With the Western diet that is heavy in processed foods, sugar, preservatives, alcohol, fast foods, etc, we are not exactly feeding the microbial species which outnumber our human cells by a long shot. We need to view the bacteria, virus, and fungi that colonize our gut along with our good bacteria as symbionts that we can feed with our particular diet choices geared towards more whole foods eating. Simply eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains (black rice, brown rice, barley, oats, millet, teff, sorghum), and avoiding the processed foods will start to increase the generation of more anti-inflammatory compounds in the gut. Microbiota-accessible carbohydrates are the term given to these life sustaining foods for the gut. These are carbohydrates that are resistant to digestion but act as prebiotics for the gut microbiota which then metabolize MAC’s into beneficial compounds such as short chain fatty acids like butyrate, acetate, and propionate. Aiming for at least fifty grams of fiber will help you get these foods into your diet. Eating leafy greens like kale, chard, spinach, bok choy, romaine lettuce, etc will help you increase the fiber content in your diet. Eating more plant based foods in your diet in general will up your fiber content and help select for bacteria in your gut that will produce more anti-inflammatory compounds. Asparagus, broccoli, plantains, blueberries, sweet potatoes, tarot root, rutabagas, turnips, celery root, jicama, radish are just some foods to incorporate to make your gut bugs happy. Think less meat and more plant. Eating more of a meat based diet will generate more inflammatory compounds and toxic metabolites will be selected for. But it only takes a few days of eating plant based to shift your microbiota in the right direction. The microbiota produce a wide variety of compounds that influence the mucosal surface of the gut as well as distant organ health and function, not to mention neurotransmitters. The next time you get a craving for fast food as yourself if your gut bugs will be happy with your food choice. I think not.
I wanted to let patients know there is a stool test that is available at Parallel Wellness now. Rocky Mountain Analytical labs is doing the testing in Alberta. This “Gut Well” test provides information on the function of the gastrointestinal tract. Reports go into multiple aspects of digestive health including digestion and absorption capacity, gut ecology which looks at pancreatic exocrine function and fecal fat, inflammation, immune function and pathogens present such as bacteria or parasites. Why would you want to do this testing? If you were suffering from unresolved stomach pain, bloating, nausea or vomiting, weight loss, experience fatty or foul smelling stools, have come back from a vacation with GI symptoms such as diarrhea and are wondering if you picked up a bug.
Stool testing can also be useful to look at short chain fatty acid status which are biomarkers of overall colon health. Butyrate, for instance, is a short chain fatty acid that is a preferred food source of colonic cells. If you have lower butyrate levels you may have a slow transit time in your gut. Levels of butyrate can influence gut integrity and barrier function which is critical in treating autoimmune disease. Butyrate may also have anti-inflammatory potential that can influence overall gut ecology. Doing stool testing may be wise if you have colon cancer in your family history. Colon cancer risk is influenced by the balance between microbial production of health promoting metabolites such as butyrate and potentially carcinogenic metabolites such as secondary bile acids.
Secretory IgA is our first line of defence against entry of enteric toxins and pathogenic bacteria. It is a good marker of barrier integrity. Stool testing looks at amount of Secretory IgA.
For more information on the Gut Well stool test, please see Dr. Vinge at Parallel Wellness.
Today I went for coffee with someone I have not seen in 25 years. I wondered if we might have anything in common now; have anything to talk about; if it might prove to be painfully awkward to carry on a conversation with her. We played field hockey together on the B.C. team 29 years ago. Now, she has knee problems and can’t play and I don’t play anymore due to a lack of interest and my own personal pride so we don’t share that sport in common at this time. I wanted to hear more about her life and I am a good listener so I inquired about the path she has taken and there were a lot of interesting things that she had done with her life that she told me about. She had traveled all over the world and used her education and training to get positions in other countries like Australia and the U.K.. She had worked in different hospital wards as a registered nurse in different types of wards- emergency, ICU, and others.
She had even gone the route at age 37, when faced with the reality of being single and wanting children, to sign on for artificial insemination from a ‘matched for her donor’, get subsequently pregnant and have a baby on her own. She figured that prince charming may not come around nor was he going to make her life complete so she followed her own inner promptings and created her own highly fulfilling life. I was sitting across from her and I realized she was beaming with happiness. She was simply radiant like the morning sun. Her daughter was now nine and she was very comfortable being a single parent. I came away from having coffee with her comparing my own life to hers and feeling somewhat empty in comparison. But what really struck me was that F., it appears, has been living in alignment in her life for a long time. I only talked to her for a few hours but that is what struck me most about her.
I have written a book about living in alignment. In fact, most of my conscious life has been spent figuring out, contemplating on, reflecting on, speaking on and even teaching workshops on this very question of living in alignment. I have taken numerous meditation classes, enrolled in spiritual workshops, have read many relevant spiritual books on reaching your personal potential, have gone in and out of flow in my own pursuit of alignment repeatedly and yet here she was, in seeming alignment without any conscious effort on her part or measured intention even. What I gathered was that F had trusted life, did not fear life, rather flowed with life. She may not have trusted that someone would come into her life and thus took matters into her own hands but she trusted life enough to realize that she could create the life she wanted to live and followed her own path of alignment in the process to get there. I found this to be simply remarkable and inspiring to be honest. I wish this for myself every minute of every day and for everyone who reads this post to thrive and find your own best life living in alignment with your own unique self- your happiness really depends on it!