Carbohydrates and Gut Ecology

In addressing gut ecology, it is important to starve the yeasts and pathogens by depriving them of the sugar they need to feed on, and to encourage friendly bacteria by ensuring they have a plentiful source of nutrition. It is in the area of how to starve the yeasts that nutritional therapists may slightly differ. Some say that all carbohydrates should be avoided, others say just added sugar should be avoided, but fructose in fruit is fine. It is no wonder that many clients come to very confused about the way forward. What advice should they listen to?

A quick overveiw of carbohydrates may help to discern the way forward. Drs Murray and Pzzorno write in The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods:

"Carbohydrates are classified into two basic groups:simple and complex… Simple carbohydrates, also known as simple sugars, are either monosccharides composed of one sugar molecule or disaccharides composed of two sugar molecules. The principle monosaccharides that occur in foods are glucose (found in fruit, honey, sweetcorn and root vegetables) and fructose (found in fruits, maple syrup and honey). The major disaccharides are sucrose, also known as white sugar, which is composed of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose; maltose (found in malted grains and syrups), which is composed of two molecules of glucose; and lactose (the sugar in milk), which is composed of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of galactose.

"The simple nature of these sugars means that they are broken down, predominantly to glucose, either at the surface of the intestine or in the liver, and absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly.

"Complex carbohydrates however, are composed of many simple sugars joined together by chemical bonds. These bonds can be linked together in a serial chain, one after another, as well as side to side, creating branches. Basically, the more chains and branches, the more complex the carbohydrate. The more complex a carbohydrate is, the more slowly it is broken down. Some carbohydrates are complex in a way that the body cannot digest them. These carbohydrates are a main component of fibre, and generally pass through the digestive tract unabsorbed. In general, as long as complex carbohydrates are present in high fibre foods, the body breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars more gradually, which leads to better blood sugar control."

In working to support gut ecology in her own health and that of hundreds of clients, Erica found that it was vital for all simple carbohydrates (sugars) to be completely avoided, including fructose in fruit, in order to properly starve the yeast. She also found that as long as any other carbohydrates included in the diet were whole grain, this was acceptable and did not hamper bringing yeast under control for the majority of people. These carbohydrates are digested slowly, therefore not flooding the blood-stream with glucose, and therefore not providing food for yeast, either in the gut or in colonies around the body. Whole grain rice, whole grain wheat, buckwheat, quinoa, rye, oats and amaranth can all be included in the diet for most people, and they will still see encouragement in gut ecology. What about the sweeter, more carbohydrate dense vegetables? Again, these vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, sweet potato and butternut squash, can all be used by most clients. Potatoes we recommend should be eaten when they are still slightly ‘glassy’ and only just cooked, as when fluffy they will have a readiness to turn to glucose.

Sometimes a client may find that yeast has damaged the integrity of their gut wall, making digestion difficult and leading to food sensitivities Frequently, avoiding the gluten grains – wheat, rye, barley and oats makes a big difference, and this is an area where specific support from Emma Cockrell at may be beneficial.

And what about encouraging friendly bacteria? Unrefined grains and vegetables contain two sorts of fibre – insoluble and soluble – both of which are a food source for the beneficial bacteria in our guts. Murray and Pizzorno write of insoluble fibre in The Encycopaedia of Natural Foods:

“The best example of insoluble fibre is wheat bran. wheat bran is rich in cellulose. Although it is relatively insoluble in water, it has the ability to bind water. This ability accounts for its affect of increasing faecal size and weight, this promoting regular bowel movements. Although cellulose cannot be digested by humans, it is partially digested by beneficial microflora in the gut, for which it is the primary food source. The natural fermentation process, which occurs in the colon, results in the degradation of about 50% of the cellulose, and is an important source of the short-chain fatty acids that nourish our intestinal cells”

Soluble fibre is found in the majority of plant cell walls and can be subdivided into a number of groups. Murray and Pizzorno write, “Bacteria in the gut digest soluble fibre, increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut and creating short-chain fatty acids which the colon cells use as fuel and which decrease cholesterol… A diet high in dietary fibre promotes the synthesis of short chain fatty acids, which reduce the colon pH, creating a friendly environment for the growth of acid-loving (friendly) bacteria”.

So the careful use of carbohydrates as whole, unrefined grains and vegetables can be included as a part of Erica White’s Four-Point-Plan in addressing gut ecology, while also providing an array of nutrients, fibre and an important energy source. For the majority of clients, they find this protocol a very ‘workable’ approach, enabling them to adapt family meals, and gain the calories and nutrients they need for day to day energy.


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