Increasingly we are realizing that gut health can affect the entire body. From your immune system to digestion to brain health and sleep patterns, your gut microbiota affects it all. The trillions of fungi, bacteria, and microorganisms work hard to keep you healthy.
The good bacteria in your gut keep your immune system from attacking healthy cells, help your body absorb nutrients, and defend it against pathogens that cause illness. However, harmful bacteria also make a home in your gut. Although your good gut bacteria usually keep them in check, sometimes the balance shifts in their direction, and you may suffer from gut dysbiosis.
While you may expect gut issues to lead to digestive problems such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), they can also lead to issues such as insulin resistance and liver diseases.
The Role of Gut Microbiota and Insulin Resistance
Made by the pancreas, insulin is a hormone that plays a role in many bodily processes. It helps glucose move from your blood into cells in your fat, muscles, and liver so that it can be used for energy. We generally get insulin from the food we eat, although the liver can make insulin when needed. After you eat your blood sugar, or glucose, levels rise and your pancreas releases insulin to lower your blood sugar and keep it in the normal range.
What Is Insulin Resistance?
That’s why problems with insulin are often at the heart of many health conditions. More than 32.2% of the U.S. population have insulin resistance, a condition where the cells stop responding to insulin. When this happens, the pancreas will make more insulin so that glucose can enter your cells. As long as the pancreas can produce enough insulin to make up for your cells’ weak insulin response, your blood sugar will still be in the healthy range.
Gut Microbiota and Insulin Resistance
We’ve known for a while that insulin resistance is mainly influenced by a positive balance between food intake and energy expenditure. During the past five years, however, the role of gut microbiota in insulin resistance has been identified. The gut microbiota can be changed by diet, medications such as antibiotics, and by genetic factors. Changes in the balance of the gut’s microbiota, can cause inflammation that worsens insulin resistance along with other metabolic problems.
How to Improve Insulin Resistance with Diet
Diet and lifestyle choices can increase the risks of insulin resistance, or they can reduce these risks. Making certain changes to your diet may reduce the risk of insulin resistance and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
What to Eat
Modern diets often lack specific nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. These nutrients play a key role in regulating blood glucose levels. Eating the following foods can provide these nutrients and help support insulin sensitivity:
- Dark leafy greens, broccoli, and peppers
- Tomatoes, packed with vitamins C and E
- Lemons, oranges, and limes
- High-fiber foods such as beans, lentils, and legumes
- Whole grains including oats, quinoa, and barley
- Proteins such as lean meats, fish, legumes, soy, and nuts
- Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as sardines, herring, and salmon
- Foods rich in antioxidants such as berries
- Sweet potatoes
- Unsweetened yogurt
- Unsweetened tea
What to Avoid
Just as some food can help control blood sugar levels, other can raise it. Specifically, foods high in sugar can overwhelm your body’s ability to make enough insulin and keep your blood glucose levels in a healthy range. These sugary foods can also inhibit the cells’ ability to absorb sugar. Over time, the cells will become increasingly less responsive to insulin. This causes too much sugar to remain in the blood and contributes to health issues.
Avoiding or severely limiting these foods can help control blood sugar levels:
- Sweetened beverages such as sodas
- Fruit juices
- Excessive alcohol, especially beer and grain alcohol
- Potatoes and other starchy vegetables
- Processed foods
- Sweets in general
- White bead, pasta, rice, flour, and other refined grains
- Fried foods
- Butter, chocolate, salt pork and other foods high in saturated fats
Candida and Gut Health
Many types of fungi live in the gut, including the yeast candida. At normal levels, this yeast is not a problem. The good bacteria in your gut keep it under control. However, when it gets out of control, it causes an infection called candidiasis. This happens if there is an imbalance in good and unhealthy bacteria or if your immune system is compromised in some way.
Here are a few reasons why your gut may become imbalanced and cause candida overgrowth:
- A diet high in refined carbs and sugars
- Taking medication such as antibiotics and oral contraceptives
- Excess alcohol intake
- High-stress level
- Diabetes or insulin resistance
When candida begins to grow unchecked, it can cause a variety of health problems, one of which is digestive issues.
Gut Microbiota Balance and Digestive Issues
Since the bacteria in your gut play a role in digestion, the right balance between the good and harmful bacteria plays a crucial role in healthy digestion. The good bacteria that live in your gut help process fiber, starches, and some sugars. When these bacteria become imbalanced, you may experience digestive issues such as diarrhea, nausea, gas, constipation, bloating, and cramps.
The conversation about candida and its effect on the body has been going on for years. The usual progression of events with candida overgrowth is as follows.
As mentions previously, candida overgrowth can happen due to exposure to anything that can kill healthy bacteria in the body, suppress immunity, or provide too much nourishment to unhealthy bacteria.
Candida Invasion of Organs
The liver is one of the most affected organs by candida overgrowth. The liver is part of the anatomy of your gut. It gets a large supply of blood directly from the intestines, where candida overgrowth generally begins.
Appetite, Cravings, and Changes in the Liver
The food you crave is mainly a liver function. As the liver is flooded with candida, it chemically changes your food cravings. You may start to crave foods that feed candida such as aged or fermented food and some sugars.
Surprisingly, these cravings are very specific. They include:
- Alcohol, especially vodka, beer, and wine
- Aged cheeses such as Swiss, Parmesan, and cheddar
- Nuts or peanuts
- Apples, bananas, and grapes
Less common cravings, but often seen in those more seriously affected, is the craving for vinegar.
Further Invasion Supported by Diet
Eating these candida-supporting foods will gradually allow the candida to grow and become more deeply entrenched in the body. Even when these foods are no longer consumed, established candida persists until it is treated effectively.
How Does Candida Overgrowth Affect the Liver?
Most of your body’s detox process happens in the liver. The liver helps your body get rid of environmental chemicals, hormones, heavy metals, and other toxins. Since the gut and the liver are connected, they work as the body’s main defense team. They protect it against rogue bacteria, pathogens, dietary irritants, and more.
Gut Health and Liver Disease
Researchers have discovered a possible link between fatty liver, gut microbiota, and carbohydrate metabolism. They have also found that Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is connected to changes in the gut microbiome.
As NAFLD advances, the number of genes encoded by the bacteria in the gut decreases, causing the gut microbiome to become less effective and diverse in its bacterial makeup. This means that a less diverse gut microbiome could indicate poorer health.
Probiotics for Liver and Gut Health
You probably know that probiotics are great for your gut health in general, but now new research suggests that they can also help protect your liver. More research is needed, but so far the results are pretty exciting. In some ways, this is not surprising, considering that your gut and your liver work so closely together. Check with your doctor to see if adding a probiotic is right for you.
How to Improve Liver Function
If you have liver issues as a result of candida overgrowth, talk to your doctor about what is best for you. They may adjust your diet to meet your specific needs or suggest other lifestyle changes, such as:
- Discuss your liver health and alcohol with your doctor. In some instances, the state of your liver health will dictate that you avoid alcohol. Discuss this with your doctor for exact guidelines.
- Avoid foods high in sugar, fat, and salt. This means avoiding unhealthy fast-food restaurants, undercooked or raw shellfish including clams and oysters, and sushi.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Avoid large meals, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats. This includes white bread, regular pasta, and rice. Eat fiber you can get from fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and cereals. Also, limit the amount of red meat you consume, choose low-fat dairy, and healthy fats found in fish, vegetable oils seeds, and nuts. Within these limits, choose food from all food groups, including fruit, vegetable, grains, meat, beans and legumes, low-fat milk, and oils.
- Eat fiber-rich food: Fiber can help your liver work at its best. Including vegetables, fruit, whole-grain breads, cereals, and rice should supply your body with the fiber it needs.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps your liver function better. Remind yourself to drink eight glasses of water a day.
- Get regular exercise. Regular exercise helps your body burn triglycerides for fuel, which can help reduce liver fat.
A Note from GR8NESS
Please note that information on our website is not intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical condition. Before beginning a new routine, you must seek advice from your treating physician regarding the best course of treatment for your unique circumstance.