October 23, 2017 5 min read
You are what you eat? Ayurveda suggests that it is more accurate to say "you are what you digest". It has long been taught in Ayurveda that the gut is the 'cradle' of our health. Our digestive tract is a sensitive system that affects our entire organism and influences many aspects of our health and wellbeing.
But often we don't realise when our digestive system is not working well, because the symptoms usually go beyond the clear signs of diarrhoea, constipation, flatulence or abdominal pain.
We have summarized 7 signs that can let you know when your digestion is out of balance and what you can do to help restore intestinal balance.
Our gastrointestinal tract has a strong impact on our immunity. For example, a healthy gut contains trillions of microbes that can activate the immune cells in our body in order to protect us effectively from pathogens. And also, the right balance of bacteria in the gut ensures a healthy intestinal flora, or microbiome, and prevents the colonisation of harmful or 'bad' bacteria. So, if you get sick often, it could be because your gut flora are no longer in equilibrium.
While investigating the causes of rheumatoid arthritis a research group came across a possible connection between the bacteria in our intestine and various joint complaints.
Recent studies confirm this result and show that the intestinal microbiome is disturbed in people with rheumatoid arthritis, and the wrong bacteria colonize the intestine causing inflammation; which in turn can affect the whole body. In addition, as already described in # 1, an imbalanced digestion also weakens the immune system which can lead to chronic disease.
Researchers have discovered a link between a disturbed bowel microflora and obesity and suggest that there may be significant differences in the microflora in the digestive tract of those who are overweight and those who are not. They found that a diet high in fats and sugar attracts a significantly larger amount of a certain type of bacteria in the intestine, which increases calorie intake and promotes weight gain. In addition, it is likely that the bacteria also act on the brain and send 'hunger' signals, even when the body doesn’t require food.
Antibiotics are an essential part of today's medicine, and can be an effective remedy against harmful bacteria. However, they are also indiscriminate and cannot distinguish between "good" and "bad" bacteria. The intestinal flora can become very weak after treatment with antibiotics and "bad" bacteria can spread much more easily.
Often, the gastrointestinal tract can restore its own balance again after the treatment is complete. If, however, due to repeated use of antibiotics or other factors, the microflora cannot recover fully then the digestion remains compromised and also the immune system is weakened further. This can lead to the need for antibiotics again - a cycle that’s not so easy to break.
We now know that the bowel and the brain communicate by way of the gut-brain axis. However, the fact that our digestive tract has a direct influence on the functioning of our brain and how we respond to stress and anxiety is less well known. Recent studies show that people who suffer from anxiety, restlessness or depression have a disturbed intestinal flora. Although the research in this area is still in the early stages, findings are showing that certain probiotics in the intestine inhibit the stress hormone cortisol and reduce anxious or depressive responses.
Hypersensitivity to certain foods, such as lactose or gluten, is a hotly debated topic. While some people doubt that these intolerances actually exist, others are being driven to increasingly more restrictive diets.
In the meantime, researchers are looking for possible causes of dietary intolerances. Recent studies have shown that, particularly in the case of lactose sensitivities, a weakened intestinal flora and a microbiome that lacks certain bacteria - or is made up of more “bad” bacteria - can lead to the situation where foods such as milk, wheat or sugar can no longer be properly digested and symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain or diarrhoea occur. In this way, treatment methods focus on restoring a balanced microbiome to enable the proper digestion of these more 'difficult to digest' foods.
The most common gastrointestinal symptoms are bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain and cramping. Since most of us have experienced some of these symptoms every now and then, they are not always given much attention. As the intestine is particularly important in terms of health, we should consider the causes - especially if the symptoms occur more frequently or are intense. Otherwise we might get into the cycle already mentioned under # 4.
The most important thing for a healthy digestive tract is, of course, a healthy diet. The dietary advice for a healthy microbiome is to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables - organic where possible, and to cut back on meat, fatty foods, sugar and alcohol.
However, when making dietary changes it is important to make these changes gradually. This allows the microbiome time to adapt to the changes with less possibility of digestive discomfort during the process. A series of small steps is often more successful than trying to make radical changes quickly.
Stress also has a direct negative impact on our intestinal flora. Here, techniques such as meditation can help change our behavioural patterns to better manage our response to the stresses of daily life.
In addition, there are numerous herbs and spices that can positively effect our digestion. Aniseed and fennel are two such spices as they reduce flatulence and stomach cramps and are anti-inflammatory; as well as cloves, which activate the digestive juices.
Try our delicious Digestive tea formula which is adapted from an Ayurvedic recipe and using certified organic herbs and spices. Taken after a meal aniseed, fennel and cardamom naturally support your digestion and ginger root also acts as a digestive stimulant. The addition of Mate green tea gives the metabolism a gentle boost which can counteract post digestive tiredness. The perfect all-rounder for your digestion!
If the microflora has been out of balance for some time then sometimes we need a little extra help to restore balance. Our Florabact 30-day gut restore contains a potent mixture of 8 different bacterial cultures with the addition of prebiotics such as psyllium seed husks, which are well known for their positive effects on the digestive system. In this way, the intestinal villi are re-colonized and the intestinal environment restored in a totally natural and effective way - gentle and long-lasting.
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