Food

Trust Your Gut

How your overall health is connected to your digestive system.

“Trust your gut” is much more than an old adage of wisdom. Dr. Sara Celik, a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor, says when it comes to our health, the gut is the core of everything else.

“Gut health affects every aspect of our health.”

Dr. Celik, who has 10 years’ experience in clinical practice, says in fact, 70 per cent of our immune system cells are in our gut.

There’s even research that suggests our gut holds a “second brain”. One Johns Hopkins article asserts, “Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, this ‘brain in your gut’ is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way you think. Scientists call this little brain the enteric nervous system (ENS). And it’s not so little. The ENS is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum.”

“Nature has designed us perfectly,” says Dr. Celik. Think about that. Are we doing everything we can to live our modern lives and allow our bodies to function as they were intended?

“We’re operating in overdrive,” Dr. Celik says. It’s important to make the time to allow our bodies to perform their normal functions – even if it’s as simple as allowing for some extra bathroom minutes every morning, so you don’t rush or suppress your body’s natural rhythms.

Things we can do to promote a healthy gut

  • Get adequate water: Take your weight in pounds, divide by two. The answer is the number of ounces of water you should be drinking each day, Dr. Celik says.
  • Get enough fibre: Dr. Celik recommends 30-40 grams a day.
  • Eat probiotic-rich foods: Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that help minimize inflammation, fight pathogens and absorb nutrients. “Bacteria (are) our army,” Dr. Celik says. Stress, sugar, alcohol and medication can all affect the levels of good bacteria in our gut, so fermented or pickled foods like yogourt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and pickled vegetables can help restore that balance.
  • Minimize stress: “I do see a strong link between stress and my patients who have gut issues,” Dr. Celik says. Make time for a stress-relieving activity, whether it’s meditating, walking, dancing, doing yoga, deep breathing or taking a bubble bath.
Healthy Gut  Unhealthy Gut
At least one healthy bowel movement a day Less than one bowel movement a day, often characterized by cramping and/or straining
No heartburn Constipation and/or diarrhea or diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
No bloating Regular bloating
Minimal gas (normal gas emission is about 10-15 times a day with minimal smell) Digestive reactions to foods e.g. bloating or irritation

What defines a healthy bowel movement?

  • Well formed
  • No undigested food
  • Minimal gas

It may feel uncomfortable to talk about these things or even read about them, but it’s likely to feel a lot more uncomfortable if you don’t. Ultimately, Dr. Celik says, “Listen to your body, because your body talks to you.”