GUT FEEL

John von Arnim ON THE BEST METH­ODS FOR TUN­ING UP YOUR BODY’S ‘SUPRA OR­GAN’.

Men's Style (Australia) - - Priority Male -

Cheap jokes about be­ing bunged up, fart­ing and “the squirts” are stockin-trade for stand-up comics, but gut prob­lems are no laugh­ing mat­ter. Over half of the Aus­tralian pop­u­la­tion suf­fers from di­ges­tive prob­lems in an av­er­age year and in Fe­bru­ary the Fed­eral gov­ern­ment ear­marked $4 mil­lion in fund­ing for the na­tion’s first ded­i­cated mi­cro-gut health re­search cen­tre in Syd­ney. Barely a month later, gas­troen­terol­o­gists from all over the world gath­ered in Paris to dis­cuss the gut’s real role as a “Supra Or­gan”, gov­ern­ing ev­ery­thing from our sex lives to al­ler­gies, se­ri­ous dis­eases and even clearer skin.

Hip­pocrates, the fa­ther of mod­ern medicine, knew more than 2,000 years ago that all dis­eases started in the gut. But over the past 10 years a tor­rent of sci­en­tific re­search has pin­pointed the di­ges­tive sys­tem as ‘ground zero’ for the body’s most vi­tal func­tions, in­clud­ing the pro­duc­tion of 80 per cent of the feel-good hor­mone sero­tonin. One long-held be­lief has fi­nally been sci­en­tif­i­cally proven – gut feel. The gas­troin­testi­nal tract is the ner­vous sys­tem’s sec­ond big­gest network of closely con­nected neu­rons and has a di­rect link to the head known as the brain-gut axis. That’s why you get but­ter­flies in the stom­ach and feel nau­seous when you’re anx­ious.

THE GUT CRI­SIS

Over 100 tril­lion bac­te­rial cells – 99 per cent of your body’s DNA – live in the gas­troin­testi­nal tract which be­gins at the mouth and ends at the anus. If it were spread out flat, it would be the size of a ten­nis court. One third of this gut mi­cro­biota is com­mon to ev­ery­one, but two thirds are as spe­cific as a fin­ger­print to each in­di­vid­ual. Over 70 per cent of the body’s im­mune cells live in the gut and diet, medicines, age, stress and more can all dis­rupt in­ter­nal bal­ance. ‘Ir­reg­u­lar tran­sit’, to use the cor­rect med­i­cal term for di­ar­rhoea and con­sti­pa­tion, may be short-term side-ef­fects but one in five Aus­tralians suf­fers from IBS (Ir­ri­ta­ble Bowel Syn­drome).

What has caused the gut cri­sis? Too much pro­cessed and junk food, con­stant stress, the over­pre­scrip­tion of an­tibi­otics and ex­ces­sive al­co­hol con­sump­tion. As a so­ci­ety, we’ve also be­come OCD about clean­li­ness. The war on mi­crobes and bac­te­ria was launched in the late 19th Cen­tury via pas­teuri­sa­tion and ster­il­i­sa­tion and con­tin­ues today through an avalanche of anti-bac­te­rial prod­ucts from hand sani­tis­ers to cloth­ing. Im­proved public health is one of the rea­sons we live longer, but a lot of help­ful bac­te­ria be­came col­lat­eral dam­age. The wide­spread in­crease in al­ler­gies and auto-im­mune dis­eases is the re­sult of weak­ened im­mune sys­tems.

PRO AND PRE-BI­OTICS: THE DIF­FER­ENCE

Al­though eat­ing some­thing live sounds like some­thing out of Alien: Covenant, pro­bi­otics have be­come the first line of de­fence in restor­ing gut health. Pro­bi­otic-laced foods and bev­er­ages are a US$32 bil­lion global in­dus­try from dairy-style prod­ucts to pro­bi­otic-boosted sports drinks and cap­sules.

There’s also an army of books avail­able now that gut health is viewed as a magic bul­let to trans­form your life. Gut: The In­side Story of Our Body’s Most Un­der­rated Or­gan by Gi­u­lia En­ders, a young Ger­man mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist, has sold mil­lions world­wide and blends hu­mour with in­for­ma­tion over­load. Im­prov­ing gut health cen­tres on re­pop­u­lat­ing gut bac­te­ria and im­prov­ing func­tion. Cut out starchy, sug­ary and junk foods, and limit al­co­hol and caf­feine in­take for starters. Fi­bre doesn’t get the at­ten­tion it de­serves be­cause it’s not sexy, but roughage is es­sen­tial to keep­ing things mov­ing along. Bulk up your meals with whole­meal bread, rice and pasta, and up your daily fruit and veg quota to two and five por­tions, re­spec­tively.

The pro­bi­otic craze has been around for so long – the Ja­panese Yakult brand was founded in 1935 – that a whop­ping 80 per cent of con­sumers link them with gut health ben­e­fits. It’s a dif­fer­ent story with pre­bi­otics and there’s a lot of con­fu­sion be­tween the two. Pro­bi­otics are live cul­tures like yo­gurt and fer­mented foods such as miso, kom­bucha and sauer­kraut. Pre­bi­otics are a type of fi­bre that break down in the gut and feed the pro­bi­otic bac­te­ria and en­cour­age mi­cro­biota di­ver­sity. So for max­i­mum ben­e­fits, fuel up on pre­bi­otic-rich foods such as as­para­gus, onions, gar­lic, ba­nanas, seeds and berries. Re­cent re­search also sug­gests that a big­ger in­take of pre­bi­otic foods helps to build re­sis­tance to stress.

GET AC­TIVE AND TUNE UP FAST

Reg­u­lar ex­er­cise also helps to stream­line evac­u­a­tion. An Ir­ish study con­trast­ing non-ath­letes with soc­cer play­ers found that the foot­ballers had twice as much di­ver­sity in their gut mi­cro­biota and lower lev­els of in­flam­ma­tion.

The ben­e­fits of a gut hack are ir­re­sistible – weight loss, bet­ter skin and im­proved men­tal health and im­mune sys­tem. No one knows this bet­ter than Deb­bie Dick­son, a Syd­ney-based ex­pert in Chi­nese medicine and in­te­gra­tive well­ness prac­ti­tioner. The di­ges­tive sys­tem is like a garden, she says. “If it be­comes over­grown with un­de­sir­able flora, noth­ing else can sur­vive.”

She has de­vel­oped the Regul8 range of sup­ple­ments to cleanse, re­store and main­tain gut health. A first for the Aus­tralian mar­ket, the three-part di­ges­tive tuneup de­liv­ers 100 per cent alive pro­bi­otics.

Read more on Dick­son’s work at www.regul8.com.au

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