Hippocrates, regarded by many to be the Father of Medicine, is reported to have said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Contrary to the general belief of his time that disease was likely to be the result of disfavor by the gods or demonic possession, Hippocrates believed that illness must have a physical and rational explanation. In separating illness from superstitions, Hippocrates sought to treat the whole person, and based his treatment on the healing power of nature, supported by a good diet, cleanliness, fresh air, physical exercise, and rest, when needed. His writings show the he largely advised diet and exercise as remedies or cures for ailments, and resorted to medicines when individuals did not follow his lifestyle recommendations. Millennia ahead of his time, his contributions to the medical world still endure in modern medicine, as witnessed by today’s recommendations of healthy diet and exercise for support of overall good health.
Other than salves and foods, medicines prescribed in Hippocrates’ time were generally purgatives designed to rid the body of noxious substances thought to cause disease. According to ancient texts, Hippocrates believed that undigested residues, produced by an unsuitable diet, excreted vapors that passed into the body, resulting in disease and ill health. Today, more than 2,000 years after Hippocrates purportedly uttered his now famous quote, modern medicine is finally beginning to realize that nutrition, along with proper digestion, assimilation and absorption of nutrients, is fundamental to overall wellbeing. Functional medicine, which endeavors to identify and address the root causes of disease, focuses on a whole body, science-based individualized approach to restore optimal functioning of the body and its organs. In functional medicine wellness begins with a healthy well-functioning digestive system, as well as an undamaged gut lining.
How we treat the body’s mini-ecosystem largely determines the state of our overall heath. Eating healthy foods, managing stress levels, and maintaining an active lifestyle all contribute to the maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome. Ideally, a diverse diet of minimally processed whole foods that are high in fiber and nutrients, and moderate in protein and healthy fats, will help to keep inflammation in check, protect the gut lining, and reduce damage to beneficial gut bacteria. The impact of the western diet and lifestyle on immune health has been considerable, and has led to increased gut permeability, systemic inflammation and a significant decline in overall immune function. Our love of heavily processed high carbohydrate foods, sugars and artificial sweeteners has contributed to an alarming rise in cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and autoimmune diseases nationwide.
Science has shown that the gut microbiota provides essential health benefits that include critical digestive function, protection against invading pathogens, detoxification, hormone regulation, vitamin production and absorbency, mental wellness, and the regulation of immune homeostasis. Also known as the second brain, the enteric nervous system is a mesh-like network of neurons that line the entire digestive tract. These neurons are responsible for that nervousness you sometimes feel in the pit of your stomach, or what we know as our “gut feeling” or intuition. Important neurotransmitters embedded throughout the enteric nervous system communicate with the microbiome and send messages to the brain that influence our mood and feelings. Evidence shows that a healthy gut can help manage depression, curb inflammation and cortisol levels, and positively influence the reaction to stress. Studies show that those with healthy and diverse gut microbes are less likely to suffer from anxiety or depression.
While the science evolves, the emerging insights of the gut-brain connection may help us rethink the way we treat our microbiome. It appears that improved diet and lifestyle may benefit far more than one’s waistline. Evidence suggests that a less diverse or imbalanced microbiome can have a negative impact on health, while a balanced and diverse microbiome contributes to better overall physical and mental health.
To support the health of the microbiome:
-Give the gut time to rest. There are several ways to give the digestive system a well-deserved break. In addition to getting adequate sleep and lowering stress levels, try lightening up some of your meals, narrowing the window of time between your first and last meal or the day, or choosing a liquid diet one day each week.
-Eliminate high allergen foods, such as dairy and gluten, that can irritate the gut if you notice negative reactions after consuming them.
-Avoid sugar and junk foods that feed and encourage the proliferation of bacteria deleterious to health.
– To support the growth of healthy microbes, eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fermented foods. Dysbiosis, an imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and other disorders.
-Probiotic foods and supplements that contain live, active cultures provide beneficial bacteria that nourish and promote the microbiome and may help to increase the diversity of microbes through colonization in the large intestine.
-Prebiotic rich foods, such as onions, garlic, apples and chicory root, contain indigestible fibers that encourage the growth and colonization of beneficial bacteria.
-Be careful not to overuse antibiotics. To avoid depleting beneficial bacteria antibiotics and OTC medications should be used judiciously. Take them only when truly needed and for the shortest course of treatment necessary.
Professional Supplement Center carries these and other high-quality products to support and repair the intestinal system:
Vitalzym Digest by World Nutrition: This naturally derived blend of powerful enzymes is specifically formulated to assist the body’s normal metabolic processes by optimizing digestive function and nutrient absorption in support of energy production and general wellbeing. Gluten, lactose and artificial ingredient free, vegetarian formulation.
Nutrizyme™ by American Nutriceuticals: This clinical strength proprietary formula provides enzymatic and non-enzymatic ingredients designed to help improve the digestion and absorption of nutrients as well as address inflammation.
Natto-K™ by Enzymedica: This therapeutic blend of plant-based enzymes with high fibrinolytic activity ensures optimal and complete digestion and provides cardiovascular and circulatory support. Gluten, soy, dairy, preservative and artificial ingredient free, vegan kosher formulation.
Alpha-Glycosyl Isoquercitrin by Integrative Therapeutics®: This product provides highly absorbable and bioavailable quercetin in support of cellular antioxidant defenses, cardiovascular health, and a healthy immune response. Gluten, wheat, soy, dairy and artificial ingredient free, vegetarian formulation.
Dysbi-Ease by Biospec® Nutritionals: This natural highly effective complex provides well tolerated anti-fungal and antibacterial ingredients that remove harmful microbes from the digestive tract for a more balanced beneficial microflora. Vegetarian formulation.
Digestive Relief with Prebiotics and Aloe by Buried Treasure™ Nutritionals: This premium whole food liquid digestive aid complex provides fiber, prebiotics, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory fruits, and traditional herbs to promote healthy digestion and provide natural immune support. Gluten, wheat, soy, yeast and dairy free, vegetarian formulation.
Hippocrates, Greek Physician. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hippocrates
3 Surprising Reasons Your Gut Health Matters. http://www.eatingwell.com/article/288067/3-surprising-reasons-your-gut-health-matters/
Your Gut Health: A Healthier Digestive System Means a Healthier You. https://med.nyu.edu/medicine/gastro/about-us/gastroenterology-news-archive/your-gut-feeling-healthier-digestive-system-means-healthier
The Brain-Gut Connection. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection
The Pit In Your Stomach is Actually Your Second Brain. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-fallible-mind/201701/the-pit-in-your-stomach-is-actually-your-second-brain
Can gut bacteria improve your health? https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-gut-bacteria-improve-your-health