What Does it Mean To Have A Healthy Gut?

You’ve probably heard the term “gut health” and know that “good” gut health is desirable. But what does it really mean to have a healthy gut? It means having the right balance of tiny bacteria and other microbes in your digestive tract. We need the beneficial bacteria to outnumber the bad bacteria which thrive in an unhealthy environment.

Good bacteria are the ones that help break down our food, manufacture vitamins (vitamin K and most B vitamins) and moderate our immune system - over 70% of your immune cells reside in the gut.

Your gut maintains a solid barrier between your digestive tract and your internal environment, allowing important nutrients to pass through while keeping out everything else. Maintaining the integrity of the gut is a one-cell-thick barrier that forms a tight junction, which keeps out foreign invaders like bacteria, toxins, and large undigested food particles.

When everything is right, our stools are formed and pass easily. No gas, no bloating, no heartburn. No blood or mucous in your stools. Good gut health means you have a stronger immune system, a better mood, effective digestion that’s free of discomfort and a healthy brain and heart.

How does our gut bacteria become compromised and what is the result?

Antibiotics kill the good bacteria, stress stagnates our system, a diet short on vegetables and high in sugar and processed low-fiber foods makes the gut more favorable for bad bacteria. The tight junctions become injured and the barrier becomes inflamed and porous; bacteria, toxins, and undigested food particles start slipping through. These foreign substances trigger an immune response.

The immune response is not just located in the gut, the immune system can also overact and damage our skin, the insulation around our nerves and the cartilage in our joints. When this damage happens in our joints, we suffer arthritis pain. Sometimes called “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis was long assumed to simply be a consequence of undue stress on joints. But researchers have recently provided the first evidence that bacteria in the gut – governed by diet – could be the key driving force behind osteoarthritis.

What can you do to improve gut health and prevent joint deterioration?

  1. Eat fiber. Soluble fibre feeds the microbiome and gives the bacteria an environment for fermentation in the colon, resulting in short chain fatty acids which fuels our activities. Examples are: blackberries, avocados, collards greens, Brussel’s sprouts, sweet potatoes.
  2. Eat fermented foods. These help populate the gut with beneficial bacteria. Examples are: sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, kombucha.
  3. Take a probiotic supplement but make sure it comes refrigerated and contains billions of microorganisms. A trusted health-food store or health professional is the best source.
  4. Mild to moderate exercise improves blood circulation and stimulates digestion. Intense exercise does the opposite.
  5. Eat Bone Broth. This wonderful substance contains proteins and amino acids such as glycine and proline which your body uses to make it’s own collagen. Maintaining good quality collagen benefits the muscles, bones, skin, hair, and joints. Leave the gristle on the bones and add a splash of apple cidar vinegar leach more of the good stuff from the bones!
  6. Limit Stress. Stress constricts normal blood flow to the gut and throughout the body. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, exercise and counselling are great ways to manage stress.
  7. Avoid Alcohol, repeated alcohol use is associated with inflammation of the stomach and intestines. There is no beneficial amount of alcohol.

What can be done for joints that are already damaged?

This is where acupuncture shines. Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medical modality that’s been around for thousands of years and is used all over the world. Tiny needles are inserted in the skin on different parts of the body. The minuscule trauma triggers the body’s healing mechanisms and increases blood circulation in order to reduce inflammation, repair tissues and interrupt pain signals to the brain.

Acupuncture is known for treating symptoms of disease while also addressing the root cause. In this case, acupuncture helps heal the gut and the joints simultaneously.

Acupuncture is well known for treating arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. This paired with a gut-healthy lifestyle, can keep your joints healthy for years to come.