gut repair

The lowly potato is back on top again!

Lately, I've been submerged in research about the gut and its co-habitants, the gut microbiome, or microbiota. These are the tiny beings that we humans have outsourced a tremendous part of our physiology and biochemistry. Why do I say that? Well, for one thing, they outnumber us by 10:1. And, if we look at them in terms of our genes versus their genes, we get a whopping 150:1 ratio. Who is running our show then?

What is so cool, is that these tiny guys are turning medicine on its head.  Research is pointing to interventions that recognize the mighty role of the microbiome.

By now, many of you have heard that gut health is crucial to a healthy immune system.  So, how do we improve this microbiome? With one of the easiest to find and least expensive foods available!

This food has even been lauded in the January 5 2017 issue of Time Magazine. The title: This Kind of Food is Both Filling and Insanely Good for You.

They are talking about resistant starch. What is that? It just means the kind of starch that your body can't digest. It goes through the small intestines until it gets to the large intestine or colon. There your microbiome is busy getting fed and doing its work to keep you healthy. Your good bacteria take this resistant starch and turn it into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). One in particular, called butyrate, is an energy source for the epithelial cells that line the gut.
These are the cells that are famously portrayed in the Leaky Gut Sagas of our time. You have probably heard that Leaky Gut is a major factor in just about every chronic disease out there from autoimmune diseases, gut issues, brain and mood disorders, cancer and even cardiovascular disease.

These cells are the guardians between the outside world (whatever we have ingested through our mouths) and the inside world. This is where most of our immune system is and where in the small intestine, we absorb our nutrients.

What are Resistant Starches?

  • Those in raw foods like unripe banana, papaya, mango (these are often used in Asian cuisine). Raw papaya is contraindicated for pregnant women due to latex
  • Beans and potatoes are the best sources according to Dr. Alan Christianson
  • Cooked and cooled starches are even better! So take your cooked potatoes and beans and cool them. Reheat them for even more benefit. Every time you heat and cool them, you will increase the resistant starch. You can even add rice to this list.
  • Cassava, plantains, potato starch can also be added to this list.

Benefits from Consuming Resistant Starch:

  • Energy for your gut lining
  • Improves insulin sensitivity even in those with insulin resistance
  • Improves your blood sugar, keeps it steady so you won't have those dips and highs
  • This means will help you lose weight including your belly!
  • Improves integrity and function of the gut - reduced inflammation all over
  • Reduces risk of colorectal cancers and probably all cancers
  • May reduce risks associated with eating red meat
  • Increases satiety or feeling full - again will help with weight loss
  • May preferentially bind to bad bacteria (thus may be part of the treatment for those with SIBO - Small Intestine Bowel Overgrowth)
  • Enhances magnesium absorption. Magnesium is used in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body
    Did You Know?
    When you put mice in water and they have to swim, they get really stressed. When mice raised without any microbiota, are fed the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus, they swim happily!
    There is a whopping success rate (in the high 90's) to curing those with antibiotic resistant C-diff in a unique way. How is this done? By introducing fecal material from a healthy donor. Sounds gross, but "yellow soup" was described in the 16th century by a Chinese physician, Li Shizhen.
    Researchers are using fecal transplants from thin mice and introducing them to obese mice and they get thin. They've done the reverse, taking fecal transplants from obese mice and inserting them into thin mice and seen them gain weight.

     Some Anecdotal Stories:

    • Improves body composition, ie more muscle
    • Improves thyroid function
    • Improved sleep
    • Less anxiety, feeling calm

    Ok, with all these benefits its time to start incorporating these foods into your diet?  See my suggestions below for greater success or schedule an appointment to design your gut health plan.

    Adding Resistant Starches into Your Diet: Start Slowly
    My suggestion would be to start with regular food sources versus purchasing potato starch. If you experience gassiness or bloating, it's probably some of the bad bacteria fermenting them into gases. Back off and add slowly back in.

    If you're doing ok with just using food sources, and want to experiment, you can always try a more concentrated version, ie the potato starch and see how you do.

    Let me know how you do and if you need any guidance along the way, come in for a session and we can develop your unique gut program.
    Here's to feeding our hidden helpers!

    Stress and our Gut Health

    The Importance of Lowering Stress to Improve Gut Health and Reduce Risks of Disease
    This week is a time to give thanks and appreciate all we have. While this is most ideal aspect of the holiday season, it is unfortunately, not the only aspect for many of us.  Over 60% of us have heightened levels of stress over the next six weeks. When we get stressed, whether it's our reactions to a surprise visit from family, that unexpected repair bill, our child's health, the news, whatever it is, our body is trained to stop the nerve and energy flow to our gut and instead push it towards our muscles. Stress will direct your body's resources to your muscles so we can run away from that proverbial lion!

    So what happens to our gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) when we get stressed? Well, for one thing, we may find our bowels quit moving, or for some, we experience diarrhea. That was me in my first year of teaching.....

    Stress also prevents or interferes with the production of essential chemicals that are essential for digestion to occur. These include pancreatic enzymes, hydrocholoric acid and intrinsic factor, as well as an orchestra of biochemicals that allow our digestive system to successfully break down and metabolize our foods.

    The GI tract is a tube where our food and drink is broken down into smaller compounds that are absorbed into our bloodstream. There is a single layer of cells that protects the inside of our body from what's coming down the pike from the outside world. When we are stressed, these cells , the gatekeepers who selectively keep some things out (like bacteria) and other things in (nutrients) start to lose their ability to keep the gates shut. Undigested food particles and even bacteria  start leaking out into the bloodstream. The cell lining becomes more permeable, what's known as "leaky gut".

    Our microbes outnumber us by upwards to 3:1. Furthermore genetically, we are 1 per cent human genes and 99% microbial genes. Some health leaders have quipped that we might be considered more microbial than human! We could say that this microbial community, now known as the "microbiome" acts like an "organ". The largest part of it inhabits our GI tract, getting more numerous the lower down you go.

    What happens next in this saga? You've probably heard that about 70% of our immune system is in the gut. It is composed of the mucus around this epithelial layer, and also specialized immune cells (the neighborhood police)  who live in the basement under the one cell layer. When it starts leaking, the police make quite a squawk and start producing inflammatory producing chemicals.

    These chemicals or cytokines cause more inflammation and usually wind up in your susceptible or problem child areas; it could be your thyroid, your bones and joints, your gut itself, your brain or other areas of your body.  Chronic inflammation is behind every chronic condition humans experience in the modern world. Heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's', gastrointestinal diseases, Graves Hashimoto's, the list goes on.

    Our saga is incomplete without the star players - our unique microbiome, which simply put is the unique community of microbes that live all throughout our body. They are most numerous in our lower gut. They sit at that one celled layer andmodulate what is happening there. They react to what is coming down the pike. They do these by increasing our decreasing the inflammatory response our immune system has to what we have eaten. They are the go-betweens between the police and the outside world. Some of them actually make short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that feed the guard or gatekeeper cells.  Some prevent the bad guys or "pathogenic" microbes from growing in numbers. Others like E. Coli have LPS (lipopolysaccharide) in their membrane. It is a nasty substance that actually makes the gut lining leakier. Others quiet down the inflammatory response. 

    Stress affects both the quality and quantity of the microbial players. This is akin to what happens when we take a broad spectrum antibiotic that kills just about everything. Not only have we reduced the population of microbes, but we have changed the player roster. There are always opportunistic players (just like how some people make tons of money during economic downturns or depressions).  After stress, we have a new team. These new guys tend to be bullies. They've waited for their chance, and they are going to take advantage and cause lots of trouble. They are going to make you feel even more stressed, anxious, depressed, fat, sick and tired.

    So what to do, what to do?
    How do we help our body deal with more stress, and be more resilient?
    Here's my list of helpful practices in more detail:

    • Drink more water (filtered is best)
    • Get enough magnesium; organic green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. Foods with exceptionally high magnesium content include seaweed, coriander, pumpkin seeds, unsweetened cocoa powder, and almond butter
    • Get enough sleep
      • Disconnect from tech, TV, etc at least a half hour before bed
      • Get your room as dark as possible
      • Take a hot bath with Epsom salts
      • Drink some relaxing teas such as valerian or chamomile with an added TBSP of powdered gelatin (high in glycine which is calming)
      • The more sleep you can get before midnight, the better
      • Have a little sleep ritual that can include meditation, prayer, etc.
      • "Earthing sheets or mats" - ask me about this
    • Meditate, pray, do deep breathing, give thanks
    • Yoga
    • Don't skip meals, try to stay with your regular meal schedule so you don't mess up your blood sugar
    • Regular movement, walking, running, interval training, whatever your usual routines are, try to keep them even if you do less
    • Watch funny movies or laugh with friends
    • Probiotics (unless you have SIBO)
    • Use aromatherapy in your home (diffuser, your handkerchief, pillow or warm compresses).
      • lavender
        • frankincense
        • vetiver
        • ylang ylang
        • vanilla
        • rosemary
        • lemon balm
        • chamomile
        • bergamot
        • rose
    • Get a massage
    • Making love
    • Hemp oil CBD's - ask me about Elixinol
    • Keep  to your routines as much as possible. Our mantra as Waldorf teachers was "rhythm replaces strength". Think of how the whole solar system predictably moves in relationship to all.
    • Emotional Freedom Technique EFT)