Living with MS

Autoimmunity and Gut Health

The human body is host to trillions of bacteria – at least 1,000 different strains. There are exciting studies on this subject, which are constantly emerging, and they explore the connection between gut bacteria and several inflammatory, autoimmune conditions. Modern day researchers are even suggesting that an imbalance of gut bacteria may have a direct link to multiple sclerosis.

The gut microbiome (which is just a fancy expression for the microscopic bacteria that live within the intestinal system) play a very important role when it comes to the development and progression of autoimmune conditions. In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, a team of researchers found that MS patients have a distinct microbiome compared to their healthy peers.

The study in question found that the gut bacteria in patients with remitting relapsing MS was not significantly different from that of the healthy controls. However, when RRMS patients were further divided into groups that separated those with active disease and those in remission, there was less diverse gut bacteria in the patients in active relapse compared to the healthy controls.

 It would seem that not all gut bacteria are created equal!

The “good” bacteria in the gut help to digest food, manufacture specific vitamins, and protect the lining of the digestive tract. The “bad” bacteria, concurrently, can lead to digestive disturbances, contribute to brain fog, and inflames the digestive tract. Any factors that irritate or stress the digestive tract can lead to systemic, wide-spread inflammation. By controlling inflammation in the digestive tract, we can begin to balance the immune system and potentially stop it from sending an inappropriate immune system response, which causes the body to attack its own tissues. The more we learn about our own inner ecology, the more we discover just how influential this internal environment is.

7 Factors That Contribute to an Imbalance of Bacteria in the Gut

1) Poor Digestive Health
One of the major ways we can work towards balancing our gut bacteria is by improving digestion. An inability to fully breakdown and digest proteins can result in a meal that takes longer to digest. The longer food remains stagnant inside the intestinal system, the more gases and toxins are created (which act as fuel for the wrong types of bacteria). To improve digestive function, try following the simple suggestions listed below:

  • Eat slowly and chew well – to stress and rush through a meal impairs digestion by allowing too much air to mix with the food, and prevents saliva (which contains digestive enzymes to thoroughly coat the meal as we eat).
  • To maximize digestion, it is not advised to drink water (or any other liquid) 30 minutes before or after eating. If you have difficulty swallowing, small sips are acceptable, but take the time to eat slowly and properly chew the food until it becomes a paste in your mouth before swallowing.
  • Avoid over-consumption – stop eating at a comfortable spot (when you are 80% full). Overeating causes undue stress on the body, which impairs the integrity of the intestinal walls, and can lead to widespread inflammation.
  • Populate the gut with “friendly bacteria” by consuming foods that are rich in probiotics. Probiotic foods are those that have been cultured or fermented (such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi and kombucha).
    NOTE: If you are using yogurt as a probiotic, it must be plain and unsweetened. If yogurt contains fruit or added sugar, it has no probiotic benefit, no matter what the label may suggest. The healthy bacteria in the yogurt will feed on the fruit in the yogurt, instead of balancing out the bacteria present in your gut. If you use yogurt as a probiotic, choose plain, unsweetened kefir.
  • Avoid antacids – the body needs stomach acid to release protein-digesting enzymes, kill harmful microbes, and to trigger the release of other digestive enzymes from the pancreas so that food may be properly digested and absorbed.
    If you suffer from heartburn and/or indigestion, consult a natural health practitioner about addressing the root cause of instead of masking symptoms with antacids or proton pump inhibitors.
  • Consider taking a digestive enzyme before meals, but always consult a qualified health practitioner before taking any supplement(s).

2) Yeast/Candida Overgrowth
Candida is a type of yeast that is generally found in the flora of the intestinal system. Although candida organisms are naturally present in the body, they can cause problems if overgrowth occurs, resulting in candidiasis. In chronic candidiasis, rapidly multiplying candida can spread systemically throughout the body. Candida organisms are known to produce over 75 toxic substances. These toxins are absorbed into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body, causing a wide array of symptoms. Yeast produce their energy by converting sugars into carbon dioxide and ethanol, which can cause symptoms such as digestive disturbances, joint pain, and brain fog.

The good bacteria in your system are responsible for keeping candida under control – however, there are many factors which can disrupt this balance, such as antibiotics, birth control pills and oral corticosteroids.

 3) Slow Bowel Transit Time
“Bowel transit time” is the length of time that it takes for food to travel through the digestive tract (an elapse between the time food enters the mouth until it is eliminated as waste). The longer food remains sedentary in the intestinal tract, the more it will ferment and produce gases. Candida organisms feed off putrefying waste in the intestines. If you suffer from constipation, increase your consumption of high fiber foods, ensure you are drinking enough water, and include healthy fats in your diet.

4) Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities (or allergies) can also contribute to irritation and inflammation in the digestive tract, which can result in an imbalance of gut bacteria. Each person has their own unique biochemistry – what contributes to inflammation in one person, might not be an issue for another. All food is capable of initiating an inflammatory response in the body. Food sensitivity testing, followed by an elimination diet, is key in determining diet-related causes of gut-related inflammation.

5) Inflammatory Foods
Over-consumption of stimulants (such as caffeine and sugar), as well as heated oils, alcohol, artificial additives and preservatives, stress the digestive system and can interrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut. It is recommended that you focus on whole foods – fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and high quality protein.

6) Blood Sugar Imbalances
“Bad bacteria” in the gut are fed by elevated blood sugar levels, which allow them to grow quickly out of control. The elimination of refined sugars is recommended, as well as ensuring that protein and fiber-rich foods are part of every meal and snack.

Any food that creates dramatic spikes in blood sugar should be avoided – these include white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and concentrated fruit juice.

 7) Chronic Stress
Stress taxes the adrenal glands, and elevates cortisol (a stress hormone). These factors raise blood sugar levels, which can feed the unwanted forms of bacteria in the gut. Chronic stress, anxiety and/or negative thinking all add to the total body burden of internal toxins that can interfere with proper digestion, and disrupt the balance of “good” gut bacteria.

We would be wise to adapt new and healthier/positive methods of dealing with stress. It is critical to maintain healthy amounts of sleep, and practice stress-reduction techniques (such as deep breathing, meditation, journal writing, listening to music, enjoying nature, and spending quality time with family and loved ones).

Interested in learning more about how to improve your digestive health?
Click here to take our online course: A Holistic Approach to Digestive Health

Sources:
http://www.nature.com/articles/srep28484
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25843302
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5326653
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/could-multiple-sclerosis-begin-in-the-gut

Articles

What Does Your Bowel Transit Time Say About Your Health?

Hippocrates said it best “All disease begins in the gut”

“Bowel transit time” is the length of time it takes for food to travel through the digestive tract, from mouth to colon. Once food is chewed and swallowed, it moves to the stomach, where it is mixed with stomach acid and digestive enzymes. From there, it travels through the small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed. The food then moves to the large intestine. What hasn’t been fully digested and absorbed in the small intestine, combines with bacteria and other waste products and gets eliminated through the colon.

Your bowel transit time is dependent on a few different factors: The type of food you eat, hydration, the amount of fiber in the diet, and exercise. Certain medications and neurological conditions can also affect your transit time.

Testing Your Bowel Transit Time

The ideal bowel transit time is anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. A transit time longer than 2 days can increase the risk of cancer, diverticulosis and candida (overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria), which weakens the immune system and puts one at higher risk for all types of cancer. A transit time less than 10 hours can mean lack of absorption, which can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies and weakened immunity.

Testing your bowel transit time is fairly easy. Simply consume something that will be easily identified such as: a cup of corn, beets or a few tablespoons sesame seeds, and count the number of hours it takes to appear in your stool.

This is where most people get confused!

A daily bowel movement does not necessarily indicate a healthy colon. Even if you are having a bowel movement every day, you still could be suffering from constipation. Without doing a bowel transit test, you could be unknowingly eliminating something you ate 4 or 5 days ago. The longer a meal remains inside the colon, the longer toxins and putrefaction of digesting food have time to do damage.

Anything less than one bowel movement a day means toxins and waste are recirculating back into the bloodstream and can result in symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, gas, bloating, acne, allergies, muscle and joint pain.

A fast transit time (shorter than 10 hours) means food is passing through your system too quickly, and you might not be absorbing nutrients from your food, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. A fast transit time combined with loose stools is something to be very concerned about. This can lead not only to severe nutritional deficiencies but also electrolyte imbalances, leg and muscle cramps, anemia and osteoporosis.

Anyone who suffers from chronic diarrhea or loose stools, abdominal cramping, and a bowel transit time of less than 10 hours should seek the advice of a medical professional. It is advised that you be assessed for inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Celiac disease, Crohn’s, endocrine disorders and for food allergies and sensitivities. The ideal bowel transit time is anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. A healthy stool is one that is well formed and can be easily eliminated with no pushing or straining.

There are many factors that contribute to a poorly functioning digestive system.
Do you suffer from digestive issues, gas and bloating, constipation, loose stools or food sensitivities?

colon_quiz

If you have answered YES to any of these questions, you could benefit
from the information provided in the newly released Eat Heal Love Online eCourse: Fix Your Digestion – An Owner’s Manual. 

Some of the Topics Discussed in This Course Include:

• How to fix fast bowel transit times (loose stools)
• How to improve digestion and elimination
• Treating the underlying cause of candida

• How to heal leaky gut syndrome
• Tips to relieve heartburn and GERD
• Stool analysis chart
• How much fiber we really need
• Natural remedies for common digestive complaints
• A closer look at supplements for optimal digestive health
• How to follow an elimination diet
• Everyday healthy digestion tips

Fix Your Digestion

Take this course today and learn how to be your own digestive health expert!