Repopulating the good stuff
If you have read Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series, by now you will have done most of the cleansing work, and been off the stuff that causes the issues for a week or so. The third step in the process is to boost the beneficial bacteria which are usually naturally present, to create a balanced internal digestive ecosystem.
What IS the good stuff and why do I need it?
Your gut needs certain types of helpful bacteria for several reasons. Helpful gut flora are collectively named “microbiome”, and encompass two main types of bacteria with different, very specific functions. These are called Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes.
Bacteriodetes help support the immune system, regulate the growth of harmful bacteria, help reduce toxicity in some digestive and metabolic by-products, and assist with bile production. They are also fundamental in breaking down carbohydrates. Further reading about Bacteriodetes can be done here. Heads up – you’ll need your reasonably well developed science hat on to get your head around the paper.
Firmicutes are the second type (seen in the picture on the right), which are mostly concerned with fat (lipid) metabolism.
This article by Scientific American covers the background on Firmicutes and their function in the GIT.
Bacteriodetes and Firmicutes have specific ratios which have been found to change with age, which explains why children, adults and the elderly have different food requirements and different tastes in food type and quantity.
Simply put, microbiomes balance out harmful bacterial overgrowth by maintaining a clean environment, help to process digestive by-products, stimulate the absorption of different types of dietary nutrients (Carbohydrates, proteins and lipids), play a role in general digestive processes like bile production, and assist with regulating the immune system. We don’t see them, but they have a massive impact on our ability to nourish ourselves, create energy, metabolise nutrients and maintain a general state of health and wellbeing.
How do you repopulate helpful gut bacteria?
Super easy. There are two major ways you can do it, but a combination of both is probably more sustainable whilst living a busy life. Whichever you choose, make sure you stick to a strict regime of consuming something from one or both methods, every day, for the second week of the program.
Method 1: Take a pill
This method will work, but it is not recommended for use alone, as you’ll be missing out on all the extra fun,
and the nutrients you get from eating natural sources of probiotics. I normally recommend some good quality probiotics from the health food store – but get the
ones they keep in the fridge. The reason they store them in the fridge is to lower the temperature, keeping the bacteria from metabolising and “wearing themselves out” before you can get to them. If you choose the pill method, I recommend taking a double dose of probiotic supplements for one week, then regular doses daily until you finish the bottle.
Method 2: (The Best) Food with natural probiotics in it
The food option is highly recommended because it accesses the bacteria in their natural context rather than condensing them into a pill. Plus, eating things rather than swallowing them in a pill creates a more mindful space and brings you into the experience mentally as well as feeling its physical effects.
There are a lot of different types of food that undergo a natural fermentation process and pick up their own probiotics from the environment. Major naturally fermented probiotic foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, pot-set yoghurt (if you buy this it will usually be labelled ABC), kefir (the non-milk variety), and home made or pre-prepared kombucha drinks. All of these foods accumulate helpful bacteria throughout fermentation. Not only are they helpful, but they are also delicious.
Ongoing Maintenance Techniques
The phrase, “Maintenance is cheaper than repairs” is not only true for cars, but also for your body.
What I’ve generally been working on throughout this blog series is to get you guys to think about what you are putting into the ecosystem that is your body, and how it affects what you get out of it.
Going back to the car analogy – Imagine you have a 4-6 cylinder engine that requires regular unleaded or petrol. But you haven’t had much cash lately and you don’t want to spend a lot of time, energy etc, on the regular fuel so you’re using ethanol based e10 for a while. The months go past and the engine starts sounding a bit dodge, like the fuel system is getting gammed up. And on a regular diet of e10 (aka take away food, white bread, “easy” pre-packaged, preservative and sugar heavy foods, or frozen stuff with fewer nutrients), it is entirely likely. The usual step for the conscientious motorist is to use high octane for a while, to clean out the fuel system and get things running a bit more smoothly.
That’s what we’re doing here, with this gut cleanse.
The US Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine has created this awesome infographic that details the sorts of “High Octane” foods you can incorporate into your daily diet to maintain healthy gut flora and prevent disease.
So by now you have all the tools you need to clear out your gut, stop putting the dodgy stuff in, and repopulate your body with the helpful stuff. You’ve even got tips for maintenance!
If all of this still isn’t working for you, and the engine is still sounding a bit weird, it might be time to get in for a service. Treat your TCM practitioner like a mechanic for your body. If you don’t service regularly, the engine won’t run as well, or as long, as you need it to. Book in for an optimum performance treatment with herbs, acupuncture &/or bodywork.