Good gut health is something we have been hearing more and more about in the last few years and it is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. I am not an expert on gut health (or anything for that matter!) but I have a semi-obsessive fascination with this new area of science that is literally changing every day as we learn more and more.
To me, and many others, the discoveries we are currently making about our micobiome is one of the most fascinating new frontiers of science right up there with space exploration and the mysteries of the deep sea. What is truly mind blowing is that this incredible micro world is inside all of us and yet we have only just discovered it’s value to our health.
My journey into the world of gut health started many years ago as my family’s health was in a pretty poor state. My babies both had colic, numerous ear infections lots of antibiotics and their start to life seemed, well, hard. One of my kids ended up with a rare infection that caused an auto-immune disease. Allergies, asthma and eczema were daily battles and things were not getting better, they were getting worse. At breaking point, we starting a gut healing protocol with a naturopath and that was the beginning of our return to health. We continue to nurture our gut health with these basic principles I have included in this Good Gut Guide for Mums and Babies. It surely is information I wish I had when I started my family 17 years ago!
- It all starts with Mums Gut Health : New science tells us our babies develop their gut microbes while they are in utero and upon birth they are gifted more beneficial bacteria from the mother’s birth canal. Skin to skin contact and breastfeeding further develop this healthy environment and by age 2 most babies have a fully formed microbiome. Many studies have been looking at the loss of diversity in modern diets and therefore even healthy mums can have a diminished spectrum of good bacteria and pass this on to their children further increasing the chances of a poor immune system causing allergies, asthma and auto immune disease, behavioral issues and more. With the rise of births by C section, babies are born not always getting the good bacteria from the birth canal. Many midwives and doctors are now using a swab of the mothers vagina to inoculate the baby who may have missed these important first microbes. If you think you have gut issues, work to heal your gut and improve the flora for your health and that of your baby. There are many practitioners who help people heal their gut and you should look for a good Naturopath, Functional Medical Doctor or Integrative Medical Practitioner in your area.
- Infant Digestion Problems : Colic, reflux and other infant digestive issues are still quite misunderstood but many desperate parents seek medical help for these issues and are often given a prescription for some form of baby antacids which have still not been fully studied (Incredible I know!). Because an infant’s gut is not sealed, many irritating foods from the mothers diet can sneak through and cause discomfort therefore often eliminating some foods from the diet can help. There are very good studies showing that the probiotic strain Lactobacillus reuteri can help babies and reduce crying time. Here are some great tips from Body Ecology and a clinical naturopath. Again, seek help from a experienced Naturopath, Functional Medical Doctor or Integrative Medical Practitioner before starting any diet changes while breastfeeding.
- You (and your baby) are what you eat : Our food creates our cells. Diet is one of the most important pilliars of good health and what you feed your cells determines what kind of gut bacteria you will have. Diets high in processed carbs (crackers, bread, pasta, chips, noodles, white rice) and high in sugar will feed your pathogenic bacteria and yeast. Thats the food they LOVE. Good gut bugs can’t use carbs and sugars as food and in order to grow and multiply they need vegetable fiber. Increasing vegetables in your diet is a great way to increase your good gut bacteria. If you have digestive issues, raw vegetables can irritate a sensitive intestine so try cooked vegetables like silverbeet, carrot, pumpkin, kumera, onion etc.
- Avoid Non Essential Medications and Chemicals : Antibiotics and other medications like birth control, proton pump inhibitors and anti-inflammatories can destroy good gut diversity and leave people with a gut full of pathogenic bacteria. Chlorinated water, anti-bacterial soaps, disinfectants and pesticides all work to destroy good bacteria and microbes in our environment. Tap water can contain pesticides, heavy metals, chlorine, fluoride, and a good filter can reduce your exposure.
- Nurture your Microbiome : Focus on organically grown food because it is free of toxins and bug killing chemicals that further harm your healthy gut bugs. Add delicious fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha into your diet. Spend time up close and personal with nature to get a good dose of the one billion bacteria in a teaspoon of earth. Working to reduce your stress levels can also improve your gut health in profound ways. Supplementing with high quality probiotic capsules can also help increase the healthy of your gut flora especially after antibiotics. Again, it is best to seek advice about which ones to try.
As more and more evidence points out the direct relation between the increase in modern diseases and the relationship to our gut health it is a very powerful thing you can do for your wellbeing and that of your children. It doesn’t have to be too hard and a good place to start is just adding in more fresh vegetables to every meal and supporting your 100 Trillion bacteria with gut loving fermented foods.
The healing properties of Turmeric have been well known for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and the most modern day science has backed up what healers have known since 3000bc. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant food and in recent studies it has been shown to be as effective as some anti-inflammatory drugs. Other impressive studies have shown that taking Curcumin, the main compound in Turmeric, is as effective as Prozac for fighting depression (without any side effects).
Turmeric is gaining in popularity in western cultures because it is an effective and proven anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic agent and can assist in the treatment of anything from arthritis to psoriasis. At home, we have been supplementing by taking a highly absorbable Curcumin capsules to quench the fire of inflammation for our leaky gut and autoimmune conditions. We have also used dried turmeric to create a paste with water and applied as a face mask for treating rosacea flare ups. I love the early flavour of fresh Turmeric root and I keep some frozen to grate into curries, fresh juices and my favorite healing drink when I am sick, turmeric tea.
I could go on all day regarding the benefits of Turmeric for disease prevention, healthy liver function, easing digestive issues, but it’s pretty obvious that it is a potent medicinal food we should all be eating more of which it is why it is one of the pillars of healing foods.
Turmeric is naturally a warming spice and combined with ginger the two combine to create a healing tonic improving circulation and breaking down congestion. Adding cayenne stimulates and helps drain the sinuses acting as a natural decongestant. Lemon juice is an overall powerhouse of healing and thins mucus and boosts the body’s immune system as well as delivering a big dose of vitamin c. Black pepper and coconut oil help your body to absorb and uptake turmeric a health giving properties. Orange juice not only gives vitamin C but also some sweetness and citrusy fresh flavour that I love. And Manuka honey is well known as a modern day super food for its UMF or Unique Mauka Factor which has been scientifically proven to be a powerful antibiotic, anti-fungal, and antiviral making manuka honey an effective remedy for sore throats, colds, sinusitis, and gastro intestinal problems.
- boil 1 litre filtered water
- In a large teapot add
- 2 inch piece of fresh ginger peeled and grated
- Small piece of fresh turmeric peeled and grated (wash your hands after!) or 1t dried turmeric
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Juice of 1 orange
- 2 whole garlic cloves smashed (optional)
- 5 whole black peppercorns
- 1 T of coconut oil
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon Manuka honey with UMF or any honey will do (optional)
- Add all ingredients into a large teapot and cover with boiling water. Allow to steep for 5 minutes or longer and strain into cups and enjoy.