Tag: gut health

Feed a Cold, Starve A Fever? What to Eat (Or Not) When You’re Sick

Cold? Flu? Tummy troubles? I know that I don’t have time to be sick, and I’m sure you don’t either. Luckily I don’t get sick very often anymore, but back in my competitive athlete days, it felt like I was constantly battling one cold, cough, or sinus infection after another.  

Not to toot my own horn, but I chalk up my current good health to my Primal lifestyle. I know for sure that there is a marked before and after—before Primal, when I had a medicine cabinet full of OTC remedies, and after, when I rarely take a sick day. On those occasions when I do detect a tickle in my throat or the first signs of sour stomach, my first course of action is to double down on those aspects of my lifestyle that support a robust immune system, particularly nutrient-dense foods, sleep, and time in the sun.

The food piece is what we’re going to talk about today. Everybody has an opinion about what to eat, or not, when you’re under the weather. I’m not claiming that certain foods can cure the flu or prevent you from coming down with that cold even after your sick kid coughs in your face. But once you’re sick, the name of the game is supporting your immune system by providing it with beneficial nutrients and compounds that could aid it in fighting off the viruses or bacteria that are making you sick in the first place. Some foods will also provide welcome comfort, which is nothing to sneeze at, pun intended. 

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How to Make Butter, Yogurt, and Kefir at Home

While it’s easy enough to pop down to the grocery store and buy butter, yogurt, or kefir, it can be very rewarding—and easier than you think—to make your own products at home. Making staple dairy foods at home allows you to control what goes into them, control the process, and reconnect to the traditional way of doing things.

Yogurt and kefir are also fermented foods that deliver those oh-so-important probiotics to feed the beneficial microbes in your gut. Rather than rely on store-bought products, which often contain sugar and other additives you wish to avoid, why not make your own at home? Being able to make your own butter, yogurt, and kefir gives you flexibility. It gives you power. Most importantly, it gives you agency: the ability to control what you feed yourself or your family.

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How to Improve Gut Health Naturally

When Hippocrates, the ancient Greek father of medicine, said, “All disease begins in the gut,” he was probably right. We now know that poor gut health is linked to a broad range of diseases and health conditions, from depression to diabetes, cancer to obesity, and autism to autoimmune disease. Researchers are even exploring the connection between gut bacteria and the severity of COVID-19 infections.

The importance of gut health has never been clearer. Our scientific understanding of the microbiome—the trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in and on our body, especially in the gastrointestinal tract—has grown leaps and bounds since Hippocrates’ time, and even since the last century. Doctors and researchers have much better tools for testing gut health and sequencing the microbiome than they did just a decade ago. 

So all the world’s health issues solved, right? Not exactly.

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What Is Leaky Gut?

The term “leaky gut” describes the phenomenon, and the aftermath, of having an intestinal barrier that is more permeable than normal. The “than normal” is important here. Your gut is designed to be selectively permeable. Nutrients, electrolytes, and fluids need to be able to move in and out as part of normal, healthy digestion. Meanwhile, all the potentially dangerous stuff—pathogens, toxins, undigested food that shouldn’t be absorbed into the body—is meant to stay put and continue its journey down the digestive tract.   Regulating gut permeability is no small task. In most popular conceptions of human physiology, the gut exists primarily as a passive conduit along which food travels. But it’s much more complex than that. The walls of your intestines are a dynamic boundary between you and the external world. The intestinal barrier is made up of layers of mucus, epithelial cells, muscle, and immune system components. When working as intended, the barrier allows the gut to safely house the microbes that reside there, judiciously lets good things into the body, and keeps harmful things out.  Sometimes, though, the system starts to break down. The metaphorical doormen that are supposed to let only certain people into the club go to sleep on the job. Undesirables starts sneaking in. Sometimes the doors are flung open wide, and all the riffraff get through. When that happens, all hell breaks loose. The result is chronic inflammation, autoimmune illness, allergies, and more. Most people are probably walking around with some degree of leaky gut thanks to the unhealthy lifestyle practices and environmental exposures that are unavoidable nowadays. Here’s what you need to know. What is Leaky Gut? Lining the gut are epithelial cells whose cell membranes fuse together to form protein complexes called tight junctions. Those tight junctions can open up. When that happens, toxins, harmful microbes, and partially digested food particles can escape the gut and make their way into the bloodstream, leading to infection, chronic inflammation, and the sustained immune response that characterizes autoimmune illness.  As we learn more and more about gut health and the microbiome, it is evident that high intestinal permeability is a hallmark of just about every autoimmune and chronic metabolic disease. Just as a sampling, leaky gut has been associated with  Celiac disease Symptoms of poor digestion, like bloating, gas, or constipation Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) Asthma Autism ADHD Food allergies and intolerances Rheumatoid arthritis Eczema Depression, anxiety Obesity and metabolic syndrome Diabetes, both type 1 and type 2 Multiple sclerosis While there is some debate about which comes first, the hyperpermeability or the disease, we know that in many cases, increased gut leakiness precedes, and may even be a necessary precursor for, disease onset. Once the disease process is set into motion, the chronic inflammation that accompanies all these disease states can further impair gut health, leading to a downward spiral. What Causes a Leaky Gut in the First Place? As I’ve discussed previously, gut health depends on having a healthy robust … Continue reading “What Is Leaky Gut?”

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