Why Pay Attention to Your Gut Health

by Michael Hurley L.Ac.

Do you suffer from fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, or weight gain?

Are your joints inflamed and sore all the time?

Do you suffer from an auto-immune disease or any other chronic illness?

It may be time to pay attention to your gut health.  As an acupuncturist and practitioner of natural medicine, I feel that my most important goal is to teach people of how important their diet and more specifically, their gut health, is in maintaining their overall health.

So what do I mean by gut health?  What I am referring to is the microbiome that lives in all of us.  This is the ecosystem of micro bacteria that lives in our digestive system, on our skin, etc.  There are good bacteria and bad bacteria, to put things simply. When the balance sways toward the bad bacteria, inflammation-related symptoms and disorders are more likely to occur.  When the balance sways toward the good bacteria, inflammation is diminished and prevented.

Some Basic Facts.  The average human carries an ecosystem made up of over 5 pounds of beneficial bacteria at all times.  There are over 500 species of these bacteria making up the 100 trillion residents that call your body home.  But remember, these aren’t just squatters. These are really good citizens when they are in balance. When they are not, just like in our outside society, things go awry.

A small sampling of disorders that can be caused by imbalanced gut health include ADD, autism, insomnia, weight gain, joint pain, multiple sclerosis, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, dementia and Alzheimer’s, foggy headedness, UTIs and bladder inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, diarrhea and constipation, acid reflux, and has even been linked to various, if not all forms, of cancer.  These and many other disorders come about from excess inflammation in the body. In most cases, they can be prevented, cured, or the risks reduced by balancing the delicate ecosystem in your digestion. 

How do you balance your microbiome?  

  • Reduce sugar intake as much as possible.  Sugar feeds the unhealthy bacteria which then multiply faster than the good bacteria.  
  • Stop taking antibiotics and ingesting harmful chemicals, including from your food in the case of factory farmed meats and non-organic vegetables.  These kill all bacteria, good and bad. Additionally, more and more cases are showing that the bad bacteria are becoming immune to antibiotics due to their overuse in food production and in prescriptions.  
  • Eat more fresh vegetables and add more insoluble fiber to your diet.  This will feed the good bacteria which can then multiply faster than the bad bacteria.  
  • Consume more prebiotic foods like sauerkraut and kimchi.  Prebiotics are foods that feed the good bacteria and promote the growth of the colonies.
  • Add probiotics by consuming probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt and kefir.  The best way to get nutrients is through your food.  Consuming probiotics from food sources will also save money.  
  • Take probiotic supplements from your natural food store to add to the good bacteria.  Try to get brands that are hypoallergenic and vegan. It is best to spend more for a good product in this case.  Cheap probiotic supplements are a waste of money and do not provide benefit. Supplements should only be taken as a short term convenience when your lifestyle is busy.  If your life is too busy to eat right, fix it because no matter what you are doing, it is not more important than your health.
  • Meditation and stress reduction also balance the microbiome in your gut.  

So, where does acupuncture fit into all of this?  Acupuncture treats you as a whole.  This means that it balances your body, mind, and spirit.  As I have explained above, several things can throw off the balance of your gut bacteria.  These can be stress, food choices, medications, etc.  

  • Acupuncture can help you manage stress, providing a great environment for your microbiome.  
  • Acupuncture can balance the Qi in your digestive system so that the bacteria in your digestive system can get all the nutrients they need.  
  • Acupuncture can also mitigate pain and inflammation, thereby reducing the need for harmful pharmaceuticals which kill off beneficial bacteria.

Thank you for your time and don’t forget to book your next acupuncture appointment now.