July 29, 2015 | lmsXpect3 Your intestinal tract, or what we casually refer to as your gut, has a huge influence on your overall health. It’s not simply a way for your body to get water and nutrition. It contains most of your immune system, for example, and it affects your mental health, too. And if the semi-permeable barrier between the inside or lumen of your gut and the bloodstream becomes too permeable or “leaky” then you can have all kinds of health problems developing. There are many things that can mess up your gut. Antibiotics are a big one. So are aspirin and other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), alcohol, food allergens, infections, and chronic constipation. Your intestinal tract is an amazing organ system but you need to take care of it. You can start by eating the right foods and drinking enough healthy fluids like water, herbal teas, green tea, and fruit or vegetable juices. Optimally, you should consume 7-12 servings of fruits and vegetables per day and leaning toward the less starchy variety. A serving is considered ½ cup of the food if it’s chopped or a medium size fruit. Vegetables and fruits contain soluble (mixes with water) and insoluble fiber which is indigestible and adds bulk to your stool. It helps keep your stools soft and movable and also provides food for the healthy bacteria in your gut. High fiber diets greatly reduce your risk of developing colon cancer and diverticulosis (protrusions out the sides of your large intestine which can bleed or rupture and kill you). Another thing is to avoid antibiotics whenever possible. Don’t run to the urgent care every time you get a sore throat or cold, or you will likely be given an antibiotic which is unlikely to help you in any significant way and can most certainly do more harm than good. If you do take a significant amount of antibiotics, you run the risk of developing “intestinal dysbiosis” or a disruption of the ecology of your intestines, or possibly an intestinal overgrowth of yeast such as Candida albicans. Yeast can lead to something we call Candida-related complex (CRC) which generally involves many different kinds of seemingly unrelated symptoms. But when you do a Candida Diet, take various antifungal agents, and use probiotics, CRC usually improves. Since the bacteria in your gut are so important, you want to support them. You can do that by consuming a good amount of fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, raw unpasteurized sauerkraut, kimchi, and natto. If you are sensitive or allergic to milk, there are non-dairy yogurts made from soy, coconut, or almond milk. These fermented foods contain live bacteria which are healthy for your gut. If you can’t or won’t consume fermented foods, then it’s a good idea to supplement your healthy gut bacteria with probiotics, or friendly, health –promoting bacteria. Metagenics, a supplement company I know and trust, makes a number of excellent probiotics and some are specific to your particular health need. You can check them out by going to our website and clicking on the Metagenics banner in the upper right hand corner. They also make a number of other very good supplements designed to support GI health containing such things as glutamine, deglycerrhizinated licorice (DGL), peppermint oil, and several other nutriceuticals. Some are specifically designed to support healing of particular GI issues. Remember to take care of your gut, and it will take care of you! Dr. William Epperly, Fellow American Academy of Family Practice Fellow American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy Member of Christian Medical and Dental Society.