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Getting to the guts of your health

Naturopaths have long been saying that your gut health is central to your overall health and now the stats confirm this. In fact, mainstream medicine now reports that poor gut health is associated with many chronic health conditions and may contribute to disease progression due to the systemic reactions that occur as a result of loss of intestinal integrity.

What does this really mean? Well, a recent study of 589 adults found that those who have increased intestinal permeability (IP) or ‘leaky gut’, reported having lower quality of life. This translates to mental health (cognitive and emotional), as well as physical energy that allows a person to function in all the areas of their life (work, social, family).

Poor gut health may sound vague and I often find that patients dismiss it by advising that ‘all is well’. Unfortunately, more targeted questioning often produces positive associations and uncover underlying gut dysfunction. If you’re unsure whether you may have ‘leaky gut’ or suboptimal gut health, here’s some common signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling bloated soon after eating ,or feeling like your stomach swells up

  • Needing to find a bathroom quickly after eating particular foods (often dairy or gluten)

  • Going days between bowel motions or alternating between constipation and diarrhoea

  • Experiencing excessive gas after eating certain foods (it often has an odour that makes people run in the other direction)

  • Burping or acid reflux after meals. Some people also report feeling like a lump in their throat, or a cough

Other signs that your gut health may be impaired are not as specific and are often not uncovered unless you are consulting a health practitioner such as a Naturopath or Integrative GP. These include:

  • Lowered immunity (allergies, hay fever, autoimmune conditions)

  • Nutrient deficiencies (iron, zinc, magnesium)

  • Food intolerances

  • Thyroid dysfunction

  • Hormone dysfunction (painful, heavy periods, infertility)

  • Skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis, acne)

  • Joint pain

  • Weight gain

Interestingly, this recent study found that those people who did seek help from a healthcare practitioner responded well and reported that their gut health improved alongside their quality of life. Treatments consisted of nutritional and herbal medicines as well as lifestyle interventions including mindfulness and dietary changes. Some of these included:

  • Probiotics

  • prebiotics including soluble/insoluble fibre

  • Zinc

  • Glutamine

  • Vitamin C

  • Vitamin A

  • Turmeric

  • Yoga

  • Guided meditation

  • Removing gluten & dairy

A really important point from the study was that those people who self-prescribed supplements did not get the long term improvements to their gut health and importantly their quality of life that those who sought professional treatment did.

Is it time you got to the guts of your health?

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Leech B, McIntyre E, Steel A, Sibbritt D. The Subjective Well-being and Health-Related Quality of Life of Australian Adults with Increased Intestinal Permeability and Associations with Treatment Interventions. J Altern Complement Med. 2021 Sep 7. doi: 10.1089/acm.2021.0202. Epub ahead of print.

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