Your inside/outside barrier
Your gut mucosal lining is the barrier between your inside and the outside world, pivotal in nutrient absorption, as well as host to immune system and detoxification enzymes. In other words, your gut lining is a big deal! Many people are now familiar with terms such as ‘leaky gut’ and how we need to ‘heal the gut’, and this is what those terms refer to.
The epithelial cells that line the gut, are actually some of the fastest cells to renew in our body. So why are we told that healing the gut takes a long time? It has less to do with the healing and more to do with the correction of imbalances and perpetuating metabolic cycles, that are underlying the problem in the first place. The healing itself - well the body can take care of that, given the right circumstances. A very comforting thought indeed.
Why the bloat?
For many, bloating after meals has to do with bacteria that has translocated upwards in the gastrointestinal tract where it doesn’t belong (SIBO). The causes are many, a perpetual slow transit or low levels or hydrochloric acid (often due to stress) are common. The bacteria attacks carbohydrates (FODMAPs diet principle) food before being digested, causing a bacterial fermentation, much in the way of other fermented foods we’re familiar with such as alcohol. When this happens, there can be severe bloating, wind and exacerbated diarrhoea or constipation.
What went wrong anyway?
At some point in the earlier decades we started changing the way we ate. In response to the low fat high sugar hysteria and the inevitable loss of blood sugar control that ensued, we were firmly told to keep grazing, as a measure to address the symptom of poor glucose control (note – this deals with the symptoms but does not address the cause, in fact it makes it worse). We took this fantastic new message to ‘eat all the time’ onboard wholeheartedly, and snacking was truly born!
What to do about it?
So this is where I tell you that good bit - the, what do I do about it?
1. First and foremost, with SIBO or in fact often in IBS in general, you need to really keep on top of elimination, making sure that ‘output meets the input’ every day. This always needs to be addressed first.
2. Secondly, we need to give our hard-working gut a break.
So the gut, much like humans, animals and organisms, needs an on and off switch. As an example, we could not maintain non-stop energy without sufficient rest and repair.
Metabolising and digesting is a wearing exercise, and we need time for essential repair and maintenance.
The big break = the big clean up
So this is the amazing bit. Our gut actually carries out a total clean-up and repair operation every time we stop eating for long enough. Isn’t that amazing? The migrating motor complex as its termed, is a cleansing wave that moves matter, including bacteria, from the small intestine and into the colon where it belongs. This occurs every three to five hours whilst ‘fasting’, however, the process is immediately interrupted by food entering the stomach in anticipation of an incoming meal. Interestingly enough, this peristaltic action sweeps the lumen (the space inside the intestine) clean as it advances. It happens even when we’re asleep.
The protocol – how do we do this?
Leaving a minimum of three to five hours between meals will really help, however what I strongly advocate is night time effortless fasting. What this means is, eating your last meal (anything other than water) five hours before going to bed. If you're looking to lose a bit of weight and reduce sugar cravings, throw in an extended fast in the morning too, making the total break 13-15 hours (you may have to go slow if you have poor glucose control), which will magically improve your insulin sensitivity, reduce weight and save you the pain of fasting days. Pretty effortless!