I recently attended the annual Acupuncture Research Symposium at Kings College London. There are interesting theories emerging in both Western & Holistic medicine. Namely that an awful lot of chronic diseases have a root in inflammation. Think cancer, Irritable Bowel disease, Chronic Fatigue, fibromyalgia & dementia & Alzheimers. All diseases on the rise in the West.

The role of the intestines in all this cannot be underestimated. Whilst its reasonably well accepted now that emotions can affect our digestion – prime example stress-induced indigestion – its not that well known that a poorly functioning gut can affect the brain negatively. Alot of promising research is currently looking at how to fix the gut to fix the brain. Suffering from low mood or anxiety? You may need to start thinking about what & how you eat.

The gut/intestines are a highly innervated area of the body. The vagus nerve establishes a main communication pathway between the brain and gut. Interestingly new research is suggesting that bacteria in the gut can bypass this nerve pathway and communicate directly with the brain.

So how do you fix you gut

Three main areas need addressing:

Diet

Obvious one this but be kind to your stomach. Try to limit or eliminate gluten. Some research is showing that even if you’re not gluten intolerant gluten can damage your gut wall. You don’t want a damaged gut wall. Bacteria can leak out and trigger systemic inflammatory responses in the body.

Think about foods that may have anti-inflammatory effects such as turmeric or ginger. Think of foods that aren’t going to be hard to digest – soft foods and soups. Eat regular meals and never eat stressed.

Always chew. Chew more than you think you need to as digestion starts in the mouth. You can test to see if you chew enough by eating a water biscuit. Its very difficult to swallow one if you haven’t chewed enough!

Emotions

In my clinic this is the one most patients ignore the most. They focus on their diet, some may even get as far as analysing gut bacteria but very few ever put the same sort of effort into de-stressing. Its much easier to send energy outwards. Bringing attention energy and attention inwards in a “yin” fashion is much more difficult but ultimately more rewarding. How do you do this? Think meditation, yoga, tai chi. If as much time was spent researching solutions to health issues via google as practicing de-stressing techniques I think many would be healed a lot quicker.

Microbiome

Micro-what? These are the bacteria that live in your gut. Since the days of Louis Pasteurs ground-breaking discover of antibiotics, we seem to still be a little opposed to any form of bacteria. The fact is we need to learn to love our micro guests. There are 10 times as many bacteria in our body as there are cells in the body. No matter how healthily you eat or live you will have bad bacteria in your body. By adopting more healthy habits you can increase your good bacteria count so your defences aren’t overwhelmed by the bad.

Wholesale & indiscriminate destruction of bacteria is not good as it can kill off particularly healthy bacteria – so think first before you ask your doctor for antibiotics.

If you have children – start them off young – feed them live yogurt, take them out into natural grassy spaces. Bacteria are everywhere – on the surfaces you touch to the air you breathe.

As we get older it may be an idea to take probiotics but beware. Not all probiotics make it past stomach acid to colonise the gut so do your research. In addition there are many different types of bacteria so you may not be adding to the type that you need. The gut micro-biome is a bewildering place so analysis is interesting but not a panacea. A good idea maybe to try many different types and sources of probiotic and prebiotic.