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#GutHealth: Discerning Trend From Reality

“Gut health” seems to be a social media buzzword these days, with TikTok and Instagram influencers pushing products, juices, and bizarre diets to “heal” the gut, i.e., reduce bloating, improve digestion, and act as a sort of “cure all” for many common gastrointestinal symptoms and conditions, such as IBS and IBD. Aloe vera juice, bone broth, apple cider vinegar, probiotic-enriched muffin mixes–With so many emerging and unverified natural and unnatural remedies floating around the internet, it can be overwhelming to discern fact from fiction. 

At the same time, there’s so much new and exciting research around the role of the gut microbiome in overall physical and mental health. Research has found that boosting the diversity of gut microbiota (the vast array of “good” bacteria in your digestive system) can have positive effects on the immune system, improve mental health conditions like depression, improve sleep and heart health, and even reduce the rate of certain types of cancer

That being said, these recent, ungrounded social media trends are nothing but dangerous. 

In a recent New York Times article, University of London senior lecturer Stephanie Alice Baker defined these fads as the latest manifestation of the idea of “self-optimization,” an insidious mechanism to promote diet culture and “ideal” body types through unlikely sources. By labeling weight loss as “gut healing,” influencers are able to promote extreme, unhealthy diets. What’s more, these influencers often have no medical authority and may only be promoting a product because they’re being paid to do so. 

The truth of the matter is: there’s no quick fix, even if it seems to work for someone on #guttok. Many people suffer from gastrointestinal conditions that are best treated by consulting a medical professional. However, there are some research-driven dietary changes you can make to heal your gut over time. Let’s take a look at 6 gastroenterologist-backed methods for diversifying and improving the gut microbiome.

6 Things You Can Do For Your Gut Health

Eat fermented foods.

A clinical trial conducted by researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine found that a diet high in fermented foods, such as kimchi, kefir, and cottage cheese, continually increased microbiota diversity and decreased inflammatory markers over a period of 17 weeks. Fermented foods are rich in good bacteria; read our blog about other types of fermented food and fermentation here

Eat more fiber.

The same Stanford trial also examined the role of fiber in diet and found that it increased microbiome function, especially coupled with the consumption of fermented foods. Consuming soluble and insoluble fiber also promotes regularity and digestive function. Learn more about high-fiber foods and the role of fiber on our blog here

Reduce consumption of processed foods.

Research has found that regular consumption of processed and ultra-processed foods (like sugary soda, chips, artificial cheese, fried chicken, fast food) reduces gut diversity while increasing symptoms of gut disorders like IBS, the risk of depression, inflammation, and mortality. Unfortunately, many readily-accessible foods with a long-shelf life are highly-processed, even ones that appear “healthy,” so taking time to research nutritional information is key.

Reduce consumption of spicy foods. 

Spicy food isn’t “dangerous,” but consuming it often can irritate the stomach and increase symptoms of certain gut disorders, like IBS, IBD, and acid reflux. 

Don’t smoke.

Smoking and the toxic chemicals in cigarette smokes harms every part of the digestive system; from increasing the risk of heartburn and peptic ulcers to harming intestinal microflora, increasing inflammation, and increasing oxidative stress. 

Take probiotics.

Probiotic supplements and probiotic-rich foods contain life bacteria that contribute to improving gut microbiome diversity. Taking probiotics may be beneficial to your health, but it’s recommended that you consult a doctor first.  

The experienced team at Gastroenterology Health Partners is here for you if you are concerned about your gut health or have other gastroenterological issues. For more information or to schedule an appointment at one of our Kentucky or Southern Indiana offices, contact one of our practice locations near you.  

Understanding the Connection Between Exercise and Gastrointestinal Health

While we all know that the foods we consume have a significant impact on gut health, very little is often said for the influence of exercise and activity on the GI system. People usually exercise to get fit, lose weight, or socialize, unaware of the deeper functional benefits of regular activity.

Recent studies have only just begun to unlock insight into the powerful role of exercise in promoting digestion, gastrointestinal health, metabolic capacity, disease prevention, and long-term wellbeing.

Maintaining Regular Exercise is Key

A study conducted at the University of Illinois in 2018 found that regular exercise alters the entire gut microbiome. In the study, previously sedentary participants engaged in daily endurance activities for six weeks. Across the board, participants experienced an increase in both diversity and metabolic capacity of the gut microbiome.

Furthermore, scientists found a widespread increase in short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), a subset of fatty acids that are produced by the gut microbiota. SCFAs are known to reduce inflammation, boost the metabolism, improve the immune system, improve neurogenesis and fight insulin resistance. In short—the more, the better!

After the study ended, participants stopped exercising. Interestingly, within weeks, their gut composition reverted back to how it was before the study. The effects of the exercise did not last. This proves that maintaining regular exercise is vital to improve and upkeep gut health.

The benefits of regular exercise were again reaffirmed in a 2019 study. In this study, insulin response in male participants was tested after no exercise, after one day of exercise, and again after three consecutive days of exercise. Research found that maintaining exercise over three days was significantly more effective at improving insulin response. A single day of isolated exercise had almost no benefit.

Exercise Can Help Prevent Colon Cancer

Regular exercise can also play a role in preventing colon cancer. In one study, exercise was reported to decrease the total number of intestinal polyps by 50% and the number of large polyps by 67%. Another study found that the risk of colon cancer decreased 40% in those who exercised more than 7 hours a week. In turn, over 40% of those diagnosed with colon cancer already suffered from a comorbid disease, such as diabetes, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart failure. The influence of exercise on preventing colon cancer cannot be overstated.

Exercise Doesn’t Have To Be Hard

Many people think that exercise needs to be high-intensity to really count. They push themselves too hard, and then get injured or burned out. We’ve all seen it before—your friend’s New Year’s resolution to go to the gym dissipating within days after they discover they don’t enjoy Pilates or bench pressing.

Exercise doesn’t have to be a big ordeal or a fancy gym membership. As the studies listed above have shown, what matters more than anything is consistency. Whether it be consistently walking 30 minutes a day, doing yoga poses in the morning, or jogging around your neighborhood—all that matters is that you keep it up. Long-term health and wellbeing comes from committing to an active lifestyle, above all else.

For more information about gastrointestinal health or to schedule an appointment with a board-certified gastroenterologist, contact Gastroenterology Health Partners today. Schedule an appointment by calling a location near you. For additional details, visit our contact us page.

Gastro Health Partners’ Doctors Recognized as Louisville’s Top Docs for 2019

Louisville Magazine has just released their annual list of Louisville’s Top Docs for 2019. This year the doctors themselves cast their votes and four physicians from Gastro Health Partners were recognized in the category of gastroenterology.

When asked, “If you or a member of your family were in need of medical care or treatment, who among Louisville-area doctors would you choose to provide medical care in the following specialties?” our peers in the Greater Louisville Medical Society nominated (from left to right) Whitney F. Jones, M.D., Paul Eugene Brown, M.D., Alan J. Cox, M.D., and John C. Horlander, M.D.

                 

Dr. Whitney Jones joined Gastroenterology Health partners in 2017. He is the founder of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project and considered a national expert in the field of gastroenterology.

Dr. Paul Brown has been a member of the Louisville Gastroenterology Associates for 29 years and is Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

Dr. Alan Cox is the author of several publications pertaining to the study of Gastroenterology. He is also Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

Dr. John Horlander is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and is actively involved in many research studies pertaining to gastroenterology.

On behalf of our team of 21 fellowship-trained Gastroenterologists and 13 advanced practice clinicians, we are proud to have been featured in this year’s issue of Louisville’s Top Docs among many other admiral physicians from the great city of Louisville. As the region’s leader in GI care, it is our mission to continue to offer cost-effective and comprehensive treatment options to those in Louisville, Lexington, Southern Indiana as well as the surrounding communities. Get screened by the best by scheduling your appointment online today.