Digestive health and issues relating to our gut health seem to be common place, so I thought it would be interesting to invite Linda Booth, a natural digestive health practitioner and founder of Just For Tummies range of supplements to share her thoughts on the subject. After training with the leading digestive health expert Dr Harald Stossier at the world-renowned Viva Mayr Clinic and inspired by her own grandfather, a master herbalist who restored his health with homemade tinctures after being injured in the First World war, Linda also gained qualifications in a number of natural health disciplines, that complement her work as a complementary therapist. She also lectures, teaches and mentors newly qualified colon hydra-therapists, contributes to natural health publications and is an author of ‘The Inside Story: how your colon holds the key to your wellbeing and what you should do about it’ ( you can download Linda’s e-book from the shop section of Just For Tummies website ).
‘Mention Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease or colitis and I dare say most of us know someone, who has been affected by one of these diseases or a digestive disorder with painful and debilitating symptoms. Virtually unheard of a couple or so generations ago, IBS now has a significant worldwide prevalence, and it is on the rise.
So just what is to blame for the dramatic spike in cases of IBS and other functional and organic bowel disorders that we have witnessed over the past 30 years? While we cannot point the finger at one single culprit, we’d be hard pushed not to pay heed to the correlation between the surge in IBS and the widespread consumption of processed convenience foods filled with artificial additives, as well as the increased use of antibiotics. I’m not just talking about antibiotic medication from your GP. Around 80% of antibiotic production is used in the food industry – fish, poultry and meat may be full of antibiotics, and don’t assume that your organic fish, chicken and meat is free of antibiotics. You need to check with whomever is supplying you with your fresh produce. Let’s also not forget foreign travel too, and travelling to far-flung places, exposing our gut to different microbes. Stress may also play a part in triggering IBS symptoms because of the connection between the brain and the gut. In a world where we rush around trying to do too much, putting more pressure on ourselves and barely coping to keep up, it is little wonder the gut becomes a mine of emotional tension.
Modern day lifestyle has a huge detrimental impact on the health of our gut microbiome
This largely unknown area of our body, literally teeming with trillions of microbes, including bacteria and yeasts, is keeping us alive. Without the bugs we will die. Bacteria in our intestines help to digest our food and convert the food into energy, so that we can do the things we need to do on a daily basis. The bacteria help manufacture vitamins and hormones, aid the absorption and assimilation of nutrients, crowd out pathogenic strains of bacteria and yeasts, as well as help the transit of wastes through our intestines. If this delicate natural ecosystem becomes out of balance, we can develop both organic and functional digestive and bowel disorders, not to mention life-threatening gut infections.
Take a look at your diet
The solution is simple – first, take a look at diet. Include more wholefoods, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, good fats and oils, and fermented foods. For many, this is easier said than done and not always practical. Many of us lead busy, stressful lives and are time-starved, getting home late in the evening, so popping a ready meal in the microwave and washing it down with a glass of wine is the norm.
It is, therefore, of vital importance that we re-populate and re-colonise our intestines with probiotics in powdered capsule form. Every time we’ve had a course of antibiotics, we should be taking a course of probiotics to put back what the antibiotics have destroyed. I’m not ‘antibiotic bashing’. They have saved, and still do save, billions of lives, but there’s a trade-off. Broad-spectrum antibiotics are very effective at killing off the bacteria causing an infection, but they’re also pretty effective at killing off your ‘friendly’ gut bacteria.
If your diet is going through a rough patch, if you’re under stress or you’re feeling run-down and are prone to infections, or you’ve recently had a course of antibiotics, antacids or steroids, then you should be taking a probiotic supplement, a total of at least 8 billion colony forming units of beneficial bacteria as a daily dose, for at least three months. Bear in mind that although your IBS, bloating, abdominal cramps and irregular bowels may well improve, whilst taking a daily multi-strain probiotic, once you stop taking them, you may find your symptoms return, as once your ‘ancestral’ strains of gut bacteria have been eradicated, nothing can bring them back ( p.s Ancestral gut bacteria is the bacteria our gut is colonised with when we are born down the birth canal ( lactobacillus bacteria if born naturally ) from our mother and our mother’s mother etc. ).
Multi-strain live bacteria probiotics help to digest our food, manufacture vitamins and hormones, assist in the absorption and assimilation of nutrients, help ‘crowd’ out ‘unfriendly’ strains of bacteria and yeasts that can cause irritation, inflammation and infection in the gut, including clostridium difficult, a nasty life-threatening gut infection. In my opinion everyone over the age of 50 should be taking a daily multi-strain probiotic, as when you get nearer to 50, your gut micro-biome changes. Taking a digestive enzyme before an over-indulgent meal is also a good idea, as it will help prevent bloating, gas and indigestion after eating, as well as assist absorption of nutrients that declines with age.
I would recommend probiotics and enzymes to anyone who feels run-down, prone to colds and infections and ANY woman who gets regular UTI’s. In order to stimulate gastric secretions and assist digestion I would recommend eating bitter herbs like dandelion leaves/flowers, milk thistle (a great liver tonic), artichokes, fennel, dill, cardamon, lemon balm and ginger root. Gentian is a very effective bitter herb but because it is so bitter, most people can’t tolerate it but it is worth mentioning that it is great for digesting fat.
Just For Tummies, my range of probiotics and natural digestive health supplements, was developped based on my 24 years extensive experience in clinical practice, specialising in natural solutions to digestive and gut disorders and in order to offer some relief to my clients, as many gut problems can be solved quite easily but what also matters is making a difference to one’s quality of life’.
Natural digestive health practitioner & Founder of Just For Tummies