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Gut Feeling - the importance of good gut health

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Pharmacist Sam Patel discusses gut health, why it’s so important, and his own journey to get the balance right.

Our gut is at the centre of good health, digesting food and allowing nutrients to pass into our body. As more research is emerging we are learning that our gut plays a role in many health conditions we are dealing with today, from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to arthritis.

Gut health is especially important to me as I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 19. After following conventional advice I trialled nutritional medicine and found that by following a gut-healing protocol and improving my diet by removing certain irritating foods, my gut had the chance to recover. I was so inspired by the improvement in my own health that I went on to study with the Australian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine.

During my early studies I was taught to increase good fats and avoid sugar. Now this message is widespread and I’m so excited to see what the future holds and how, with education, we can change our health for the better.

Hemaview live blood analysis is a screening tool I use in my clinic. It involves taking a pin prick of blood from a patient and putting the blood sample under a microscope. The screening reveals things like the health of your red blood cells. I can also detect inflammation, oxidation – damage by free radicals, and leaky gut.

I often see leaky gut. Sometimes patients will tell me they have mild bloating, reflux pain, diarrhoea or constipation. Our digestive tract grinds food up and only allows what is important through, like a filter. If it does a good job our body only allows nutrients it needs; think of the body as only wanting to drink consommé (clear soup).

However, if our gut health is out of balance we can end up with undigested food, toxins, bacteria and waste added in to our consommé. Mother Nature is so clever it imagined this might happen from time to time, so we have many lymph nodes around our gut that recognise these foreign particles and mount an immune response to get rid of them.

Once the threat is dealt with our immune system goes back to normal. However, if constant threats are passing through our gut, our immune system contintinues to mount immune responses every day. This constant war in our gut drains resources and also creates a lot of inflammation: we might find we take longer to clear a cold or recover from an injury. As many diseases are linked to inflammation, this makes focusing on our gut even more important.

Not many pharmacists will offer a Hemaview however you can get a coeliac test done at many Unichem and Life Pharmacies. While this test will tell you whether you have markers for coeliac disease, it specifically tests for antibodies coeliac sufferers produce when they consume gluten. Your Pharmacist will discuss your results with you and may refer you to another healthcare professional if required.