The state of your gut health has a tremendous impact on the strength of your immune system and plays a large role in overall health. Your gut is considered your “second brain” and it can become out of balance due to poor diet, stress, medications and illness. The first signs of an unhealthy gut may present as digestive disorders, however many chronic illnesses can be related to gut dysbiosis as a root cause including:
- Digestive issues
- Autoimmune diseases
- Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes
- Hormonal imbalances, including thyroid disease
- Mental illness
The Importance of a Healthy Gut
There are trillions of microbes living in your gut, referred to as the microbiome. For the average person, your microbiome can weigh in between 1 and 2 pounds. This collective of microbes consists of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites, all of which contain genes (over 3 million to be exact)! Around 99% of these genes come from your gut bacteria. While it’s impossible to control the genes that you are born with, you can alter the genes in your gut through diet and lifestyle modification.
The digestive process begins as soon as you put food into your mouth, continues on through the stomach, small intestine, and on through the large intestine and colon for waste elimination. Your gut bacteria produce vitamins, nutrients, and even neurotransmitters which can affect the overall health of your body in many different ways.
Most people think that their gut’s main responsibility is to digest food. While this is one key function, its other responsibilities include:
- Communicating with your immune system
- Digesting and absorbing nutrients
- Producing essential vitamins
- Protecting against pathogen overgrowth
- Regulating intestinal mucosal barriers
One of the biggest reasons why you need a healthy gut is that 70% of your immune system resides in your gastrointestinal tract. The healthy bacteria communicate with your immune system so it will know when it’s time to attack bad bacteria, viruses, pathogens and other foreign bodies trying to invade it. A healthy gut is key for disease prevention, longevity, and for feeling your best!
The gut microbiome is a constantly changing, living organism that reacts to all kinds of stimuli such as what you drink, the food you eat, medications that you take, exercise, and stress levels.
The healthy flora are the protectors in the body from the outside environment. Whatever you put through your digestive system is what these bacteria live off of. When you overload them with unhealthy foods or medications it’s hard for them to protect you, which can lead to a variety of health concerns.
You Have the Biggest Influence Over Your Gut Health
You are the biggest influencer of your gut health through your diet, the medications that you take, and the lifestyle that you lead. Your healthy gut flora are the protectors in your body from the outside environment. Whatever you put through your digestive system is what these bacteria live off of.
When you overload them with unhealthy foods or medications, it’s hard for them to protect you. This can lead to many different health concerns. Evidence continues to grow on how the imbalance of good bacteria to bad bacteria in your gut (known as dysbiosis) can directly affect your health. Other things that disrupt the balance of your gut microbiome include:
- Foods high in sugar
- Unhealthy fats
- Birth control pills
- Foods containing gluten
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Stress levels
- Some artificial sweeteners
- Imbalanced hormones to include thyroid and insulin
- Trauma (emotional and physical)
The SAD (Standard American Diet) is filled with high-fat, high-sugar and processed foods. While these offer a certain amount of convenience, they are not good for your body. Gut dysbiosis can contribute to many gastrointestinal disorders including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Food allergies/insensitivities
- Celiac disease
- Increased gut permeability (also called Leaky Gut Syndrome)
- Colon cancer
Leaky Gut Syndrome, which is caused by an imbalance of gut bacteria, is a major precursor to certain autoimmune diseases. Inflammation in your gut leads to a dysregulation of your immune system. It can also affect your body’s metabolism through digestion and absorption of certain nutrients. An imbalance in gut bacteria has been shown in multiple studies to potentially lead to cardiovascular diseases such as obesity, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and even heart failure.
The gut speaks to the brain via the vagus nerve. This is known as the gut-brain axis and can indirectly influence moods like depression or anxiety, sleep, memory, and cognition. Through the vagus nerve, the gut is able to communicate with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to also regulate hormones.
Nutritional Testing at the Dynamic Life Health Center
At the Dynamic Life Health Center, we offer nutritional testing and provide you access to a registered dietitian to help you restore your gut health. The testing that we provide includes:
- Genova Food Allergy Test – this is a blood test which will determine if you have allergies or sensitivities to hundreds of common foods which may be linked to the activation of your immune system. Some symptoms that you may experience if you have food allergies are digestive disorders, migraines, chronic fatigue, joint and muscle aches, obesity, and skin issues such as rashes.
- Genova Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth Test (SIBO) – this is a simple breath test which measures exhaled hydrogen and methane gasses after ingestion of a lactose solution. Patients who have SIBO often experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and gas. SIBO is associated with IBS, IBD, Celiac Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s Disease, and Obesity.
- Genova GI Effects Test– this is a stool test that looks at overall gut health, the function of your digestive system, inflammation, and imbalances within the microbiome, including an analysis of bacteria, yeast and parasites.
- Spectracell ™Micronutrient Test – this test evaluates 35 different nutrients to include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants to determine deficiencies.
How to Restore Gut Health
If you are afflicted with digestive issues, autoimmune problems, hormonal imbalances, or chronic disease, the good news is that you (yes, you!) can have a direct influence on your overall health going forward. By getting the digestive tract in balance, it’s possible to drastically improve your health, and in many cases, even reverse some of the types of problems you may be having. Dr. Berutti is an expert on gut health, hormone balancing, thyroid balancing and anti-aging. She can provide you with the professional expertise needed in order to feel better and lead a longer and healthier life. Here are some of the things that you can do to improve your health:
- Change your diet. One study shows that improving the type of food that you eat can make a difference in as soon as 24 hours. Food is a major factor in promoting the growth of good or harmful bacteria in the gut. Bad bacteria feed off of processed foods which contain high amounts of sugar and bad fats. Conversely, whole, unprocessed foods (especially ones containing fiber) have been shown to improve the balance of good bacteria.
- Make sure that you are taking a good probiotic supplement. This adds beneficial bacteria to the gut microbiome.
- Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary since they wipe out a serious amount of good bacteria in your gut (in addition to killing the bad bacteria), leaving you more vulnerable to allow yeast and harmful bacteria to invade.
- Avoid taking NSAIDs unless absolutely necessary. Studies show that these types of drugs (Advil, Motrin) can alter your gut bacteria in only 24 hours.
- Avoid taking proton pump inhibitor drugs for heartburn and other digestive issues. These types of drugs inhibit the production of stomach acid which is vital to proper breakdown of food before it enters the intestines. There are natural ways to deal with acid reflux, including changing your diet and when needed drinking a glass of water with a teaspoon of baking soda.
- Eat probiotic-rich foods such as fermented veggies, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut as these contain live, healthy bacteria.
- Exercise – one of the benefits of exercise is that it reduces the inflammatory responses that occur within the body and can reduce the effects of mental and physical stress.
- Manage stress – stress can be mental, emotional, and physical. Lifestyle choices such as the foods you eat or how much sleep you get can burden the body with excess stress which can contribute to disease.
- Get enough sleep – numerous research studies have shown that not getting enough sleep can contribute exponentially to stress and the inability to deal with it. Lack of sleep also has a direct effect on gut health.
The connections between your health and your gut are undeniable. We are seeing a major rise in the number of disease and more research is proving that an unhealthy gut leads to disease so it’s important to listen to your gut.
If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and would like to learn more about your gut health and what can be done to improve it, give us a call or click here to schedule an appointment. Our New Patient Coordinator is happy to answer any questions you have, explain what we do and help you to determine if we can be of assistance to you. We are located in Southlake, Texas and look forward to helping you improve your gut health! Dr. Berutti uses a functional medicine approach with all of her patients, which focuses on finding and addressing root causes of disease and disorders to improve longevity and quality of life.