Your Gut Health Explained By A Nutritional Therapist
In recent years, gut health has dominated the wellness scene.
In fact, caring for our gut has taken centre stage as one of the most important things we can do to help maintain a healthy body and mind.
There’s a vast array of gut health products on the market, as well as tips and tricks coming from various sources explaining how best to care for the gut. But what’s fact? What’s fiction? And, what everyday habits can we implement to ensure our gut stays happy?
We spoke to Marilia Chamon, founder of Gutfulness Nutrition- a nutritional therapy clinic specialising in gut health, IBS and SIBO- for some insightful gut health knowledge.
Marilia turned to Nutritional Therapy having struggled with unexplained digestive symptoms for nearly a decade. Like most of her clients, she undertook every medical test under the sun but could not get to the root cause of her chronic digestive symptoms. Marilia holds a certificate in Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice from the world-renowned Institute for Functional Medicine and has trained on the use of the low FODMAP diet for IBS with Monash University. Her practice is rooted in science-based nutrition and her advice is based on the latest scientific research.
What is the gut
“The gut is one of the organs that make up our gastrointestinal (GI) tract,” says Marilia.
“Our GI starts in our mouth and finishes at the other end. It includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine. Helping them along the way are the pancreas, gallbladder and liver.”
What is the gut microbiome?
“The gut microbiome is the collection of trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi and yeast) and their genetic material that live in your gut,” explains Marilia. She adds that these microorganisms represent one of the most metabolically active systems within the human body and their activities are ‘extremely important for our overall health’. “Previously it was thought the gut microbiome was only responsible for harvesting energy and nutrients from the foods that we eat but we now know it does much more than that; it influences our mood via the gut-brain axis, it plays a role in controlling our blood sugar, it influences our hormones and gene expression, and it is where 70% of our immune cells reside.”
The signs of an unhappy gut…
Marilia explains that digestive symptoms are the most common signs that your gut could use some help. “This includes alternating bowel movements ranging from constipation and/or diarrhea, excessive gas, bloating, abdominal pain and discomfort. Multiple food intolerances and sensitivities are other signs to watch out for.”
How to maintain a healthy gut…
“Scientific research continuously demonstrates that eating a variety of plant foods is the easiest way to keep the gut microbiome happy and healthy - that means eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds,” says Marilia. Breakfast could be porridge topped with berries and nuts, lunch could be meat or fish with a side of vegetables and steamed sweet potato, whilst dinner could be a bowl of wholemeal pasta with chickpeas and vegetables. Marilia does add however that if you are currently experiencing digestive symptoms, eating high fibre foods may make things worse. “In this case it is best to work with a gut health nutritionist who can help identify food triggers and balance your diet.”
The potential gut saboteurs…
Many things can negatively impact the gut microbiome, says Marilia. She says that an ultra-processed diet, high in refined carbohydrates and sugars and low in fibre may not be ideal with artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame and Sucralose also causing potential problems.
Added to this, gut infections, such as stomach bugs and food poisoning, lack of sleep and circadian rhythm disruption and chronic stress can also be bad for the gut. Plus, antibiotics and other medications. “That is not to say we should not be taking them, but to do so with caution and only when needed,” says Marilia.
Think your gut is out of balance?
“Before jumping into conclusions it is really important to rule out medical conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Coeliac Disease, and food intolerances such as Lactose intolerance as they all have digestive symptoms as a common factor,” reveals Marilia.
“Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is possibly the health condition most associated with an imbalance of gut bacteria - if that is the case I strongly recommend seeking help from a gut health specialist that can help identify the underlying causes of your IBS symptoms.”
What’s the deal with probiotics?
Probiotics are in fact live bacteria that have the ability to temporarily colonise the gut.
“They can be found in supplements or in foods like yoghurt, kefir, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi,” says Marilia.
“Probiotic supplements can help minimise symptoms of bloating, abdominal pain/gas, constipation and diarrhea but you need to take the correct strains that have been studied to help with your specific symptoms. Just like diet, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all probiotic.”
The consequences of ignoring an unhappy gut…
If you think your gut could do with some TLC, it’s best not to ignore it.
“Think of the gut as the control centre of your body; if that is not working properly, most likely it will affect your overall health,” says Marilia. “If you are struggling with digestive symptoms you may unconsciously restrict your diet which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. An unhappy gut can also lead to nutrient malabsorption and increased inflammation, as well as affect your hormones and mood.” It’s best to see a specialist who can help, so you can improve your gut health and live a happier, healthier life!