Gut Imbalance & Chronic Disease
This is the final topic for this series, and I will be wrapping up the gut health series by discussing how an imbalanced and unhealthy gut can contribute to chronic disease and chronic inflammation. In this series I have talked in depth about the power the gut has on your overall health and well-being and how when you maintain a healthy and balanced gut microbiome your body benefits. Whereas, when you have an unhealthy gut microbiome a multitude of health issues, such as digestive health issues, skin health issues, cognitive issues, as well as issues with chronic health conditions.
Understanding Chronic Disease
Let me explain what exactly chronic disease is and give you a clear picture as to why preventing chronic disease is so important. Chronic disease is defined as any disease or condition that has been a persistent and ongoing issue for a period of 3 months or longer. Chronic disease cannot be prevented or cured through medication or vaccination. Chronic disease can be hereditary but they can also be caused by lifestyle factors such as diet and activity level.
Examples of chronic disease are arthritis, diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, dementia, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and mood disorders such as bipolar, cyclothymic, and depression. Some risk factors that contribute to chronic disease and can be altered as a preventative tactic against developing the chronic disease are physical inactivity, poor diet and nutrition, excessive calorie consumption, and tobacco use.
Living with a chronic disease can affect you physically, mentally, and socially. You may struggle with chronic pain or managing symptoms, become anxious or depressed, or even struggle with an inability to work or function in social activities and due to managing symptoms of your chronic disease. All in all chronic disease can greatly alter and affect your lifestyle hence why prevention is important.
Understanding Chronic Inflammation
Chronic inflammation can accompany chronic disease or it can be associated with an autoimmune disease. Chronic inflammation is when there is a prolonged inflammatory response within the body that involves a progressive change at the site of inflammation. Chronic inflammation consists of a cycle in which the inflamed tissue will destroy and repair itself as part of the inflammatory process. Chronic low-grade inflammation is a key contributing factor to chronological aging. Examples of chronic inflammatory diseases are fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel disease, lupus, Hashimoto’s disease, endometriosis, Polycystic ovarian syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
The symptoms associated with the inflammatory response generated by the chronic inflammation can cause pain and discomfort and affect your life on a physical and social life since flare-ups can cause you to not participate in activities. Depression and anxiety also accompany chronic inflammatory conditions due to chronic pain and discomfort. Finding ways to prevent chronic inflammation through lifestyle changes can prevent this.
How Gut Imbalance Contributes to Chronic Health Conditions
Gut imbalance or gut dysbiosis is defined as a lack of beneficial bacteria in the GI tract and an overabundance of nonbeneficial bacteria. These nonbeneficial bacteria interfere with digestion and cause intestinal inflammation that damages the gut lining and leads to common digestive issues such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), leaky gut syndrome, and IBS. Reasons as to how an imbalanced gut contributes to chronic health conditions have to do with x common factors. Poor nutrition, a decline in healthy gut flora and overgrowth of unhealthy gut flora, and chronic low-grade inflammation in the gut.
Consuming a diet that consists of heavily processed, high fat, and high sugar foods impact the health of the gut. These foods typically do not contain the essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory ingredients that are needed to maintain health. In fact, overconsumption of these foods leads to the body getting an excess of the ingredients it doesn’t need as well as an excessive amount of calories. These foods actually overtake the gut and kill off the healthy bacteria and move in the unhealthy bacteria. This dysbiosis that is created causes digestive issues which impair the body from receiving its nutrients properly and leads to inflammation occurring in the GI tract that causes the intestinal lining to become damaged and more permeable. Since the majority of the nutrients the body needs are absorbed through the intestines there are a lot of organs, and cells that are receiving the proper nutrients they need to function and thrive properly.
A decline in Healthy Gut Flora
Following a poor diet will lead to the healthy gut flora becoming less present in the gut microbiome. In addition to following a poor diet not consuming probiotic-rich foods or including a probiotic supplement as part of your healthy lifestyle has an impact on how much of the healthy gut bacteria you have present. Not eating enough fiber also affects the gut flora. Fiber is considered a prebiotic and works to feed the probiotics to help them grow and reproduce. The traditional American diet is low in fiber and probiotic rich food sources. You will typically find probiotics in fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, and apple cider vinegar. Fibrous foods such as bananas, apples, raspberries, carrots, and beets all contain fiber.
Chronic Low-Grade Inflammation
It’s all a domino effect. Poor nutrition leads to a reduction in healthy gut flora and overproduction of unhealthy gut flora which causes the unhealthy gut bacteria to begin to erode or chip away at the intestinal lining leading to an inflammatory response in the gut. This inflammatory response affects the body as a whole and decreases the body’s ability to function due to the fact that it’s in attack mode.
Start with Nutrition and Heal Your Gut
Nutrition is the backbone to everything, and healing your gut can benefit your overall health in a variety of ways. Transitioning to a whole, minimally processed diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, fermented foods, supplementing with probiotics, and consuming gut healing foods such as bone broth and collagen powder can help to transform your gut microbiome and get it back on the right path.
Increasing your activity levels has been shown to help decrease chronic disease and cause slight improvements to the gut microbiome. Implementing cardio into your fitness regimen 3 times a week for 30-60 minutes and including a balance resistance based program will keep you fit and healthy.
Lifestyle & Wellness Changes
Focus on living a healthy lifestyle that includes reducing bad habits such as smoking, not getting enough sleep, taking a multi-vitamin/multi-mineral, and managing stress effectively.
Prevention is Key!
As with all areas of health and wellness focusing on the ways you can make changes in your daily life no matter how small in the beginning are important for you to see widespread changes in your health and well-being. And if you find yourself managing a chronic health condition or chronic inflammatory condition know that it is not too late! You can make changes to your nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle and can greatly improve and manage your chronic health condition.
If you want to learn more about how you can prevent chronic health issues or if you want to learn how you can manage your chronic health condition take the time to schedule your FREE Discover Session with me. Take the first step towards creating a better and healthier future, and finding out if Wellness Coaching can help you create that healthy lifestyle that you crave.
Buford, W. Thomas (Dis)Trust Your Gut: the gut microbiome in age-related inflammation, health, and disease July 14, 2007 https://microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-017-0296-0
Carding, Simon; Verbeke, Kristin; Vipond, T. Daniel; Corfe, M. Bernard; Owen, J. Lauren Dysbiosis of the Gut Microbiota in Disease Februrary 2, 2015: U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315779/