“All disease begins in the gut”. It’s a quote famously attributed to Hippocrates, the Ancient Greek physician around 2,500 years ago. So, was he right? After all, he is widely seen as the father of modern medicine, so he must be on to something?
In short, yes. While obviously not every disease begins in the gut, the connection between our health and our gut is absolutely true. Hippocrates was the first physician to argue that illness could be caused by environmental factors, such as living habits, stress levels and diet. While many of Hippocrates’ theories were based on incorrect physiology, many of his ideas have stood the test of time, and this is one of them.
Scientists and researchers are finding out more and more about our gut and how it works. The gut can be considered ‘a second brain’, another idea attributed to Ancient Greeks. When it comes to staying fit and healthy, listening to our gut can help steer us along the right path in terms of the choices we make.
The importance of a functioning digestive system can’t be over-stated. However, many people consistently choose to eat and drink the wrong thing, under-exercise and not strive to keep a balance in their life. These consistently poor choices can affect our long-term health in a profound way, as well as making day-to-day life more difficult.
Many of us think of our bodies as disconnected from our gut, but if we turn towards holistic medicine, it’s clear that for thousands of years physicians knew this was not the case. Instead, our body is a machine and all parts must work in order for us to function.
And at the heart of our functioning lies our digestive system. Recent research increasingly links digestive issues to apparently unrelated conditions, such as depression, autism, allergies, a compromised immune system, autoimmune diseases, psoriasis, low energy and even acne.
If our body is unable to properly absorb nutrients, then IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and LGS (leaky gut syndrome) can cause a build up of toxins that have a negative effect on the functions our body carries out every day.
How do you adjust your gut?
If you’re wondering how you get your digestive system in better condition but don’t want to give up all your favourite foods, don’t worry. It’s more about striking a balance between the foods that our body needs by gaining awareness about what we put in our mouths.
A great rule to live by is the 80/20 way of eating and living. The idea is that you eat healthily (that is foods rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins) 80% of the time, and then play around with the other 20%. For example, the 20% could be your favourite comfort food, or going out to restaurants.
Many people live an almost opposite version of this, with only the occasional healthy, balanced meal in among a constant intake of processed snacks, wheat, meat, dairy, caffeine and alcohol. By balancing your intake using a few simple tweaks, you can make a massive difference to your digestive health and improve your health overall. Try the following tips to improve your digestive health:
- Add probiotics and fermented fibre supplements
By taking a supplement every day, you can improve the absorption of beneficial bacteria. Or, if you eat fermented foods such as kim chi, kefir and sauerkraut you can populate your gut naturally with the right kind of bacteria for good digestion. Fermented foods must be raw and organic, as pasteurisation destroys the good bacteria.
- Eat more fibre
One reason that eating less meat and more plants is good for you is the increase in fibre. Vegetables, grains and legumes have loads of fibre that helps to move waste through our colons and out of the body. Men should eat at least 38g a day, and women 25g a day.
- Cut down on meat
If you swap your diet for a mostly plant-based diet, then you will take in much more essential fibres, minerals and proteins for optimum health. It also helps you to create a well-balanced system that supports your immune system and digestion.
- Drink more water
You need water to move bacteria through your body. Even if you’re only slightly dehydrated, your body can be thrown off balance and your digestion more sluggish.
By maintaining good gut health, you should find you are more energised, less likely to catch colds and viruses and able to function more productively.
About Jurg Widmer Probst
Jurg Widmer Probst is a personal trainer based in Switzerland. Jurg has recently launched is own brand and is continuing to build a portfolio of clients through word of mouth recommendations and hard work. Jurg has a masters degree from the University of Basel and uses this knowledge to give scientific advice to his customers.