Gut health is all the rage these days, and as with anything shiny and new in the health and wellness world, there are a lot of myths, false truths and conflicting theories. Today, we put some of the most common misguided beliefs to rest.
1) I take a probiotic every day, so that means I have a healthier gut, right?
Probiotics are ALL the RAGE these days, so it's an understandably common belief that's all we need to have thriving well-functioning digestive tracts. If it were only that easy! A supplement is just that, a supplement, not a cure all. You can't have a crappy diet and think a pill will fix that. Additionally, people almost never read up on what they are told to take, therefore they don't understand how it works. Probiotics also need prebiotics to survive. You get prebiotics from the fiber in your foods. So if you're not getting plenty of whole grains, veggies and fruits, you may not be giving your probiotics what they need to survive for very long in your gut. And it's not just about fiber! If the army of bad bacteria in your gut is the largest, probiotics won't live long to thrive. They'll be snuffed out like celebrity in a crowd without their security team. To genuinely have a good balance of gut bacteria, you need to avoid the things that kill off good bacteria like stress, and avoid things that feed bad bacteria like sugar (so watch the sugar in that kombucha!!).
2) If I eat "clean" foods, I have no reason to have a bad gut.
Actually, it's much more complex than that. What you need is variety of "clean" foods without a bunch of additives, to not be overdoing it with any one food group, and to slow down when eating your said "clean meals". Our healthy gut bacteria comes from our foods. Digestive enzymes, the guys that break down our foods, come from this bacteria. Therefore, if you're lacking in food variety, the diversity of gut bacteria is also less, meaning your body tolerates breaking down varieties of food less and could have an overabundance of certain "good" bacteria. Just like an overgrowth of bad bacteria, a person may experience discomfort after eating. The same is true if we are overdoing portions of proteins and starches (fiber!) at our main meals. Lean protein and complex carbs, while they are in fact "clean" by trendy definition, are some of the toughest foods to break down. Most people's body's can comfortably break down a maximum of 3 oz. cooked lean protein and 1/2 cup cooked whole grain starch in one sitting. So frequently overdoing this over the course of multiple times in a day can mean your gut has a lot more work ahead of it, meaning it needs to recruit more digestive enzymes to do the job. Over time, this can lead to improperly breaking down foods and inflammation in the gut. Completely chewing your food will also help deliver more thoroughly broken down food to your digestive tract, which can also save it a lot of effort.
3) The gut is responsible solely for breaking down our food.
Sure! The guts MAIN job is the manage the process of digestion, but it is NOT a one trick pony! The gut is also responsible for managing many hormones, such as serotonin (90% of which is made in the gut) and keeping you from getting sick (70% of immune cells are made in the gut). So if you're feeling depressed, or if you're getting sick a lot...chances are it's your gut that is compromised.
4) Probiotics are all created equal.
This is a big, fat, NOPE! There a variety of probiotics out there, and they all contain different strains of bacteria. Picture your gut bacteria as a bunch of animals and insects in a thriving forest. Each of these animals and insects serves it's purpose in supporting and maintaining this thriving ecosystem. From the termite to the lion, there are millions of different species with different roles. The same goes for your gut, and some times they need to switched around to avoid an overabundance of good bacteria and to promote greater diversity for overall better biological functioning. So if you ARE using probiotic supplements, pick one that offers between 15-100 billion CFUs, and switch up your strains (brands) every 2-3 months. This is also a good time to recall the variety in your foods mentioned in point #2 above!
5) Discomfort means my gut is angry with me and I definitely have food allergies.
What it more likely means is you have a lack of diversity in the gut from: 1) eating the same things over and over, 2) GMO crops being in your diet (they are sprayed with pesticides) for the majority of your life, 3) have had antibiotics recently that killed your good gut bacteria, and/or 4) you have a recurring history of not managing stress well. When your gut flora is out of balance, your digestion is compromised, meaning more food particles hang out and ferment = more gas, which builds inflammation over time. When your gut is inflamed, it is more likely to overreact to foods it may not see very often, are hard to break down, or are overeaten. Basically, your body is just trying to help your survive but becomes VERY confused. By eliminating common inflammatory foods and gassy causing foods for a few weeks, your body may have a better chance of getting back in balance. Therefore, it sets your gut up to be a calmer more stable state to react to foods in the way it was genetically and environmentally supposed to.
We know the media, marketing and health journals can get confusing, and it can be frustrating when you're doing all "the right things" but still feel terrible. If you're suffering from gastro issues, skin issues, mood issues, or energy issues, and have a feeling it's your gut that's responsible, check out our 6-week 1:1 coaching program Gutsy Girls @ KKW! We will talk you through how to stabilize and heal your gut with regular food and how to figure out which foods are YOUR unique triggers, not to mention you'll be learning all about the above and more! Knowledge is power after all!