Food Sensitivities

man suffering from food sensitivities

Food Sensitivities: What You Need to Know

You’re careful about your health. You do your best to eat well, and you pay attention to the ways that your diet affects your energy levels. But something seems off. You’re experiencing annoying symptoms that you can’t explain. Maybe you have food sensitivities?  You’re often gassy and bloated, your skin may not be clear and glowing anymore, you may be ready for a nap after a meal and you wish you could remember where you put your keys. Why does your memory feel so foggy?

These issues are frustrating (and often embarrassing). They’re also very common. Many patients come to see us with healthy lifestyles but are baffled by continuing digestive issues, mysterious rashes, and low energy levels. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to take a good look at your diet. Even a “healthy” food can make you sick if your body is sensitive to it. For many, the food mystery becomes both frustrating and overwhelming when trying to understand what foods are nourishing you and which ones may be harming you.

But the good news is that you may not have to look very far to make changes that relieve your symptoms. With a bit of detective work and our help, we can map out a dietary plan that restores your well-being.

What are the Symptoms of Food Sensitivities?

Food sensitivities can be tricky to diagnose. One reason is that there’s no one-size-fits-all list of food sensitivities or description of the way your body may react. Symptoms can vary from person to person and can even be different depending on what else is happening in your body. For example, you might respond differently at different stages of your menstrual cycle.

Food sensitivity symptoms can include:

Gas
Bloating
Constipation
Diarrhea
Heartburn/GERD
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Swollen or painful joints
Muscle weakness
Migraines
Headaches
Dark circles under your eyes
Skin rashes like eczema and psoriasis
Brain fog – that annoying forgetfulness and lack of clarity
Acne
Fatigue
Difficulty getting up in the morning

Another reason why food sensitivities are often a missed diagnosis is that these symptoms can be delayed up to 48 hours after the food that is causing them. So many people don’t make the connection between what they ate and how they feel as much as 2 days later.

Similarly, it’s difficult to measure how many people suffer from food sensitivities because a lot of us don’t seek medical help, figuring that it’s “normal” to feel gassy and tired all of the time. In fact, conventional medical practitioners can be sceptical about food sensitivity symptoms, which can lead to frustration for patients. But it doesn’t have to be this way, not with our doctors.

What is a Food Allergy?

It’s important to recognize the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. What is commonly called a food allergy is an immune reaction. After eating a certain food, your body’s immune system launches an attack by making an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The next time you consume that food, your body is ready to attack again. But the IgE antibody causes your body to release a chemical called histamine, which triggers the physical symptoms of an allergic reaction. The most severe version of this is called anaphylaxis or an anaphylactic reaction. This extreme food allergy reaction can be lethal. Common foods that provoke an anaphylactic reaction include wheat, soy, peanuts, shellfish, milk and eggs. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include throat swelling, lip swelling, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing and hives.

What is a Food Sensitivity?

In contrast, a food sensitivity is often caused by a different antibody, known as IgG antibodies. IgG antibodies provoke a milder immune reaction than IgE and so this is considered a food sensitivity rather than a food allergy. In both cases, your immune system is responding inappropriately to your food. But the reactions differ in intensity. IgG-mediated food sensitivities are not lethal but do affect people’s quality of life with the above-mentioned symptoms.

What If You Eat Your Food Sensitivities?

If we continue to eat the problem foods, we can exacerbate the sensitivities and our symptoms can affect more aspects of our bodies. Because our immune system creates antibodies against the food the lining of the gut can become inflamed and damaged. Eventually, the gut wall can become permeable, so that undigested food material “leaks” into the bloodstream. Not surprisingly, this is called “leaky gut” syndrome.

Why does leaky gut syndrome make us feel so lousy? There is growing evidence that the microorganisms in our guts exist in a complex relationship with our brains – what scientists call the “microbiome-gut-brain axis.” In other words, food sensitivities and the resulting leaky gut can affect our brains. And, as a result, our moods and energy levels. And that’s in addition to the general discomfort we can feel with digestive difficulties. No wonder patients with food sensitivities are often exhausted!

But what is the root cause of food sensitivities?

Research is still developing, but there are a few theories, ranging from changes in farming practices to the increased use of antibiotics, which can affect our gut bacteria and make it more difficult to digest certain foods.

What is a Food Intolerance?

A food intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzymes necessary to digest a substance that the food contains. For example, some people may develop a lactose intolerance if their intestinal mucosa doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase. A lactose tolerance test is used to diagnose lactose intolerance.

Which Foods Can Cause Food Sensitivities?

Somewhat ironically, many foods that can lead to sensitivity symptoms are considered “healthy” foods. In fact, ANY food can trigger an immune response.  As a result, it’s easy to keep eating them, hoping they will improve your health and help you feel better. Yes, it’s a bit of a Catch-22! Common food sensitivity culprits include:

Dairy: The proteins casein and whey found in goat, sheep and cow milk, as well as cheeses, ice cream and yogurt are difficult for our gut to break down. The immune system then reacts against what it perceives as “foreign” protein. Your immune system is programmed to be on the lookout for foreign proteins from viruses and bacteria. So other foreign proteins like casein and whey, if not properly digested, can trigger an immune response.

Gluten: Gluten is a protein (or family of proteins) found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, and other grass-related grains. It’s often a hidden ingredient. For example, many spices, sauces and processed foods can contain gluten. Because it is a protein, similar to casein and whey if it’ is not broken down, it can generate an immune response.

Which Foods Can Cause Food Intolerances?

Fructose intolerance: Fructose is a simple sugar found in many fruits. A fructose intolerance, also known as fructose malabsorption, is caused by an inability to absorb this sugar. Unabsorbed fructose leads to fructose fermentation in the gut, causing bloating and gas. Excessive fructose in the gut can also cause diarrhea. High fructose corn syrup is found in processed foods like cereal bars and some juices.

Histamine and other amines: Histamine is found in greater amounts in aged or stored foods such as cheese, ripe fruit, chocolate, and processed meats. These foods are often migraine triggers for people with a histamine intolerance. Normally dietary histamine is broken down in your gut by an enzyme known as DAO. Some people are genetically predisposed to low levels of DAO. Undigested histamine can create inflammatory conditions like headaches, migraines, foggy thinking, and pain.

Lactose intolerance: Lactose is a sugar present in varying amounts in dairy products like milk and cheese.  The enzyme lactase is normally located on the lining of your gut, also called the brush border.  As we age, it is normal for us to lose the ability to digest lactose.  It’s present in highest amounts when we are born and declines after we are weaned.  Where cattle are domesticated and used to produce dairy products, the presence of the enzyme can persist, but not in everyone.  If you lack the enzyme and can’t digest lactose, you may experience symptoms like bloating, gas and diarrhea from the undigested lactose in your gut.

This is not an extensive list of food allergy or food sensitivity triggers. We’re all different, and there is no universal recipe for food sensitivities. That’s one reason why seeing a naturopathic doctor is a good idea if you suspect your food may be making you sick. In addition, our medical supervision can ensure your approach to food remains healthy and balanced. Research suggests that food sensitivities can be a trigger for disordered eating in some people. After all, if food is causing you pain, but you’re not sure which foods are to blame, it’s easy to associate all food with negative experiences.

How Can You Treat Food Sensitivities?

On the surface, treating a food sensitivity sounds simple: just eliminate the problem foods. But first, you’ll have to do a bit of detective work. Because of possible delayed reaction times, the troublesome food is not always obvious. There are tests that can be done that will give you a comprehensive list of what is creating a reaction and you can eliminate the culprits, allowing your body to heal faster. A blood test for food sensitivities can help pinpoint which foods to eliminate. The test identifies IgG antibodies in your bloodstream to either 96 or 184 foods. Our naturopathic doctors can provide information about this test.  Although it may be common to produce these antibodies to foods, it is not normal for your immune system to attack food. After testing, our naturopathic doctors can then provide specifics about what to take out, for how long and which foods you could eat as alternatives. Alternatively, you can choose to keep detailed records of everything you eat. Then, under naturopathic supervision, you can start eliminating foods, then reintroducing selected foods, carefully tracking your symptoms. This is also known as an elimination-challenge diet.

While you’re following an elimination diet like this, our naturopathic doctors can provide ways to support your gut health. And as you work to track down the problem foods, you’ll want to avoid substances that are known to cause gut inflammation, such as alcohol.

 Immune System Involvement?Antibody Involved?SymptomsTestingLife-threatening?
Food AllergyYesIgEItchy mouth, itchy throat, throat constriction, swelling, airway constriction, hives, anaphylaxis,abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrheaSkin prick testing performed by an allergistCan be
Food SensitivityYesIgG and/or IgABloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches, sinus problems, muscle weakness, joint pain, acne, eczema, psoriasis, hives, fatigue, recurrent infectionsBlood test for IgG or IgA antibodies to foods OR Food Elimination-Challenge diet through a naturopathic doctor
No, but do affect quality of life
Food IntoleranceNoNoneBloating, gas, diarrhea Fructose or Lactose Intolerance Test, ordered by an MDNo, but do affect quality of life

Do you think your foods might be causing your health issues? We have testing and treatment to help you understand which foods are helping you and which ones may be harming you. It may not be the foods you suspect. It can even be perfectly healthy foods like avocado, blueberries, salmon and almonds for example.  We’ve seen these foods test positive on food sensitivity testing in our patients. Contact us and we will work together to find the potentially hidden food triggers for your health issues.

Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Maria@ForcesofNature.ca

To your best health!

Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

Food Sensitivities References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28936357

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5603184/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953608002773

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7460264

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41575-018-0064-z

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453018303950

https://journals.lww.com/co-gastroenterology/Abstract/2016/03000/A_gut__microbiome__feeling_about_the_brain.7.aspx

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10009-food-problems-is-it-an-allergy-or-sensitivities

SIBO

woman suffering from SIBO

SIBO: Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Despite its name, the small intestine is actually a whopping 20 feet of very important tissue between your stomach and large intestine. The small intestine is divided up into 3 parts. The part closest to your stomach is called the duodenum, next is the jejunum and the last stretch before your large intestine is your ileum. The small intestine has the important job of digesting food and absorbing nutrients to keep us in good health. As if that wasn’t significant enough, it is also a key contributor to a healthy immune system.

The small intestine plays host to specific beneficial microorganisms that help protect our bodies against bad (pathogenic) bacteria and yeast. These good bacteria also do their part to produce vitamins and nutrients like vitamin K and folate. They are the keepers of the small intestine, ensuring that it continues to do its thing, muscling waves of food through the gut.

What is SIBO?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO occurs when there is an increased number of bacteria and/or a change in the type of bacteria present in your small intestine. Overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine is considered to be greater than 100 000 bacteria per millilitre of fluid. Most often SIBO is caused by an overgrowth of the wrong types of bacteria that actually belong in the colon (the large intestine). In truth, the small intestine is meant to be fairly clean. Food coming from the top down through the stomach is sterilized by stomach acid. So anything passing into the small intestine from the top shouldn’t contain much in the way of bacteria. Absence of adequate stomach acid may contribute to SIBO as this would allow passage of bacteria into the intestines. Another theory as to how this occurs is that there is a motor complex that propels everything in your intestines one direction – out the far end. This migrating motor complex or MMC can malfunction, allowing a backwash of bacteria from the large intestine to move up into the small intestine.

The bacteria that causes SIBO is like a bad tenant. It invites all its rowdy friends in for a party and damages the cell lining of the small bowel. This can lead to leaky gut, allowing large protein molecules to move through the intestinal barrier and escape into the bloodstream. As you can imagine, this causes a number of problems, including general inflammation, immune reactions that cause food allergies, and autoimmune diseases.

These havoc-causing bad bacteria are also responsible for poor digestion, constipation or diarrhea and malabsorption. Patients with SIBO may suffer from nutritional deficiencies, particularly iron, vitamin B12, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as having unintended weight loss, and even osteoporosis.

Do I Have SIBO?

SIBO is considered an under-diagnosed condition as many people do not seek medical care for their symptoms or they get wrongly diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.

The Most Common Signs and Symptoms of SIBO

Signs and symptoms of SIBO include:

· Bloating and abdominal swelling

· Abdominal pain or discomfort

· Diarrhea

· Constipation

· Gas and belching

· Weakness and fatigue

In the most severe cases, patients experience weight loss and vitamin deficiency-related symptoms.

Who is at risk for SIBO? How Do You Get SIBO?

While the elderly may be the most vulnerable population for developing SIBO as its prevalence rises with age, there are multiple other risk factors that can increase your chances, no matter your age. These include:

· Medication use, especially antibiotics

· Gastric acid suppression or Low Stomach Acid (due to stress, medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) or antacids, and lifestyle factors)

· Fibromyalgia

· Celiac disease

· Crohn’s disease

· Prior bowel surgery

· Diabetes Types I & II

· Irritable bowel syndrome

Studies also indicate that moderate alcohol consumption (one drink per day for women and two for men) promotes the overgrowth of certain types of bacteria and also impairs vital functions. This results in small bowel injury and decreased muscle contractions impairing the migrating motor complex.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or think you might be at risk, then we encourage you to make an appointment to assess your symptoms and get tested. Specialized testing can be accomplished through a breath test. This breath test measures your hydrogen and methane gas levels produced by bacterial metabolism and can be a very helpful indicator to determine if you are suffering from SIBO.

What Causes SIBO and How Can You Treat It?

Despite multiple courses of antibiotics being a risk factor, specific antibiotics (like Rifaximin) are still most often used to treat SIBO. However, studies show that SIBO returns in nearly half of all patients within a year after treatment.

Successful treatment of SIBO must be handled just like any other health condition – not with a temporary Band-aid solution, but by addressing the underlying cause! Intestinal bacteria can be influenced by numerous factors beyond what we eat and how much. Environmental effects, drugs, alcohol, sedentary lifestyle, mood disorders, hormone imbalances and lifestyle factors such as stress can all be contributing factors to poor gut health. Therefore, the treatment must be unique to the individual and all-encompassing.

Once you have identified the cause, treat SIBO symptoms through a healthy diet, nutritional supplements and positive lifestyle changes that help return the body to balance.

Tips for dealing with SIBO

  1. Eat three meals per day spaced 4-5 hour apart and avoid snacking. We need to give our body time in between meals to fully digest the previous meal.
  2. With guidance from your naturopathic doctor try an elimination diet for two weeks to get your body back on track by reducing inflammation and bacteria overgrowth. If this doesn’t seem to help, you may want to pursue food sensitivity testing through one of our ND’s. The test checks for antibodies in your bloodstream to either 96 or 184 foods. Employee benefits will sometimes cover the cost of this test along with other lab or diagnostic testing.
  3. Enjoy foods that assist digestive health like fresh pineapple which is rich in bromelain and can also help lower inflammation, and bananas which are an excellent source of potassium and manganese that your stomach lining needs for healing. Boiled cabbage water is an excellent source of the amino acid glutamine that helps heal the gut lining. Vitamin A is also essential for a healthy gut. Eating liver and beta carotene-rich foods like leafy greens and orange vegetables like carrots as well as taking cod liver oil help insure adequate vitamin A intake.
  4. Keep your fat intake in check. Research has shown that a high-fat diet, increases the growth of fat digesting bacteria at the expense of other more healthful ones. That is, microbes from the Clostridiaceae and Peptostreptococcaceae families increased while beneficial bacteria from the Bifidobacteriacaea and Bacteroidacaea families (which are commonly associated with leanness) went down.

How to Get Rid of SIBO: The Steps for Successful Treatment

    1. Elimination/modification of the underlying causes. This may involve changing your diet to a whole food, low FODMAPs diet, reducing your stress, eating 3 meals per day, reducing or eliminating the need for antibiotics, optimizing digestive juices like stomach acid, bile and pancreatic enzymes.

    2. Induction of remission (antibiotics or natural anti-microbials and elemental diet)

    3. Maintenance of remission (promotility herbs, dietary modifications, healthy lifestyle, optimized digestive juices, repeat or cyclical antimicrobials, hormone balancing, reduced alcohol intake).

SIBO Diet Food List (derived from the work of Dr. Alison Siebecker)

Foods to Eat with SIBOFoods to Avoid with SIBO
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds
Almond flour
Coconut: flour/shredded/milk
Hazelnuts
Macadamia
Peanuts
Peanut butter
Pecans
Pine nuts
Pumpkin seeds
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds
Walnuts
Nuts and Seeds
Cashews
Pistachios
Pumpkin seeds
Legumes
Lentil: brown, green or red
Lima beans
Legumes
Borlotti beans
Cranberry beans
Kidney beans
Red beans
Navy beans
White beans
Haricot beans
Baked beans
Spilt pea
Butter beans
Cannellini
Chickpea
Garbanzo beans
Fava beans
Broad beans
Pinto beans
Soy beans
Protein Sources
Bacon
Broth: homemade meat or marrow bones
Beef
Eggs
Fish
Game
Lamb
Organ Meats
Pork
Poultry
Seafood
Protein sources
None
Sweeteners
Honey: alfalfa, cotton, clover, raspberry
Stevia-pure (no inulin) in small amounts, occasionally
Sweeteners
Agave syrup
Barley Malt syrup
Brown Rice syrup
Cane sugar (Rapadura, Sucanat)
Coconut sugar
Fructose, powdered
High-fructose corn syrup
Maple syrup
Molasses
Sugar/Sucrose
Sucralose
Polyols/Sugar alcohol: isomalt, erythritol, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol
Beverages
Coffee 1c/day (weak)
Tea: black (weak), chamomile, ginger, green, hibiscus, lemongrass, mate, mint, oolong, rooibos/rooibos chai, rose hip
Water
Beverages
Fruit Juices
Coffee substitutes with chicory
Coconut milk-with
thickeners (guar gum, carageenan)
Soda (fructose, sucrose)
Tea: chicory root, licorice, pau d’arco
Fats and Oils
Bacon fat
Butter
Coconut oil
Cod liver oil & Fish oil
Duck fat
Garlic-infused oil
Ghee
Lard & Tallow
Medium Chain Triglyceride/MCT oil
Macadamia oil
Olive oil
Palm oil
Polyunsaturated Vegetable Oils: Borage, Canola Flax, Grape seed, Hemp, Pumpkin seed, Sesame, Sunflower, Walnut
Fats and Oils
Soybean oil
Herbs, Spices, Condiments and Seasonings
All spices (except onion & garlic)
Garlic-infused oil
Ginger (fresh & dried)
Mayonnaise, homemade or commercial with honey
Mustard - without garlic
Pickles/Relish - no sweetener or garlic
Tabasco sauce (McIlhenny Co)
Wasabi - pure
Vinegar: apple cider, distilled/white, red & white wine (NOT balsamic)
Herbs, Spices and Seasonings
Asafoetida powder
Chicory root (leaves ok)
Cocoa/chocolate-unsweetened
Gums/Carrageenan/Thickeners
Sauces or Marinades with High Fodmap ingredients
Soy Sauce/Tamari
Spices: Onion & Garlic powder
Vinegar: balsamic
Fruit
Berries: blueberry, boysenberry, strawberry, raspberry
Carambola
Citrus: lemon, lime, oranges, tangelos, tangerine
Currants
Dragon Fruit
Durian
Grapes
Guava
Kiwifruit
Longon
Melon: cantaloupe/rock, honeydew
Papaya/Paw Paw
Passion fruit
Pineapple
Pomegranate
Prickly Pear
Rambutan
Rhubarb
Fruit
Apple
Apricot
Avocado
Berries: cranberry
Cherries
Citrus, grapefruit
Custard Apple
Date, dried
Fig, dried
Mango
Nectarine
Papaya, dried
Peach
Pear
Pear: nashi
Persimmon
Plum
Pomegranate
Prunes
Raisins
Tamarillo
Watermelon
Canned fruit
Vegetables
Artichoke Hearts (small amounts)
Arugula
Bamboo Shoots
Beets
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Carrot
Celery Root/Celeriac
Chives
Cucumber
Eggplant
Endive
Fennel bulb < 1 cup
Green Beans
Greens: lettuce, collard, chard, kale, spinach
Olives
Peas, green
Peppers: Bell/Sweet Peppers: Chili
Radicchio
Radish
Rutabaga
Scallion: green part
Snow Peas
Squash: Butternut Kobocha, Sunburst, Yellow, Zucchini
Tomato
Vegetables
Asparagus
Bean Sprouts
Canned vegetables
Cauliflower
Corn
Garlic
Jerusalem artichoke
Leek
Mushrooms
Okra
Onions
Potato: white/all colors
Potato: sweet
Scallions: white part
Seaweeds
Shallot
Starch powder: all
arrowroot, corn, potato, rice, tapioca
Sugar Snap Peas
Taro
Turnip
Water Chestnuts
Yam
Yucca

Download our free one-week SIBO diet guide, low FODMAPs meal plan here.

Do any of the above symptoms or risk factors sound familiar? Do you think you might be suffering from SIBO? We can help! Please contact us and we’ll get to the bottom of what’s going on and create a plan of action to bring your body back to good health.

Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Info@ForcesofNature.ca for more information or to book an appointment.

To your best health!

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic – Naturopathic Doctors, Chiropractor, Massage Therapist, Acupuncturist/TCMP, Osteopath, Registered Dietitian, Psychotherapist

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099351/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22109896

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2890937/

 “Small intestine microbiota regulate host digestive and absorptive adaptive responses to dietary lipids,” Cell Host and Microbe (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2018.03.011

How to Test and Treat Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth: an Evidence-Based Approach. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2016 Feb;18(2):8. doi: 10.1007/s11894-015-0482-9.

Gut or Digestion Problems?

woman with gut issues

Digestion Trouble? It’s all in your Gut!

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to your gut.  We’re still learning a lot about how the interaction between the digestive system and the rest of the body works. We know that the intestinal flora in your digestive system can affect your body’s ability to perform several critical functions that affect your overall health, such as:

  • Absorbing and producing vitamins and minerals,
  • Regulating hormones,
  • Effective digestion,
  • Responding to the immune system, and
  • Eliminating toxins

For those of us who already suffer from gastrointestinal or digestion disorders such as IBS, Celiac disease, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, SIBO or leaky gut syndrome, the link between gut and mental health becomes more pronounced. Our gastrointestinal (GI) issues can even be the root cause of many symptoms throughout the body.

Given how extensive the influence of the gut is on these essential bodily functions, it’s clear that looking after our gut health is one of the most important ways we can look after our overall health. There are many ways to take care of your gut, these are two factors that influence bowel flora directly: prebiotics and probiotics.

How does the connection between the gut and the body work?

In between the layers of your digestive tract is something called the enteric nervous system (ENS).  This is made up of two thin layers of over 100 million nerve cells lining your GI tract literally from top to bottom.

The ENS sends messages between the gut and the brain. That’s why the gut is often called the “second brain.” As you’ll see from the symptoms listed below, the messages that the second brain sends can be very persuasive!

How can you tell if your gut is imbalanced?

The ideal balance of gut bacteria is about 85% good bacteria to 15% bad bacteria out of about 100 trillion bacteria that naturally live in our gut.

This balance can be upset in the course of daily life by caffeine, processed foods, stress, long-term use of medications and definitely antibiotics. In fact, one course of antibiotics can leave your gut bacteria weaker for up to four years!

As we age, the natural decrease in our stomach acid (which plays an important role in the growth of good bacteria) enables bad bacteria to get stronger.

The main culprit of a bacteria imbalance, though, is over consumption of sugars. To make an immediate positive impact on your gut health, it’s essential to limit simple carbohydrates like sugars found in sodas, desserts, and processed foods like flour products.

There are all kinds of indicators of an imbalanced gastrointestinal system. These can be symptoms like:

  • Bloated, gassy and distended abdomen
  • Extreme bowel movement patterns like diarrhea or constipation (or a fluctuation of both)
  • Skin conditions including acne, rashes, psoriasis and eczema flare-ups
  • Constant fatigue despite getting an adequate amount of sleep
  • ‘Down’, depressed or sad emotions, irritability
  • Candida or yeast overgrowth
  • Weight loss due to lack of an appetite or cravings causing weight gain due to poorly absorbed nutrients

How can we help our gut communicate best?

You can help heal your gut by providing it with what it needs to keep the necessary balance of good and bad bacteria.  This helps your gut take care of its biggest job – regulating digestion. That way, the gut’s messages to the body and mind are clear, efficient, and healthy.

How? It comes down to maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and high quality rest and supporting your gastrointestinal health with both prebiotics and probiotics!

Prebiotics vs Probiotics – What’s the difference?

Probiotics

These are the healthy, “good” bacteria that naturally live in the colon of our digestive systems. When consumed in the right amounts, probiotics can have great benefits to our health overall. Once in the colon, probiotic bacteria multiply, helping to regulate the balance between the good and bad bacteria that live there. You might be familiar with certain kinds of probiotics, as there are a few that have specific health benefits like Lactobacillus acidophilus.  Diversity of gut bacteria is what keeps us healthy, that’s why it’s important to consume a variety of different strains.

There are a variety of natural food sources for probiotics, largely found in fermented foods. A few fantastic choices for probiotics are:

  • Kimchi
  • Unpasteurized sauerkraut – natural, made with salt not vinegar
  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Pickles

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that help probiotics grow and remain in your digestive system.  They’re known as “food” for your good bacteria.

Less information has been publicized about where you can find prebiotics, but that could be because you’ve been eating them this whole time! Prebiotics are a non-digestible fibre source that’s plentiful in lots of raw foods:

  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Onions (which still contain prebiotics once cooked)
  • Chicory root
  • Dandelion greens
  • Asparagus
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Jicama
  • Under-ripe bananas

Taking probiotics alone is a good beginning.  We want to encourage the colonies of bacteria to grow and support a healthy gastrointestinal system.  That’s why it’s important to eat prebiotics also to ensure that the probiotics can multiply and do their work effectively.

Consume a combination of prebiotic and probiotic foods on a daily basis, to help replenish and maintain a healthy digestive system for overall health.

Is a supplement necessary to have enough prebiotics and probiotics?

Getting your nutrition from whole foods is always the preferred route to optimal health, but sometimes you need a little help. In that case, look for:

Prebiotic supplements: Prebiotics are actually really easy to get in a well-balanced diet, and due to the nature of the fibre they contain, that’s really the best way to get them. If you are looking for a little extra push, try using chicory root as a coffee substitute, or using a powdered acacia gum (gum arabic) in a morning smoothie. Having these kinds of foods in your diet can assure you that your gut bacteria is well fed and well cared for.

Probiotic supplements: You should be looking for a supplement containing CFU (Colony Forming Units) in the billions. The generally recommended dose can vary between 30 to 150 billion CFUs per day, taken in up to four doses. To maintain diversity of gut bacteria, aim to supplement with different stains of good bacteria.

How long should I take probiotics?

You can safely stay on probiotics indefinitely.  We definitely recommend them if you’re on, or coming off of: antibiotics, the birth control pill or radiation treatment.

If you choose to supplement, remember to take it at breakfast when the bacteria have the best chance of surviving the acidic environment of the gut. Whether or not supplementation is a regular part of your supplement regimen remember that taking probiotics after a course of antibiotics is one of the best ways to ensure your full and healthy recovery from the inside out.

Just as we take care of our muscles and our minds by feeding them the things they need to stay strong and healthy, so too must we take care of our “second brain”, our gut health, by feeding it what it needs to perform in optimal health.

Prebiotics and probiotics are the two primary ways of keeping your digestion healthy, happy, and functioning optimally! Remember, while everyone can take prebiotics and probiotics, from children to pregnant people, to the elderly – everyone is unique.

We would love to help you determine which foods and supplements are best for you and your family. Please book an appointment to ask our naturopathic doctors for their recommendation of both the type and dosage that could be right for you.  We also offer many other options to improve your digestion.