All Things Gastrointestinal

March 23, 2015

Mixed VegetablesThe gastrointestinal tract is the topic du jour—everyone’s talking about food allergies, the myriad health effects your good (or bad!) gut bacteria have, the correlation between certain foods and weight loss/gain, and even which sort of supplements are good and bad.

With summer coming up, there are other things to add to that list, all under the umbrella of food poisoning.

So what are some of the basic health issues of the GI Tract, and ways to support good health?

-Food Allergies. While some people have severe allergies, others have intolerances. Testing is the best, safest way to confirm what could be a very serious health concern. For others who are self-diagnosing, 2 observations: eliminating gluten or dairy often leads to giant dietary changes, which are healthier overall, and there are other, less famous problems that you might be mostly fixing but misdiagnosing, like MTHfr (when fortified foods, like grains, make you sick). Figuring out a more precise answer will help you improve your eating strategy!

-Gut Bacteria. Food gets a direct pass to your insides, which means that your GI Tract needs to be prepared as an integral part of your immune system. For fighting pathogens, your gut bacteria are super important—they can crowd out and fight off invaders, while improving your digestion.

They also influence the health of your brain, possible inflammation in your gut, how much you weigh (regardless of your calories!)

There are two ways to support a colony of “good” gut bacteria. First, eat plenty of probiotics. Probiotics are fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, etc.

Then there’s prebiotics—which can be simplified as eating healthy. Junk foods, high sugar content, etc. encourage bad bacteria, while healthy foods like fruits and vegetables encourage good bacteria.

-Other correlations: Studies love connecting healthy foods to specific effects like lowered blood pressure and more, and unhealthy foods to specific negatives like belly fat. A lot of this is probably stemming from probiotics/prebiotics, and is just another way to emphasize the need to eat healthier!

-Food Poisoning: summer brings a heightened risk of bacterial growth on food (salmonella, listeria, and more!). Having a strong probiotic colony is a good defense that can at least lessen symptoms. But safe food practices can also help. (Avoid cross contamination of raw meats and cooked foods by washing utensils, plates, and hands). Pre-made foods have a higher risk of contamination—that’s pre-packaged deli meats, fruit and veggie platters, etc.

-And of course, since it’s colon cancer awareness month—remember that eating healthy is a great way to support colon health, but that you shouldn’t ignore inherited risks and should get tested!

What are other gastrointestinal concerns?

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