True wellness is all about what’s going on below the surface. What we see on the outside may not tell the whole story. Today on the blog, I am thrilled to feature Dr. Sterling Foster, who is an expert on the MICROBIOME. He shares his wisdom with us today in a Q & A format:
Lori: Dr. Foster, what, exactly is the microbiome, or the “gut"?
Dr. Foster: The “gut” is a complex system of organs created to assimilate the nutrients out of food we eat. It involves hormonal and nervous system input to properly secrete digestive fluids, absorb nutrients, and excrete waste. It is also pivotal in the immune response. It is controlled by the part of your brain that is most active when we are in a relaxed state.
A “gut microbiome” refers to the digestive environment and its relationship with the living microorganisms, bacteria, in that particular environment. Living gut bacteria reside symbiotically with its host. There are thought to be thousands of species of bacteria living in the gut. Some are good, like lactobacilli and bifidobacterium. Others can be more problematic, like helicobaceteria pylori a common cause of ulcers.
Lori: We are hearing so much about maintaining the health of gut. Why is the gut such a key player in our wellness?
Dr. Foster: The gut is meant to be the sole membrane of tissue that allows entry for, nongaseous, substances into our blood stream. We do not absorb something just because we are able to swallow it. Our body has to be able to correctly process the stuff we put into it. This requires breakdown and transporting of food through the digestive tract. It must then be acted on by the proper secretions of digestive liquids like stomach acid and bile. Finally, it breaks down into its easiest to absorb form and is transported properly into the bloodstream.
Many gastrointestinal symptoms occur when this digestive process is becomes compromised. There are a lot of factors that contribute to poor food breakdown.
Lori: What is leaky gut, and how can we avoid it?
Dr. Foster: Intestinal permeability, “leaky gut” is a term often used to describe inflammation caused to the body from the foods we eat. It is caused by poorly digested food damaging our intestinal lining. Over time, this damage can lead to wider gaps between the cells of our intestines which allows for larger pieces of food to enter our blood stream. Our body detects the food as an invader and responds by breaking down the food for us. In short, leaky gut is when our immune system has to complete digestion.
A robust, healthy digestion is very helpful for avoiding leaky gut. Also, a high soluble fiber diet helps maintain a healthy gut lining and prevent intestinal gaps.
Lori: How does stress play a role in the condition of the gut?
Dr. Foster: Stress inhibits every aspect of the digestive process. Chronic stress completely stagnates the gut. With time, food damages our intestinal lining exposing us to leaky gut with possible inflammation, and a variety of IBS symptoms from bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, throbbing and nausea.
Lori: What are the best foods and lifestyle practices to maintain good gut health?
Dr. Foster: The most important factor to understand is that even the healthiest food choices damage gut lining if we are eating when we are stressed.
Fasting a meal or two gives the gut a “reset”. It gives your body a chance to feel hunger which is very good for the gut. Eliminating potential stressors in your life and learning ways to destress are pivotal in maintaining digestive health. That being said, rarely are people able to quit their job, or their kids, their wife, their new dog, their in-laws, their………etc Stress is going nowhere. So, stimulating digestion before meals is a fantastic way to assist the gut. For example, bitters and soda water drink just 10 minutes prior to mealtime will stimulate a strong digestive response. Chewing food at least 20 chews per piece of food helps break the food up enough for improved digestive capacity. Lastly, a gluten free, high fiber, omnivore diet is a great way to maintain good gut health.
I LOVED getting the chance to pick the brain of the “gut guru,” as I call him…..You can reach out to Dr. Foster here:
Sterling Foster, DC PLLC
1311 West Main Street. Franklin, TN