Dr Nas Al-Jafari, Family Medicine Consultant and Functional Medicine Practitioner at Intercare Wellness
Following on from the Bodytree Breakfast Club this month, and given the resounding interest in Gut Health, I thought it only natural to share my thoughts for those of you who missed out.
The Gut Microbiome is one of the most fascinating and few remaining health mysteries. As it turns out, rather than living in parallel, our microbiome lives symbiotically and operates almost synonymously with us i.e. they are us.
Rather than our microbiome being left down to chance, our environment is fundamental in shaping our gut, and in turn, our overall health. Cardinal but often unconsidered childhood events, such as mechanism of delivery (natural vs Caesarian), mode of feeding (bottle vs breast), emotional stress, hygiene and antibiotics, all influence our microbial blueprint, often with lasting effects.
This is courtesy of the significant immune component residing in our gut. In simple terms, anything that we ingest stimulates an immune reaction, whether it be food, microbes, or toxins. If the ‘toxic’ burden becomes too high, then an unfavorable immune reaction will occur, potentially triggering knock on health problems, ranging from mental health issues through to adrenal-thyroid disorders.
Many of you will have heard of the term ‘Leaky gut’. Leaky Gut is essentially just that, or in other words, a breakdown in the tight junctions of the gut wall. This is an important potential consequence of gut microbiome imbalance (dysbiosis), which has also been implicated in a whole host of conditions, ranging from autism through to autoimmune disease. This has in turn led to an explosion in research in to the health impact of probiotics and prebiotics
‘All disease starts in the gut’ Hippocrates
So you get the idea that keeping our microbiome healthy is kind of a big deal. Here are my top tips for maintaining a healthy microbiome –
- Eat a diverse range of vegetables (between 20-30 species per week) – the diversity of your microbiome is proportional to the diversity of your vegetable intake.
- Incorporate fresh herbs in to your cooking – as well as feeding the microbiome, many have anti-microbial properties and help maintain a healthy balance
- Aim for more than 100 grams of fiber per day (supplement with chia seeds, flax seeds and/or psyllium). You may need to take a prebiotic (e.g. Inulin) if your fiber intake is sub-optimal.
- Supplement with additional high quality and high volume Lactobacillus and Acidophilus containing probiotics (aim for 50 billion+).
- Eliminate sugar, sweeteners, flavorings and processed foods: These foods feed the bad bacteria and stimulate unfavorable immune responses
- Use a water filter: reduces toxic burden
- De-stress and rest well: if you are stressed, your microbiome will be stressed.
- Where possible, avoid certain medications: NSAIDS, antacids, laxatives, hormonal treatments
- Only take antibiotics when essential, and always take a probiotic whilst on treatment (and for 30 days after)
- Spend time out-doors. Most of us spend 90% of our day in-doors. Our microbiome is shaped by our wider environment, which evolved when we were part of nature.
Sometimes people may still suffer from gut or wider health issues despite following the above advice. This usually indicates an underlying gut issue which requires a more tailored intervention. In practice we follow the ‘5R’ approach (Remove, Replace, Rebalance, Repair and Re-inoculate), often yielding fantastic results for even the most troublesome of patients.
Dr Nas Al-Jafari is a Family Medicine Consultant and Functional Medicine Practitioner based in Abu Dhabi @intercarewellness. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 026390080 to find out more or make a booking
Image:WarrenGoldswain via Getty images