Viewing entries tagged
improve gut health

Comment

Humans Are Pooping Plastic

karina-tes-1228178-unsplash.jpg

Got your attention? Thought so. 😉

If you’re thinking, What does poop have to do with food allergies? First, food allergies affect our health and diet, which implicates our digestive tract. Number two, research is increasingly looking to the gut for answers around the rise in food allergies. For these reasons, we thought the topic was a-poo-priate. 💩

This past summer, Austrian researchers reported that the deluge of plastic entering our environment is now entering our stool. That’s right—plastic has been discovered in 114 aquatic species90% of seabirds, and now, evidently, in us. 

As part of this first-of-its-kind study, researchers followed eight volunteers from a handful of European countries, tracked their consumption habits, and then sampled their stool. Small fibers of plastic—known as microplastics—were found in all participants’ feces to varying degrees, amounting to the first documentation of plastic in human feces to date. The findings confirmed what many scientists have long suspected: we’re eating plastic.

Scientists are now grappling with the health implications, which are largely unknown. Microplastics are capable of damaging the reproductive and gastrointestinal systems in sea life, but little is known about their impact on humans.

On average, 13 billion microplastic particles enter US waterways every day through the municipal water supply. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year. The latter bulk of plastic gets broken down into smaller bits, which are eaten by smaller organisms, and make their way up the food chain.

How does this relate to the food allergy and intolerance community? 

First, we know that immune health is closely tied to food allergies and intolerances. Experts have found that plastic in the gut can suppress the immune system and increase the likelihood of gastrointestinal diseases like inflammatory bowel disease. Second, research has shown that exposure to phthalates, which are found in many plastics, can increase childhood risk of allergies. According to the lead researcher of the study, Dr. Philipp Schwabi: “[my] primary concern is the human impact… especially [on] patients with gastrointestinal diseases.” He notes that “the smallest particles are capable of entering the bloodstream, the lymphatic system and may even reach the liver.”

While research on the human impact of plastic is still early, one thing is clear: plastic may be harming our immune systems, which could potentially implicate our body’s ability to tolerate and digest certain foods.

We’re eating our waste—that much is clear. Now the question is, what are we going to do about it? 

-      Abi and the Allergy Amulet Team 

Comment

Comment

Four Easy Steps to Improve Gut Health

We’ve all heard the saying “You are what you eat.” Though true, a more accurate saying would be “You are what you digest and absorb.” The difference is in the gut. Gut health is essential to whole-body health. Over 50% percent of our immune cells reside in the intestines (a component of the gut), which means that the food and bacteria that enter that space have a huge impact on our immune system.

Before we discuss strategies to improve gut health, here’s a crash course on the gut:

The gut (gastrointestinal tract) is the long tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the rectum (see image). It is lined with millions of cells which act as a barrier between the food we ingest and our bloodstream. A weakened lining (intestinal permeability) allows food particles to enter the bloodstream, which can trigger an immune response, including an allergic reaction. This response is different from one triggered by a food intolerance, which instead affects the body’s ability to digest food.  

The correlation between gut health and food allergies is still largely unknown. However, a growing body of research suggests that gut health and food allergies are closely intertwined. 

What IS clear is that gut health plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Accordingly, below are four steps you can take to improve your gut health.

1.     Add bone broth to your diet.

You can help maximize gut nutrient absorption and preserve the integrity of the gut barrier by consuming glutamine-rich foods like bone broth. There are many healing nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties in bone broth such as glutamine. Glutamine is an anti-inflammatory nutrient known for its role in gut healing. Bone broth also contains minerals in a form the body can easily absorb.

The thought of making bone broth is intimidating to many, but the process is surprisingly simple. Plus bones are not hard to find! Tips and recipe here.

2.     Consume probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods.

The gut microbiome stores all bacteria in the large intestine. These bacteria feed off of the food and fiber we eat. Probiotics are the actual bacteria in the gut, whereas prebiotics are the foods that feed those bacteria.

How does bacteria relate to food allergies? Good bacteria help regulate inflammatory responses in the gut (like an allergic reaction). These bacteria teach our immune system how to tolerate dietary proteins and other allergens in the environment. For example, research has shown that certain strains of bacteria in the Clostridia family may desensitize individuals to food allergens.  

Probiotic-rich foods include: sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha, miso, tempeh, and dairy sources (kefir, yogurt, cottage cheese) that say “contains live cultures.”

Prebiotic-rich foods include: asparagus, garlic, legumes, flaxseed, onion, leeks, chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, leafy greens, oats, and potatoes (cooked with a slight crunch left).

3.     Avoid microbe killers and digestion disruptors.

If you were walking barefoot and stepped on a sharp woodchip that got stuck in your foot, what is the first thing you would do? Would you remove the woodchip or would you add ointment and a bandage? No-brainer, right? You’d remove the woodchip. So, when it comes to gut health, we need to first start by removing those foods from our diet that harm the gut. This means different things for different people. Research has shown that for some individuals, gluten, dairy, eggs, or soy can trigger gut inflammation—even without symptoms. Others may experience symptoms after ingesting certain foods like citrus, chocolate, or MSG. Depending on the person, the process of identifying which foods may be harming your gut varies. Many people maintain a healthy gut simply by avoiding processed foods. The synthetic ingredients found in most processed foods are generally harmful to gut health. Beyond that, to identify which individual foods may be affecting your gut and immune system, it is helpful to get an individual assessment from a dietitian, nutritionist, or healthcare provider who practices integrative or functional medicine.

To keep the gut microbiome healthy, it also helps to avoid frequent antibiotic and antacid use. Though antibiotics kill bad bacteria, they also kill the good, leaving our gut ill-equipped to do its job. And make sure to always consume probiotics during and after antibiotic use.

4.     Stick to real food!

Unfortunately, our modern diet tends to be packed with junk food. Processed foods, refined sugars, and artificial ingredients wreak havoc on our gut. By consuming whole foods on a daily basis (this is especially important for kids), the gut not only gets the fiber it needs to feed the good bacteria, but also gets a boatload of micronutrients to fuel the immune system.

Recipes and guides here!

 

This guest post was written by Robyn Johnson: MS, RDN, and LD—Integrative Dietitian Nutritionist.

 

Comment