This article was originally published in the August/September 2018 edition of Flow Magazine.
Interview by Jennilee Cardinal Schultz for Flow Magazine
Gut Health - I hear the term often but never really understood what it meant or how much of an impact the health of your gut has on the rest of your body (and mind)! I decided to talk to Gut Health Coach and Founder of Naturally Amped, Adrienne Percy to find out just how important gut health is.
FM: What is gut health?
AP: Gut health is like the soil that nourishes the roots of human health. Good gut health means having the proper balance of beneficial microorganisms so that our gut can function optimally. When our gut functions optimally, we can function optimally. You can be eating the healthiest diet in the world and if your gut is compromised, you are not going to be getting the most out of it.
FM: How does our gut health affect other aspects of our heath?
AP: Gut health is one of those things that affects so many other facets of our health. From digestion and elimination (that’s pooping!) to immunity.
In fact, researchers estimate that 60-80 per cent of our immunity is rooted in our gut!
Hormonal and skin health, allergies and immune issues are directly linked to gut health as is ADD, ADHD, IBS, Colitis and Crohns. Achy joints and bones, weight gain, failure to gain weight, arthritis and chronic sinusitis - all linked to gut health.
Not a day goes by when I don’t see a new study or article linking gut health to an amazing variety of issues. Studies are now probing the link between our gut flora and Alzheimers, Multiple Sclerosis, diabetes, and a wide range of mental health issues that include everything from schizophrenia to depression, OCD, ADHD and anxiety.
FM: What are signs of good gut health?
AP: Signs of good gut health would include proper digestion of food and assimilation of nutrients. Regular bowel movements (there’s even a chart where people can check out the health of their bowel movements- it’s called the Bristol chart!). Clear thinking (as opposed to brain fog), steady energy and great immunity to name a few.
FM: What are signs of bad gut health?
AP: There is such a huge range and it’s interesting because it manifests in so many different ways for different people. Poor elimination or the swing between constipation and diarrhea, gas, bloating, energy dips, brain fog, allergies (food and seasonal), depression, PMS and lesser symptoms are often a sign we need to do something about our gut health and often precede full blown issues like IBS, Crohns, Colitis, and other serious health issues. Again, people may experience a range of confusing symptoms over the years and more often than not, can benefit or sometimes see a resolution when they heal their gut.
There are many check lists out there about the symptoms related to leaky gut/gut health. Some of the more simple ones that people may be experiencing day to day include:
-feeling bloated after eating
-irregular bowel movements
-throat clearing after eating (phlegming up)
-fatigue, or a crash after eating
-Struggling with low energy mid-afternoon
-Brain fog and inability to concentrate
-Skin issues such as acne, allergies, eczema, etc.
FM: What are some tips for someone looking to improve their gut health?
AP: In my observation, good gut health can usually be built on three pillars: whole, unprocessed, high quality foods (including cultured foods, which is sometimes referred to as 'the lost food group’ because of its importance); stress reduction and regular (daily) movement.
Exposure to chemicals, antibiotics, and chronic stress all affect our gut and the balance of beneficial versus pathogenic micro-organisms we carry.
FM: What are some foods they should incorporate into their diet?
AP: I love shifting the focus on what to 'bring in' rather than what to take out of a person’s diet! Especially because when we bring in cultured food and drinks like traditional krauts, pickles, water kefir, and kombucha, other food issues resolve. For example, I struggled with sugar cravings and candida for years, but when I started eating cultured foods and drinking kombucha, those cravings resolved (so much for fighting it with willpower all those years!).
The micro-organisms were driving those cravings. Often people don't lack willpower, they lack the proper balance of micro-organisms in their gut. If you feel a junkiewhen a food craving is coming on- it’s likely being driven by a certain group of micro-organisms. No amount of diets, supplements and cleanses will do the trick until the gut is brought back into balance..l
My top food picks for gut health are: 1. Cultured foods (raw, live krauts and pickles- these will be found in the refrigerator section of a store like Soul Foods). 2. Cultured drinks (like water kefir, beet kvass, kombucha etc). And finally, 3. Bone and meat broth (sourced from healthy, pastured/grassfed animals or wild meats).
You can also do a tonne for your gut health by eating locally and seasonally and focusing on replacing highly refined vegetable oils with high quality, traditional fats and being sure to hit your Omega 3 fatty acids. Proper supplementation can be an important part of the puzzle too (for example, a good quality probiotic).
FM: Any foods they should avoid?
AP: It really depends on where people are at with their gut health. If you are trying to heal your gut, there are specific protocols that can help and they usually involve removing irritating and inflammation-causing foods. This is done so the body can settle down from that place of ‘overdrive’.
FM: What drove you to learn about gut health?
AP: For 14 years, I suffered through a host of inexplicable symptoms including debilitating IBS-like symptoms, brain fog, fatigue, migraines, sugar cravings and hives. My eyes would swell shut, my lip would swell up to my nose- these were not your typical hives. Everyone kept calling it allergies, yet none of the regular allergy tests showed anything (this is so very common with gut issues!). I spent more than a decade searching for a solution with both allopathic (medical doctors) and alternative practitioners. The only thing that helped manage my symptoms was a very heavy duty medication that made me exhausted!
Then, after 5 days on a gut healing diet I could literally feel the switch happen. I credit that as a key turning point in my life. It meant I was able to switch from being totally distracted by managing these crazy symptoms to being able to focus on living my life purpose.
It’s really what led me to where I am today. I love helping people live healthy, vibrant lives. Whether that’s through one on one coaching, or practical kitchen skills classes or through Naturally Amped foods, knowing I may be helping people do better because they feel better, has been so incredibly rewarding. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
FM: Is there anything else you would like to share?
AP: Everybody is unique and at a different place with their gut health. If you have been struggling with health issues and unable to get a definitive answer, you can almost always benefit from giving your gut some TLC. I’ve worked with people who had surgery on their sinuses for example, and still couldn’t smell or breath properly. It wasn’t until they healed their gut that they recovered the ability to breath and smell and function properly on a day to day level.
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