / Gastric Symptoms

Functional medicine is upstream medicine, it seeks to understand a person’s history, try and identify why someone becomes ill in the first place, rather than just treating the symptoms. Functional medicine is a patient-centric approach that seeks to address the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. A functional medicine practitioner tries to look at all the interactions among genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex chronic diseases.

Hippocrates the father of medicine, reportedly said all diseases begin in the gut.

The job of the gut is to digest all what we eat, break it down and thus provide nutrition to our body. A normal healthy gut does not allow toxins and waste products to enter our blood stream. This makes it very essential for all of us to keep our Gut in healthy condition for a healthy Life.

Low fiber diets rich in sugar and fat, contributes to unhealthy gut by hurting the healthy microbiome. Thus, disturbed microbiome with increase in the population of bad bacteria and low numbers of good bacteria damages the lining of gut.

The gut finds it difficult to digest the food without the aid of good bacteria and also more toxins are accumulated in the process.

This leads to hyperpermeability of intestines known as Leaky Gut, which allows toxins to enter our blood stream. Leaked toxins and undigested food particles in the blood stream through the leaky gut cause production of antibodies through heightened immune response of the body causing number of diseases.

A balanced microbiome of good and bad bacteria in the gut is very necessary for a healthy Gut.

To keep the Microbiome in a balanced state is an effortful task for our intestine.

As already highlighted the condition of Leaky Gut depends a lot on the composition of bacteria inside the gut. We need to take a diet and live a lifestyle that keeps the Good bacteria in sufficient number and the bad bacteria and the toxins to the minimum. So, in order to correct the leaky gut, we need to do a little more than eat healthy. We need to replace the bad bacteria by reseeding the good bacteria by eating foods which are rich in healthy bacteria known as probiotics.

Gastrointestinal disturbances from unhealthy gut include diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, heartburn, pain abdomen etc.

There does not have to be gastrointestinal symptoms. A lot of these conditions can co-exist in our gut disrupting the immune function and cause symptoms that are involving any system of the body.

Remember, disruption of health may cause multiple downstream effects. So, in the functional medicine approach when someone is ill, we start by going upstream and addressing our health.

In the functional medicine approach, we Remove, Replace, Re-inoculate, Repair, and Rebalance the whole system to Regain health.

Remove the Irritants -

  • Antibiotics, acid-blocking medicines, toxins (pesticides etc.)

  • Potential pathogens in the gut

  • Processed foods especially flours and sugars

  • Artificial sweeteners

  • Potential food triggers e.g. gluten and dairy (eliminate diet)

  • FODMAP (These are foods that are high in certain kinds of carbohydrate molecules that can lead to bloating and abdominal pain). The FODMAP foods that tend to cause the most trouble include apples, pears, raw onions, and wheat.

  • Stress

  • Pollutants

  • Replace factors that may be missing or inadequate

  • Bitter, vinegar or fresh lemon juice to help stimulate digestion

  • Digestive enzymes

  • Soaked beans, nuts, grains, are also food sources of natural enzymes

  • Replace unhealthy processed foods with vegetables, fruits, fiber, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils

  • Fermented foods and healthy animal foods help to support the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut

Re-inoculate refers to the introduction of desirable gut organisms and foods prebiotics, probiotics, symbiotics to obtain the more desirable balance of organisms in the gut. Probiotics may include foods rich in probiotic organisms, or they can be in the form of capsules. Prebiotics include soluble fiber like flaxseed meal, chia seeds, hemp seeds, psyllium, lentils, beans, soy fiber and vegetables. Symbiotics are supplements that have both probiotics and prebiotics. If we eat the right food, the body’s needful probiotics get developed.

One can add following foods to one’s diet

  • Fermented fruits like sauerkraut cabbage

  • Kefir, certain yogurts, butter milk and other cultured dairy products.

  • Sauerkraut and other lacto fermented vegetables (Lacto Fermented= salt + vegetables + water, no vinegar)

  • Kimchi

  • Kombucha

  • Preserved lemons, nut milk and yogurt

  • Sour dough breads

  • Fermented fish and meat

Repair refers to providing nutritional support for the healing and regeneration of the gut lining and the microbiome. Nutrients important for the gastrointestinal repair include

  • Amino acids like glutamine and glycine, bone broth is a rich source of them

  • Vitamins A,D and C

  • Minerals like zinc and magnesium

  • Demulcents like slippery elm, aloe vera and marsh mallow

  • Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory like turmeric, liquorice, dark berries, and essential fatty acids (fish oils) nuts, greens

  • Whey protein from dairy, can help to support gut immune function

  • Intermittent fasting also helps to repair the gut, reduce symptoms of IBS and SIBO, reduce cholesterol and blood sugar, improve energy, reduce the risk of cancer, and improve cognition

  • Eat two to three meals per day with no snacking in between, fast for at least 12 hours per day between dinner and breakfast the next day. (Gut peristalses improves during the fasting stretch.

  • Moderate exercise

  • Restorative sleep

  • Stress management, stress is known to cause an increase in migration of bacteria from the large to the small intestine and probably increase the risk of dysbiosis.

Please see following three means are also addressed in Rebalance -

  • Moderate exercise

  • Restorative sleep

  • Stress management, stress is known to cause an increase in migration of bacteria from the large to the small intestine and probably increase the risk of dysbiosis.

Rebalance refers to providing support for the restoration process in one’s life to help reduce stress.

By putting in practice following tools one can help in stress management.

  • Mindful eating

  • Meditation, deep breathing, prayer, biofeedback and other mind, body & spirit practice.

  • Yoga

  • Massage

  • Time spent in nature

  • Pets

  • Refreshing sleep

  • Exercise

  • Psychotherapy

  • Listening to music

  • Laughter

  • Cultivating a sense of gratitude for your life

Putting it all together to feed your microbiome improve your gut issues by doing following simple steps to an upstream path to health.

  • Eat 8 to 12 servings of vegetables and fruits daily, especially berries, dark green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli etc.), garlic, onion

  • Eat fermented foods

  • Eat probiotics, fiber rich food like beans, lentils, flax seeds

  • Avoid sugar, flours and other processed foods

  • Avoid artificial sweeteners

  • Limit the use of acid-blocking drugs, NSAIDs.

  • Cultivate gratitude

  • Hang out at a farm, enjoy dogs and cats, companionship.