Whenever you are working with homeopathy, it is also useful to consider the health of the digestive system. As Hippocrates said: “All disease begins in the gut” so this applies to all systemic illnesses and conditions, but is especially relevant when considering digestive issues, asthma, allergies, skin conditions and auto-immune diseases. I am a homeopath, not a nutritionist or naturopath, but I’ve learnt a lot about gut dysbiosis and will condense some of that information into this introduction to gut health.
The digestive system is an important component of the immune system – being considered external to the body and a primary source of either support or contamination (along with the respiratory system). As well as occupying space (which prevents pathogens from establishing), beneficial gut flora supports the body in many ways including gently boosting antibodies, aiding digestion, regulating metabolism and producing or synthesising vitamins.
Gut flora, living mainly in the colon or large intestine, literally has ‘a life of its own’ and interacts with your body and mind according to whether it is compatible or not (although even generally beneficial or benign flora may negatively affect your health if you are run down or unwell). Gut dysbiosis has become increasingly common. This means that harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites compete with or outnumber the healthy population of beneficial micro-organisms.
Harmful flora creates a toxic environment in the colon that wreaks havoc on the digestive system, immune system, nervous system and general health. Researchers relate conditions as wide-ranging as allergies, hormone imbalances, obesity, autism and Parkinson’s disease to imbalances in gut flora. Severe vaccine reactions may also be primarily due to the toxicity of the vaccine being an additional assault to a child already suffering from gut dysbiosis. It is thought that particular food cravings may actually be your ‘guests’ letting you know that they need a specific food (to survive or thrive) and that overwhelming feelings of anxiety could be due in part to chemical waste products from harmful micro-organisms.
The make-up of gut bacteria is very individual. The gut is populated with flora at birth, either as the baby makes its way through the birth canal during a vaginal birth (or in the hospital environment following a caesarian birth), from the initial breast or bottle feeding and from the baby’s initial environment. Other areas of the body such as the mouth, skin, armpits and vagina are also populated in the days following birth.
The baby who has had a natural birth is not necessarily going to have a healthy gut. It is thought that gut flora has generally degraded over the generations and the mother’s donating flora is not likely to be as healthy or diverse as her great-grandmother’s was. This is likely to be due to the change in diet, increased use of antibiotics (along with other medications), environmental toxins and hazards, chemicals/procedures used in the production and preservation of food, anti-bacterial cleaning/hygiene products etc. - and no doubt GMO.
For many of us, our diet is disconnected from what our body needs. We eat for pleasure or out of convenience, addiction or habit, rather than to provide nutrition for our body. Sometimes, even when we eat a healthy diet, our gut is so impaired that we cannot absorb nutrients or, for example, excessively large particles of food are taken in through a leaky gut, creating an immune response, inflammation and increasing the likelihood of allergic responses such as hay fever.
Once we are aware that our gut is unhealthy (along with associated mental or physical symptoms or conditions), it can be very confusing to try to work out how to bring it back into balance. Along with a consultation with your homeopath, it is essential to see your GP to ensure that you do not have a condition such as Crohn’s, Coeliac Disease, Bowel Cancer or Ulcerative Colitis etc. However, a GP or specialist may find nothing wrong with the gut and yet symptoms persist.
Often experts totally disagree about crucial aspects of nutrition and gut health. The most important approach to gut health is to find out what works for you. Everyone is different - many people find that a paleo diet soothes their digestive and associated issues; some may need to also avoid eggs, shellfish, salicylates, vegetables in the nightshade family or FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides & Polyols - or short chain carbohydrates or sugars that are indigestible for some people with gut issues and so ferment in the gut and cause issues); while a smaller group find a raw, vegetarian or vegan diet best (which must be very carefully constructed to ensure adequate nutrition, especially at times of greater nutritional need such as puberty or pregnancy). What works for one person may be disastrous for another. See a naturopath or nutritionist or, if money is limited, research online and at your local library.
Lastly, changing the way you eat and introducing healthy habits can be very difficult. Some people are forced, due to severe ill health, exhaustion or depletion, to make huge changes to their diet and lifestyle. When it comes to the gut, however, every little bit helps. Every small gut-supportive change you make will help your overall health and happiness. Notice what makes your gut feel good and what foods lead to bloating or diarrhoea etc. Small, steady steps add up to great strides over time. Work out what you need to do in order to support yourself or your children and make a start to introducing changes.
From an article I first published in Homoeopathica Magazine, NZ, Spring 2014