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Are you sick of hearing about gut bacteria yet?! Sometimes it seems that you cannot turn on the TV or open a magazine without seeing something about these little critters. It certainly reflects their importance and the exploding amount of research focussing on their roles.

Amazingly, back as far as 400BC, Hippocrates was wise enough to observe that “all disease begins in the gut”. And it still stands true today for a wide range of health conditions, according to extensive medical research; if in doubt, look at gut health to explain your frustrating health symptom that perhaps cannot be explained by your GP or specialist doctor.

The trick to gut health is fine tuning this incredibly intricate and complex part of our body. It involves stomach acid, the bacteria in our mouths, digestive enzymes coming from our liver and pancreas, gut movement, gut nerves which connect to the brain, immune tissue located in the gut, chemicals produced in the gut such as serotonin which affect mood, food eaten, vitamins that are activated or made inside the gut, and that critical bacterial mix.

If there is one thing that impacts our gut and whole body health more than any other, it is what goes into our mouth each day. The food we eat feeds the gut bacteria in a positive or negative way. Chemicals, preservatives and the often ridiculous amounts of sugar in our diets mess with the fine balance of many body pathways. Chemicals and medicines can have a profound impact on gut bacteria.

Studies reveal that a single course of antibiotics can leave gut bacteria affected even 2 years later and some species can be killed off irreversibly.

Children who have even one course of antibiotics in the first year of life are at higher risk of obesity and allergy later. Great care is required to look after these bacterial friends inside us as they influence many functions in our body.

Wonderful advice and guidance can be shared by a naturopath, nutritionist, dietitian or integrative GP who has a deep understanding of gut health. These practitioners can guide you precisely as to what to eat and drink to optimise gut health. Some of the strategies that will be laid out include eating as wide a range of vegies as possible, sensible amounts of fats, proteins and healthy carbs, probiotic and prebiotic foods and herbs and natural supplements to support digestive enzymes.

This is a complex discussion which requires a special interest in gut health. Expect to see improvements in IBS (irritable bowel), reflux, constipation and whole-body complaints such as arthritis, depression, skin issues, allergies, behaviour issues and fatigue. Reviewing your diet is one of the most powerful health actions you can take. So if in doubt, if you are not making headway with your wellbeing, look at your gut health.

Dr Danielle Stewart

Northside Health NT

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