Gut health is a big, buzzing topic right now. Anyone who has experienced symptoms ranging from heartburn to skin rashes to depression may be well served to do a gut check and explore circumstances that may be throwing your digestive system into a tailspin.
Believe it or not, the complex system that governs immunity to illness and disease is largely located in our guts. Healthy gut flora is a game-changer when it comes to our immune systems.
Immune System & Gut Health
“As a society, we are experiencing many cases of autoimmune and other diseases that are popping up in people of all ages. And they all link back to the immune system,” says Jamie Meng-Esposito, Certified Dietician and Certified Personal Trainer based in Scottsdale, Arizona, who also has celiac disease.
“Within the past six to eight years, a lot of research has been initiated on gut flora and microbial balance in the intestine because we continue to see these diseases presenting in very large numbers.”
Illnesses related to an unhealthy gut can be as extreme as autoimmune diseases, says Meng-Esposito, but researchers are also making connections to gut health and brain disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. “I believe the poor quality of food and high amount of pesticides used on our food crops are the root of all of these major, major imbalances. Really, truly on a cellular level, you are what you eat,” she says.
While theories abound on gut-related illnesses, the fact remains that epidemiological data shows a steady rise in autoimmune diseases throughout Westernized societies over the past several decades.
A growing number of cases have been reported of multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, systemic lupus, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Hashimoto’s diseases, just to name a few. According to a study published in 2015 in the International Journal of Celiac Disease titled The World Incidence and Prevalence of Autoimmune Diseases in Increasing, the environment – rather than genetics – is behind the surge – with infections, ecology and nutrition at the root of the problem.
A Deeper Look
“This is really causing society to take a deeper look, especially when we look at the growth in pesticide use over the last 30 years,” says Meng-Esposito.
“When we look at pesticide use, for example, manufacturers develop genetically modified corn with pesticides in the seeds,” she says.
In other words, the corn itself produces its own pesticides to kill the insects. Manufacturers say the amount of pesticides in the seed won’t affect humans, but I believe everything you eat has an effect on your body and that we can link pesticides to a lot of immune system diseases.”
In 2015, sales of organic foods in the United States rose by more than $43 billion. That represents the largest dollar gain ever in this growing sector of the food industry, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2016 Organic Industry Survey. That’s an 11% jump from the previous year.
“People are starting to realize that organic foods are superior,” says Meng-Esposito. “The pendulum always swings. Now we see a lot of the Baby Boomers experiencing various gut-related diseases.”
The irony is the scientific quest to produce convenience food begins with the Baby Boom generation in the 1950s and 1960s. From low-fat and fat-free foods to diet soda and highly processed food, the consumption of these foods over time is taking its toll.
“People are experiencing later-in-life symptoms, and now we are seeing the youth and children with symptoms.”
Top 5 Tips for Gut Health
Own the power of being a consumer. Sales of organic foods are through the roof in the last five years because consumers demand more organics. As Americans, we want cheap food and we want a lot of it. If you put cheap food in your body, you will feel cheap and be sick. Reset your values. There are ways to find less expensive, quality organic foods.
Eliminate Household Toxins
Your skin is your biggest organ. It does affect your health. Clean out the toxins and allow your body to thrive in its natural environment WITH bacteria. There is balance in our world for a reason.
Introduce Old-School Methods
If we look back at ancient cultures, everyone ate a lot of fermented food. Let’s learn from our ancestors. Fermented foods have so many probiotics, prebiotics and good bacteria in them. Focus on consuming more food from plants and animals. If we changed our mindset to eating more like that, we would have many fewer health issues.
100 years ago, we didn’t need to supplement our food. Soils were nutrient-rich then. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need supplements. But the truth is the soils are lacking nutrients. And supplementation provides all the nutrients your body needs on a micro basis (vitamins and minerals).
Love Your Body
Nobody is perfect. Give yourself the grace you need for the mistakes that will naturally come. But do not settle for those mistakes and those poor habits. Appreciate being able to wake up and eat. Be thankful you can take a deep breath and be present in your body.