Every system in the body is connected, and to maintain overall health, you need to focus on the not only the overall picture but the center of it all. The hub of your health … your digestive system.
I feel like “gut health” has been such a buzz word in the wellness world the past few years, but do you really understand what it means to maintain a “healthy gut?”
If so, that’s cool, if not, don’t feel bad. I’ve got you.
A healthy gut is when your “good bacteria” otherwise known as probiotics, which are found naturally in your digestive tract, and “bad” bacteria are in balance. When all is well with your flora, everything runs smoothly so-to-speak.
When you are say, constipated, bloated, have diarrhea, IBS, or even GERD, it is an obvious sign your gut is off-balance.
However, other things that aren’t so obvious may be linked to poor gut health, such as eczema, anxiety, depression, ADD, mood swings, hormonal issues, and chronic fatigue.
It seems every symptom of poor health can be traced back to the gut. New studies are coming out all the time exploring the connection between gut bacteria and practically every other aspect of human health. It is even said that your digestive system basically controls your immune system.
Did you know that at birth, as babies pass through the birth canal, they’re exposed to bacteria mouth-first?
This is nature’s way of giving newborns their first “vaccination” as they enter the world. Additionally, breast milk–which is specifically designed for human nutritional needs–contains both the probiotics and prebiotics to build a healthy gut and immune system for a growing infant.
This is why more commercial formula companies are adding probiotics to their products and why supplement companies are making powdered probiotics to add to infant formula.
Due to environmental factors, things like excess antibiotic use (which kill good bacteria along with the bad), certain medications, high sugar diets, too much hand sanitizer, and even stress, maintaining a healthy gut from infancy through adulthood is a real uphill battle.
The unfortunate result is a weak immune system and disease.
Today I am going to break down some actions you can take to keep your gut in check!
A very healthy gut tip, that I am not including in this list, is taking a probiotic supplement. I think it can be very helpful, but I do not take a probiotic year-round. I will cycle through them when I really need it. If you, for instance, had to take an antibiotic–this would be a great time to supplement with a probiotic. I like them in the change of season, or also if someone is making a major dietary change. This is my favorite for women, and this one for dudes.
Change Your Diet
If you have been experiencing significant issues with your gut and/or health it may be worth looking into diet changes.
I would first recommend a 30-Day elimination diet that cuts out foods that may be causing gut imbalance:
- artificial sweeteners
- processed/packaged foods (cut out the ones with a lot of shady ingredients, try to limit others)
- processed vegetable and seed oils (<—check out the linked article)
I actually do quite fine with raw organic dairy from my local farm, and their cream in my coffee, also some cheeses in moderation (I found commercially made organic yogurt was bothering me, but want to make some from raw milk soon).
Fill your diet with a variety of vegetables (starchy and non-starchy), sustainably raised meats, fermented foods, and a small amount of fruit each day.
Also, be sure to eat foods rich in prebiotic fiber (food for the probiotics), which include:
- Coconut Meat & Flour
- Flax and Chia Seeds
- Chicory Root
- Dandelion Greens
- Jerusalem Artichoke
Other diets to look into are a low-FODMAP diet (many practitioners use this to treat IBS–it stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols, which are groups of carbs that are notorious for triggering digestive symptoms like bloating, gas and stomach pain.
A low-FODMAP diet actually restricts some of the above prebiotic-rich foods, like bananas, garlic, and onion.
Also the GAPS diet, created by Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas to naturally treat chronic inflammatory conditions in the digestive tract as a result of a damaged gut lining.
2. Add in fermented foods
“Fermentation” of foods is typically referring to the fermentation of sugar to alcohol using yeast, but other fermentation processes involve the use of bacteria such as lactobacillus, including the making of foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut.
There is evidence to indicate that early civilizations were making wine and beer 7,000 years ago! Also, many cultures have their own version of fermented foods, looking at fermented cabbage as an example with sauerkraut (Europe) and kimchi (Korea).
In earlier times people developed techniques out of necessity to preserve their foods for long periods of time without the use of refrigeration or canning methods. This process is actually called ‘lacto-fermentation’. According to the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, “lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted to lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-producing bacteria or lactobacilli.”
here is a list of my favorite fermented foods:
- water kefir
- milk kefir (hate the taste, love the benefits)
- fermented vegetables
I recommend eating a variety of fermented foods, and including some in your diet each day. This is even more beneficial than taking say a probiotic pill because you get a variety of live and active cultures supplied by nature in fermented foods and drinks, where pills only contain a few species.
3. Switch to Non-GMO Foods
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® has been shown to change gut microbe. Crops are genetically engineered to be resistant to round-up, so this is a no-brainer.
Luckily, it has become easier and easier to avoid GMO products since so many companies and grocery-chains are offering organic options (even Target!) Organic food is a little more expensive, but you get what you pay for. Your health is what matters most! I personally feel like it has become way more affordable to eat organic foods, since it has become increasingly more important to consumers (yay for voting with your dollars!) Keep it up, y’all!
4. Drink Bone Broth
Traditionally prepared bone broth is rich in minerals that support the immune system and contains healing compounds like collagen, glutamine, glycine and proline. The collagen in bone broth heals your gut lining and reduces intestinal inflammation. Consuming bone broth dates way back to traditional cultures, and sipping on it daily is highly recommended to keep your gut healthy, and your immune system strong.
If you are making any of the dietary changes in #1 of this list, sipping on broth would be a very important part of those changes! It is very easy to make and I have both a stovetop method and instant pot method for you!
5. Meditate Daily
Yup. Meditation can help heal your gut.
Stress is a HUGE factor in messing up gut-health. Leaky gut comes from living a life full of stress. We are often times rushed, anxious, and overloaded with work, which causes our bodies to go into fight-or-flight mode in response to that.
When your body is actively experiencing this stress response, your energy is going more towards that than it is proper digestion.
Apps make it easy to meditate these days! I love headspace. Try to get it done first thing in the morning, and I promise it will set the tone for a calmer day, and a calmer gut!
Please let me know if you have any questions! Happy gut healing!
Have a wonderful weekend.
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