Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Have you ever wondered why you have gas and bloating? As a child, I always had a stomach ache of some sort. I could never figure out why I was always bloated and gassy, and finally, my mother took me to see the doctor who did a whole bunch of tests on me. Sound familiar? The one thing they discovered was that I had worms/parasites. I was put on medication to remove them and did they ever come out? I remember looking into the toilet and seeing what looked like little cut fingernails realizing that the disgusting green medication I was given was the reason why these small “parasites” were coming out of my body. Gross, right? I did not know at the time what they were, but them coming out was suppose to make me all better. I was somewhat feeling better for a while, but the bloating and gassiness came back. When I was 16, I went to one of my cousin’s graduation, and I vividly remember going to the washroom with this massive stomach ache and the urge to have a bowel movement. Yes, I did just say bowel movement. Nothing was coming out (now I am talking about poop, that’s right I said poop) except for my stomach that grew to the size of a 5-month pregnant woman. And the cramping …. It was almost nauseating. Well, fast forward to my 30’s when the stomach bloating was still a part of my life. Sound familiar yet? I never once associated it with the foods or the chemicals in the products that I was consuming. Nor did I ever associate it with the good gut flora. I didn’t even know what that was back then and what it meant for my good health. It wasn’t until my early 40’s when I became a nutritionist that I learned all about the microbiota and what it can do to you. Below, I will try to explain to you a little bit about the microbiome.
Let’s begin with microbes and the role they play in good digestive health. Microbes protect us from infections. Infectious diseases are down but immune disorders are higher. We are killing off too many microbes – our eco-system - as they fight off disease. The strength of our microbiota is fundamental for optimal health. What is our microbiota? It comprises of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in our digestive tract – OUR GUT.
This microbiota produces vitamins B, B12 and K and is needed for food digestion to regulate our immune system and protect us against pathogens, which are responsible for many diseases. When we have an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the gut, it is called dysbiosis. A good balance would be 80% of good bacteria and 20% of the bad bacteria. But once the percentage of the good bacteria shifts (i.e 50% is good bacteria and 50% is bad bacteria), then symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation and even loose bowel movements ensue. It doesn’t take long for our microbiota to get depleted by a less than ideal lifestyle and to start seeing diseases. GMO and highly processed diets, antibiotic use, drugs, environmental toxins, chemicals, etc. all contribute to the diminishing of our microbiome, which in turn exacerbates inflammation. Over the long term, chronic inflammation can have damaging consequences.
The good news is you can fix your eco system or your microbiome by feeding it properly. How do you feed your microbiome for better health? Foods such as fruits and vegetables and avocados increase fibre, which is required to feed our good gut flora as fibre is considered a prebiotic, a food that feeds the good bacteria. Consuming the diversity of different good bacterial strains found in fermented foods such as coconut kefir, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh as well as eating a predominantly non-processed organic whole foods diet, GF foods with low sugar and fats, as well as lactose free foods all assist in maintaining the integrity of your microbiome.
Good whole food is always the first place to turn to in order to keep the microbiome balanced along with certain herbs such as Oil of Oregano, turmeric and probiotic supplements which can promote good bacteria and inhibit bad bacteria by increasing your T-reg cells. Our T-reg cells are our immune cells, and when we increase them, we have a better chance at fighting the invaders. (Oil of Oregano should be stopped after 3 weeks and can be restarted again but should not be used continuously). Prebiotics, probiotics and supplementary post-biotics alter gut microbes in a good way. The right species (strains) and dose of pre and probiotics are necessary. When you take a product or drug, the product/drug is dependent on your good gut flora in your gut to work effectively. This is why when you consume high fibre, whole foods vs. processed foods you end up with a thicker mucous lining, which is important so foods don’t leak out into the bloodstream creating sensitivities. You need a variety of foods to increase good bacteria in the gut, which brings me to the rotation of your foods so you don’t consume the same foods over and over again and perhaps develop sensitivities by consuming the same foods. Yes, you may have to stay away from a certain foods for a while if they create such issues as bloating, gas or constipation, but once your gut and mucous linings are restored, chances are you will be able to tolerate the problematic food much better. It’s not the foods’ fault. It’s usually the gut flora that’s problematic.
Who would have thought that the bloating or gas you are experiencing could be from an imbalance of your good gut flora? I certainly would have never linked the microbiome to these symptoms. I was always blaming the food. I was eliminating so many foods from my diet thinking they were the cause of my digestive issues. Once I restored my gut flora (I’m still working on this every day), I was able to reintroduce some of the foods that I thought were the culprits. Sometimes I still can’t eat them as much as I would like, but this reinforces that I still have much work to do.