Part one: Optimise your digestive health
Remove the triggers of inflammation
The first phase in improving your gut health is to remove the things that cause problems. These are the factors that cause inflammation in the gut. Such things can include the foods that you eat. As well as microbes that cause gut infections, such as bacteria, yeast or even parasites. Sometimes toxins in your environment can also cause problems in your gut.
Some foods cause inflammation in the gut because of food sensitivity. Common trigger foods include gluten, dairy products, soy, eggs and sugar. You may not need to avoid all these foods. But these are the most common foods that cause gut issues. It’s also a good idea to remove processed foods. As well as artificial additives such as preservatives. Other common dietary substances that can irritate the gut are alcohol and coffee.
An elimination diet is one way to to find out if certain foods cause your symptoms. Follow an elimination diet for at least two weeks. Then reassess how you feel. If there has been no change or only a small change in symptoms you could continue the diet for two more weeks. The low FODMAP diet is one such elimination diet.
FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharide, Disaccharide, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are types of carbohydrates that are fermentable by certain gut bacteria. You can find a list of allowed foods on the low FODMAP diet here.
The low FODMAP diet can help people with a range of digestive problems. Yet it will not help everyone. Try the low FODMAP diet first. If your symptoms do not improve or they get worse then you may need the help of a practitioner to find a diet to help you. Or you could try food sensitivity testing to help guide you to foods that may be your triggers.
Identify gut pathogens
Gut infections are very common. Viruses, bacteria, yeasts and parasites can all infect the gut. They may or may not cause symptoms. So for example you could have gut parasites without knowing. A comprehensive stool analysis test can provide precise identification. If you have a gut infection treatment can begin during this remove phase.
Toxins in the environment can cause problems in your gut. Mainly because of their effect on the gut bacteria. We need the beneficial gut bacteria to ensure a healthy gut. Yet, these bacteria are very sensitive to drugs, diet and environmental pollutants. Heavy metals, pesticides, nanomaterials, food additives and medications such as antibiotics are all toxic to gut bacteria. This also includes antibacterial soaps and household cleaning products. You should aim to remove these where possible. But, do not stop taking any prescribed medication without consulting your doctor.
Even one course of antibiotics reduces the numbers of beneficial gut bacteria. Whats more, it also leads to increases in pathogenic gut bacteria. Such shifts can also cause yeast infections. As well as symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain.
Reduce your stress
Psychological stress also reduces certain types of beneficial gut bacteria. It also increases the numbers of gut pathogens. So as part of the remove stage it is a good idea to try to reduce sources of stress. Or find ways to manage your stress such as meditation, yoga or tai chi.
Removing or reducing all these triggers is the first stage on your journey to better gut health.
Read the first post in this series Optimise your digestive health.
Read the third part 4R – Replace what’s missing to optimise your digestion