Of all the things I learned while attending the three-day Institute of Functional Medicine Conference in Hollywood, and I learned a lot, the overriding message was take care of your gut.
Functional Medicine’s practice goal is to determine how and why illness occurs and restore health by addressing the root causes of disease. The relationship between the patient and the practitioner is a partnership. The practice is evidence and science based. Functional medicine practitioners include physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, registered dietitians and other healthcare professionals. Treatment provided by a Functional Medicine practitioner is multi- faceted and always has a food/nutritional component and usually addresses the gut. To learn more about Functional Medicine and find a practitioner, go to www.ifm.org.
Speaker Terri Wahls, MD, exemplifies this approach. She has multiple sclerosis, and after her diagnosis followed traditional treatment and continued to get worse. She was in a wheelchair. She hit the medical and biochemistry journals and through her own research came up with nutritional interventions to complement what she was doing.
She eats nine cups of vegetables a day: three dark green, three sulfur containing and three with deep color. She now walks, bikes and lectures all over the country. For more on Wahls and her approach go to terrywahls.com
So why is the gut so central to healing? Our gut microbiome contains 100 times more genes than our human genome and is changed by what we eat. A well-balanced gut influences mood, vitamin absorption, digestive health, the immune system and probably more functions soon to be discovered. Clues that you might need a gut tune up are frequent bloating, gas, abdominal pain and cramping or persistent reflux and diarrhea or constipation.
These are tips to feed and maintain a balanced gut environment:
- Reduce/eliminate sugar and highly refined carbohydrates.
- Eat more fiber from whole grains, dark green and other vegetables, fruits.
- Try some fermented foods such as kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut, miso.
- Reduce stress and sleep enough.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.