Balancing the Good and the Bad

Your body needs a balance of good and bad bacteria to function optimally. If there is too much bad bacteria, illness and disease can set in.

Some facts about the digestive system:

  • We are all walking ecosystems made up of microbiomes (small communities on microbes), collections of good and bad bacteria all over our body.
  • If you could remove all of the bacteria in one person’s digestive system, the whole lot would probably weigh about 1 kg.
  • During the process of child birth a baby takes in its mothers good and bad bacteria. See this link for a general understanding: http://www.wired.com/2014/04/missing-microbes-antibiotic-resistance-birth/ For a US research paper on the topic: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3110651/
  • The small intestine is where most digestion and nutrient absorption takes place. A balance of good and bad bacteria is required to help this function.
  • Due to alcohol, highly processed foods, antibiotics and other medications or toxins, good bacteria can be replaced with bad bacteria.
  • Bad bacteria over growth can spread from the large intestine up to the small intestine causing symptoms of IBS as the bacteria responds differently to different foods for example starchy / non starchy foods. This is called SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth.

With the assistance of a naturopath, Finlay and I followed the FODMAP diet in order to have our systems rebalanced. We both had the addition of some supplements / natural remedies, as well as the correct selection of probiotics. There are many strains of probiotics out there and it is important that the right one is used for these circumstances.

So what is the FODMAP diet? FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, these are molecules found in the food we eat. These molecules can be poorly absorbed by some people. For example some foods can cause water retention – slowing things down in the digestive system. Then other foods can cause the water to be drawn out and expelled – speeding things up. These symptoms are similar to that of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which is why the FODMAPs diet is also used to treat IBS.

There is an initial stage of six weeks where the diet is quite strict, followed by another six weeks with more additions to the diet and increased amounts of the ‘allowed’ vegetables. Following the diet meant another major shift to our diet, taking out foods that are high in FODMAPs. There was a limit or total ban on vegetables that I had become confident in cooking, like cauliflower, onions, peas (Finlays most favourite food in the world at the time) and pumpkin (my favourite). I had to learn about preparing, cooking and including vegetables like bok choy, silver beet and radishes into our diets?!?! On a positive, I now have a much wider range of variety and a healthy balance of different vegetables as well as other foods.

After the diet was finished we continued with the natural remedies and probiotics. I could honestly say and feel that we were clearing through the path of healing. It is such a good feeling when you know that your body is working as it should be!

See this link for some examples of foods from the FODMAPs Diet: http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/low-high.html

And for healthy individuals: high fibre, high prebiotic food diet (to promote the growth of good bacteria): http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/prebiotic/

3 thoughts on “Balancing the Good and the Bad

    1. Thanks for the comment JJ. Any fermented product- drink in this case is going to beneficial for the gut & will assist the digestive system. Personally I find kombucha quite sweet. It is good to mix things up though as each ferment will give different bacterias. My favourite would be kefir grains- I’ve done both milk & water grains & enjoyed them both! Let me know if you give any a go! 🙂

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