Healthy Living

Why Is Gut Microbiota Important for Health?

Most of the nutrients and energy that your body needs are obtained from the food that you eat. So, it should go without saying that your digestive system, and especially your gut health or more specifically your gut microbiota, is incredibly important. Your gut plays a crucial role in maintaining your entire body’s health, from digesting your food to distributing the nutrients to making you feel happy.

Your gut is full of microbes, which are essential to the body’s immune, metabolic, and neurobehavioral functions. The collective community of microorganisms in the gut is called microbiota.

When gut microbes are in balance, that is, existing in proper ratios to one another, they are the good guys, helping you with digestion, immunity, and removing toxins from your system.

However, too much of any of them and you are going to be sick.

Gut microbiota starts to develop at birth and evolves throughout your entire life. Each person has a unique gut microbiota, which determines how their system fights infections and diseases, digests food, and even feels emotions or acts a certain way. It is affected by several factors, particularly diet and drugs.

Photo of a microscope over a photo of the gut. Looks at gut microbiota.

Gut Microbiota

Here are the essential functions of gut microbes:

+ Gut microbiota helps you break down food and absorb nutrients.

Have you ever wondered how your stomach digests food? Well, that’s thanks to the bacteria present in your intestines. Gut microbiota affects your metabolism, helping you break down complex molecular compositions from the meat and vegetables that you eat.

+ It affects your immune functions.

You first get microbes from your mother’s cervix during birth, which is the initial point that your body learns to respond to microbes and potentially disease-causing organisms. It is called adaptive immunity. When microbe ingestion is disrupted early on, it can be linked to allergies and autoimmune conditions.

+ Gut microbiota impacts your psychological functions.

Would you believe that your gut health can affect your mood and behavior? Gut microbiota is actually called the “second brain.” As your gut microbiota breaks down molecules from the food you eat, it triggers nerve functions, the release of hormones, and cognitive function. An imbalance can lead to bad moods, anxiety, poor quality of sleep, and depression, among others.

+ It can help you fight disease.

One of the most important functions of your gut microbiota is helping you prevent and fight diseases. With a balanced composition of bacteria, you are protected against infections and illnesses. However, when the harmony is disturbed, it can lead to various gut conditions, such as inflammatory bowel diseases, ulcerative colitis, indigestion, and metabolic syndrome.

What Makes Gut Microbiota Get Out Of Balance?

Gut microbiota can be disturbed by different factors, such as poor diet, stress, antibiotics, lack of sleep, drinking too much alcohol, and some drugs. Processed and unhealthy foods can affect your gut health, which is why it is important to be aware of the consequences of what you eat and drink.

Repeated use of antibiotics can kill some of the good bacteria in your gut, causing an imbalance that impacts other body functions, such as metabolism.

Studies have confirmed the link between gut health and diseases and conditions. Some of these are diabetes, obesity, malnutrition, eczema, cancer, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis, among others.

What Can You Do To Keep Your Gut Healthy?

Given the important role that gut microbiota plays in your overall well-being, it is crucial to keep it healthy.

There are many ways you can do so, and the first and foremost is being mindful of what you eat. If you are regularly indulging in sweets and processed foods, a far healthier option is to swap them for whole and fiber-rich foods. Adding prebiotic-rich foods and probiotics to your diet will also be helpful to your gut health.

Aside from the food that you put into your stomach, it is also essential to engage in regular exercise, get enough sleep, and reduce your stress, or learn to manage it better. Given the uniqueness of each person’s gut microbiota, your nutritional needs may vary, and your optimal diet may have to be tailored to your gut microbiota. For instance, you may be allergic or intolerant to some foods, such as dairy, grains, or gluten.

There’s more to your digestive system than breaking down the foods that you eat to give your body the energy it needs to function. It is important to keep your gut healthy to maintain and improve your overall well-being.

For more tips that impact your digestive system, read How To Improve Gut Health.

11 More Candida Diet Approved Snack Ideas and Recipes (that are easy & delicious!)

Finding snacks that are healthy and comply with the Candida diet can be tricky.

If you are feeling hunger pangs between meals, need to eat more, or are losing weight on the Candida diet then snacking is a must.

Here are some more recipes and snack ideas that I hope will help you while on a Candida diet or if you’re just wanting to eat healthier snacks.

The popularity of my other post with 20 snack ideas nudged me to make this post since so many of you are searching for ideas.

My favorite snack is the Crunchy Almond Energy Balls (see recipe below). They are a healthy alternative to chocolate with great health benefits.

They are rich in healthy fats from coconut oil and hemp seeds and will keep you satiated until your next meal. Plus they are high in protein so no sugar crash later.

I hope you find something here that suits your taste buds and will make your health adventure easier!

Crunchy Almond Energy Balls on Tray

1.Apple Donut.  No, not really a donut (sorry) — but it’s quite delicious. 

Core an apple. Slice apple into rounds that resemble a donut and top with your favorite nut butter

You can even make a sandwich out of it by putting the nut butter between two slices of apple rounds.  

Tip #1 – Choose more tart apples like Jonagold or Granny Smith since they are lower in carbs.

Tip #2 – If you’re in the beginning stages of the Candida diet you may want to avoid fruits for a period of time and then reintroduce lower sugar fruits like berries and low carb apples in small quantities.

2. Cucumber Rolls.  Thinly slice cucumbers into long slices that you can then use to roll toppings inside. 

Use toppings such as tuna/salmon salad, cherry tomatoes, guacamole, whatever your heart desires. 

These are great little bite-sized snacks for when hunger strikes.

3. EatingEVOLVED Coconut Butter Cups

These original coconut butter cups are my favorite since they have simple easy-to-digest ingredients and a smooth creamy texture and taste.

Oh, and they are only 1 net carb per cup!

Tip: During the hot summer months be sure to keep them in the fridge or the freezer or you’ll have a melted mess!

4. Crunchy Almond Energy Balls

5. Healthy Homemade Chocolate

6. Super-Simple Coconut Milk Yogurt (dairy-free probiotic)

7. Marinated Artichoke Hearts

8. Zucchini Pizza Bites

9. Lemon Kale Chips

10. Celery sticks with almond butter or sunbutter

It’s an oldy but a goody…I’m always amazed at how this simple snack tastes so good with the salty crunch of the celery and the smooth creaminess of the almond butter. If you haven’t eaten this is a long time or not a fan of celery try this combo and see if your taste buds thank you.

11. Coconut Chips

These chips are lightly salted yet sweet and crunchy. Eat them as is or add to a trail mix, sprinkle on your nut butter and apples, add to your chia seed pudding, or anything else that suits your fancy!

Be sure to check out my other popular post with even more Candida diet-approved snack ideas: 20 Candida Diet Approved Snack Ideas (that are easy and delicious!).

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Healthy chocolate bark on white table.

What Is Candida & How & Why Does It Present Itself

Candida is a type of yeast responsible for a number of health problems.

Candida is actually short for Candida Albicans which is normally present in small amounts in the intestines, mouth, and skin.

Let’s take a look at how Candida can become a problem and common symptoms and side effects.

How does Candida become a problem?

If Candida is a fungus-like bacteria that are naturally present in the body, how does it become a problem?

The problem actually arises when Candida overgrows.

Things that cause imbalances in the body leading to Candida overgrowth include but are not limited to eating a diet high in refined sugar and carbs, taking oral contraceptives, taking antibiotics, high alcohol intake, diabetes, a weakened immune system, and high-stress levels.

Causes of Candida

Candida overgrowth causes a number of problems. These problems range from vaginal infections to digestive disorders, fatigue, headaches, hormonal imbalances, and weight gain.

So we know that Candida causes a number of problems. However, what causes Candida to overgrow in the first place?

One of the most common causes of Candida overgrowth is a compromised immune system. People with HIV/Aids can be particularly susceptible.

Young children and the elderly are also susceptible. However, if you’ve been sick and dealing with other illnesses, you can also be susceptible to Candida overgrowth.

For example, people fighting cancer or diabetes can be particularly susceptible to Candida overgrowth.

One common cause of Candida as it relates to previous illness is the prescription of antibiotics.

Antibiotics kill bacteria including the good bacteria that help balance your body and your digestive system. This means antibiotics can have a direct influence on Candida overgrowth.

Another common cause of Candida overgrowth is actually quite simple to reverse.

Candida grows naturally in the gut. However, if you have infrequent bowel movements and become constipated, you’re giving Candida fuel to grow.

Candida thrives in moist, dark environments like your intestines.

If you’re unable to completely process the food you’ve eaten you’re also providing Candida bacteria with a food source.

To reverse this process, eat plenty of fiber so you clean your digestive tract and eliminate the food source Candida needs.

One of the most common causes of Candida overgrowth in the average individual is a diet that is high in sugar.

There is some controversy surrounding this however many sufferers have found that simply changing their dietary habits and lifestyle virtually eliminate Candida overgrowth from their life.

This is because Candida thrives on sugar. If you eliminate sugar from your diet you subsequently starve Candida.

It’s purged from your body and then you can resume a normal diet that is high in protein, fiber, fruits and vegetables, and low in sugar.

Finally, because your immune system is affected by a number of factors, your lifestyle can play an important role in your Candida recovery.

Things like stress, depression, nutrient deficiency, and simply hormonal imbalances can cause Candida to grow. Personal hygiene also plays a role in some Candida cases.

Candida overgrowth has a number of causes.

If you suffer from frequent Candida overgrowth problems, assess your lifestyle and diet, and see your doctor.

Treating the symptoms will provide immediate relief and treating the cause will provide lifelong relief.

You don’t have to suffer from Candida overgrowth. Understand the causes and learn what’s behind your Candida symptoms.

Live Candida free!

Like yeast or other fungi, Candida thrives on sugar and lives in warm dark environments.

This means places like your stomach, genitals, mouth and even your eyes can be hospitable environments for Candida.

Candida can actually become systemic meaning it is present throughout your entire body. It takes over your organs and invades your bloodstream. When this happens, death is a real risk.

Notice I mentioned that Candida thrives on sugar. There is real evidence that poor dietary habits, or diets high in sugar, tend to cause Candida overgrowth.

This is great news for people who suffer from overgrowth symptoms. Often a change in diet will alleviate the problem.

So what problems arise from Candida Overgrowth?

The most common symptoms of Candida overgrowth are yeast or vaginal infections.

The data tells us that about three in four women suffer from a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their life.

Yeast infections are exhibited by irritation in the vaginal area, whitish discharge and inflammation, and itching.

Treatment is generally over the counter though your doctor can prescribe medication as well.

However, if you’re susceptible to Candida overgrowth then you’re likely to see a recurrence unless you change your habits and lifestyle.

Oral thrush is a common sign of Candida overgrowth. It’s commonly seen in babies and children and presents as a white almost cottage cheesy coating in the mouth, tongue, and throat.

Generally, mild antifungals are prescribed and habits are assessed. For mothers of nursing babies, dietary changes may be required.

Candida also presents as skin infections. It can affect folds of the skin where it is dark and moist or it can affect the surface of the skin depending on the individual. It’s caused again by overgrowth and a weakened immune system.

Candida skin rashes vary from person to person and there are many types of Candida skin rashes. One of the most common is diaper rash. Treatment is a topical antifungal.

Candida Albicans overgrowth causes a number of problems ranging from basic but extremely uncomfortable vaginal infections and skin infections to digestive disorders, fatigue, weight gain, and hormonal imbalances.

If you suffer from chronic yeast infections treat the symptoms but also take measures to treat the cause.

Dietary and lifestyle changes can make a dramatic difference in your overall health.

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Candida Diet Dessert Recipe: Unsweetened Carob Chips

Looking for a Candida diet dessert recipe that will satisfy your sweet cravings?

Here’s the perfect little treat to do just that. These Carob chips are rich, creamy and taste great. Bonus: they are healthy for you!

I have a confession…I am a chocoholic.

The problem? Many years ago I did an Elisa test that tested my blood for food intolerances and chocolate was on the “avoid” list.

This meant that my body was reacting negatively to all the delicious chocolate I was eating.

“How in the world am I going to live without chocolate!” was my first thought after receiving the news.

This was many years ago and I didn’t completely stop eating chocolate. My mind took over and told me it’s really not that big of a deal.

The chocolate-eating saga continued and so did the suffering.

After years of struggling with Candida, the chocolate had to go. I finally took control and brought my gut back into balance.

Does this sound like you? Are you having a hard time stopping the chocolate binges and cravings?

I had to come up with alternatives that would help me through the sugar and chocolate withdrawals.

That’s when I found carob. I was thrilled to find something that was similar to chocolate but wouldn’t harm my body.

Unsweetened Carob chips on a plate.

A lot of people don’t like carob and I can see why. If you are a chocolate lover then carob is probably going to be a letdown.

I found that once you stop eating foods like chocolate and sugary treats your taste buds change within about 2-3 weeks and then you feel satisfied with carob’s rich “chocolate-like” flavor.

As you introduce alternative foods into your diet you end up really liking the new foods after a period of time and won’t want to go back to the other unhealthy foods.

Plus there are many health benefits that come with eating carob.

Carob is caffeine and fat-free, free of a migraine-triggering compound and has twice the amount of calcium compared to cocoa

Cocoa, on the other hand, is high in sodium and fat, can trigger migraines for some people and contains oxalic acid, which interferes with calcium absorption.

Carob is also a source of Vitamin A, B2, B3, B6, and the minerals, copper, calcium, manganese, potassium, magnesium, zinc and selenium.

You will need to test for yourself to see how you react to carob. I would start with a small amount and see if you have any issues with it.

These little chips are perfect as an after-meal treat to quell those sugar cravings.

You can add them to any recipe that calls for chocolate chips. Also, try them on sugar-free ice cream or with a spoonful of almond butter. Yum.

Have you tried Carob? Did it take a while for your taste buds to adjust?

Other Candida diet desserts and articles you might like:

Sugar-free Coconut Cupcakes

Candida Diet Approved Sweeteners

20 Candida Diet-Friendly Snacks

Unsweetened Carob chips on a plate.

How To Improve Gut Health

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” 

Our gut plays a huge role in our overall health

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think.

And we’re not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We’re talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies. 

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It’s here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body.

We’re just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of “the gut-brain axis”). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health. 

 

So, let’s talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I’ll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally. 

 

Our gut’s role in our overall health 

 

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out. 

This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places. 

For one thing, our guts can “leak.” Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins).

You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it’s not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can “leak.”

When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don’t seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there. 

 

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut. 

 

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health. 

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients.

They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar. 

 

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health! 

 

Belly photo with cartoon bugs.

How to improve gut health 

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health.

Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with.

How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels. 

 

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.  

By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption.

These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colorful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish. 

The second pillar of gut health is our microbes.

By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet. 

 

Want to make your own fermented recipe that’s easy, delicious and is healthy for your gut? Check out the recipe below.

 

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed the friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao. 

 

And don’t forget the extremely important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, dealing with stress, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function. 

In a nutshell 

The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes. 

The main way to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, alcohol, dairy, and grains. 

Here’s a recipe to help nourish and support your gut health:

 

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Woman's hands forming heart over her stomach.

References: 

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health
http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

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