Better Health Starts in Your Gut - Learn How to Master the Mind-Gut Connection

Kowalski's Nutritionist Sue Moores, M.S., R.DAll indications show that digestive health significantly influences overall good health. Yet many of us have some not-so-happy intestines. Kowalski's Nutritionist Sue Moores, M.S., R.D., recently sat down with Dr. Greg Plotnikoff, an internationally honored integrative medicine physician who practices at Allina Health's Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing, to discuss the latest in digestive health.

Sue Moores: It seems that lately more interest is being paid to intestinal health. Why is the health of our intestines becoming a hot topic?

Dr. Plotnikoff: Gut health is the foundation of all health. And gut symptoms are a form of intelligence. If you have any symptoms, your body wants to tell you something important. Can you hear what your body is trying to say? Or is it easier to mask and hide symptoms with medications. There are easily accessible, scientifically grounded, natural methods to achieve optimal health. Good digestion and good nourishment is the best place to start.

Sue Moores: What would people be surprised to learn about their intestinal health?

Dr. Plotnikoff: Our 10 trillion to 100 trillion intestinal bacteria do a great deal of work for us. They produce vitamins for us, digest food for us, even feed us. They can regulate our mood, energy, immune function and, our weight. Under normal conditions, we have a mutually beneficial working relationship. But, any of the five forms of stress – environmental, physical, emotional, pharmaceutical or dietary – can disrupt this positive relationship. The result can be symptoms of imbalance including bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation and gas as well as anxiety, fatigue and weight gain.

Sue Moores: Do you think gut health has changed over the years? If yes, what do you attribute the change to?

Dr. Plotnikoff: Our gut health has worsened over time. We have more children than ever being born by C-section, being bottle-fed and taking strong antibiotics. From even the earliest of ages, people can be deprived of normal, beneficial bacteria. This makes us vulnerable. As I see in clinic every day, the result is a markedly abnormal gut biology and function.

Sue Moores: How much of better gut health is within our personal control and influence?

Dr. Plotnikoff: People can learn to master their mind-gut connection. Anyone who has experienced hunger or nausea knows that they have this connection. People with chronic gut distress have one advantage: they have a built in feedback system. This means that they know when they can take control of this connection and make it work for them.

Sue Moores: What are 3 must-do's for better gut health?

Dr. Plotnikoff: 1) Eat foods every day that are considered prebiotics to encourage and support the growth of beneficial bacteria. These include fermented or cultured foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, cottage cheese and yogurt as well as artichokes, asparagus, leeks, beans, onions and more. And, of course, eat dietary fiber from apples, oranges, celery, beans and other great sources.

2) Eat probiotic foods. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found in cultured foods such as yogurt and increasingly in other food products.

3) Take magnesium oxide, 400 mg for constipation. If it persists, consider the possibility of adverse food reactivity or other causes for digestive problems. A shocking number of people enjoy great gut health just by adding magnesium to their day.

Contributed by Sue Moores, M.S., R.D., Kowalski's Nutritionist.

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