When you hear about gut health you might think of stomach aches, nausea, etc. And while that’s part of it, the health of our gut actually affects our health in dozens of other ways.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am just someone who has been researching this profusely for several years in an effort to improve my own health. I recommend working with a holistic practitioner such as a naturopathic doctor if you suspect you have gut issues.
As I mentioned damage to our gut doesn’t only present itself as obvious digestive problems. Your gut health can be struggling even if you never have stomach aches.
SYMPTOMS OF POOR GUT HEALTH
Keep in mind, these are just symptoms that can occur if your gut is in poor health. That does not mean that the gut is the only thing responsible for any of these problems, but that it may be contributing.
- POOP | Yep, we’re going there. If you aren’t having a bowel movement every single day, there’s a good chance your gut is struggling. Take a look at the chart below to make sure you are having healthy poops!
2. Digestive Symptoms | Bloating, nausea, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea are obvious signs that your gut needs attention. If you’ve had these symptoms for a long time, you’ve likely been given the diagnosis of IBS. The good news is, there’s so much you can do about that!
3. Persistent Skin Problems | Chronic issues such as eczema, acne, psoriasis can be a sign of poor gut health. Especially if skin doesn’t improve with the use of topical treatments or even medication.
4. Brain Fog / Fatigue | Feeling “cloudy”, having a hard time focusing or paying attention can be a sign that your gut isn’t healthy. Your gut may be working overtime to digest food, therefore taking away energy from your brain. Or your gut may not be absorbing minerals needed for your brain to function optimally.
5. Emotional Imbalances and Mental Health | Did you know that the majority of Serotonin (the happy hormone) is created in our gut? So it only makes sense that when our gut is struggling, so would our emotions!
6. Autoimmune Diseases | There’s a correlation between poor gut health and autoimmune disease.
7. Recurring Infections | If you can’t seem to beat infections such as UTIs and ear infections there’s a high chance your gut microbiome is out of whack!
LET’S GO OVER A FEW TERMS
These are some terms that I’ll use throughout this post:
MICROBIOME: A community of living organisms that make up an environment.
Think of the eco-system in the forest. Everything from the bugs in the ground to the trees, the squirrels, mice, and wolves have their place. They are designed to function together in harmony. When we interfere with this natural eco-system, we end up with problems. When a new bug is introduced to a region but there is no predator, that bug quickly becomes over-populated and can cause huge damage!
Our body’s too have their own “eco-system” or microbiome. We are made of of millions of bacteria – good and bad! When there is balance between the bacteria, we are healthy. When this becomes unbalanced, we face major health problems.
LEAKY GUT : Also known as intestinal hyper-permeability, leaky gut is when there is a hole in the lining of our gut. This hole allows tiny particles (such as food) to enter your bloodstream causing inflammation and a myriad of health problems. Leaky gut is almost always the cause of our gut problems!
WHAT CAUSES GUT PROBLEMS?
So many things in our Western world contribute to our gut health!
- An Over-Sterile Environment | We’ve been taught that our homes are only clean if we use products that kill 99.9% of germs. But we weren’t made to live in sterile, operating rooms. Our bodies are a microbiome, and we need the good bacteria as much as we need the bad bacteria.
- Antibiotics | Antibiotics can be life-saving. But they are also highly overprescribed and irresponsibly prescribed. By definition antibiotics mean “anti-living organism”. As we have already discussed, our bodies NEED these organisms in order to thrive. A round of antibiotics should always be followed with a gut healing protocol.
- Birth Control | Yeast or candida overgrowth is highly correlated to women with excess estrogen – a side effect of many pills! Plus, women are often put on birth control to mask a symptom, when the root cause is actually a leaky or underperforming gut!
- Stress | Our body reacts to emotional and mental threats just as it reacts to physical threats! Not to mention that stress often leads to a poor diet full of processed foods.
- Sleep | Our body processes and digests food while we sleep. So if our sleep is interrupted or low-quality, our digestion is going to suffer.
- Standard American Diet | The SAD (Standard American Diet) is likely the highest contributor to a leaky gut. Eating highly processed carbohydrates, fast food, alcohol, tons of sugar, poorly raised meats & dairy, and hardly any fruits and vegetables is not the way our bodies were meant to function!
So now that you know what leaky gut is and what causes it, you’re probably wondering SO NOW WHAT?
The good news is there is so much you can do to heal your leaky gut and have excellent gut health! And it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money!
HOW TO IMPROVE GUT HEALTH
Remember : I am not a doctor, these are just the (research-based) ways I’ve been able to improve my own gut health and I want to share them with you!
LIFESTYLE HABITS TO IMPROVE GUT HEALTH
- Get Enough Sleep | As mentioned above, our body works hard while we’re sleeping. Personally, if I don’t get enough sleep I can feel my digestion out of whack! Getting good quality sleep and enough of it is crucial for your health! If you struggle with good quality sleep make sure to reduce caffeine (especially in the afternoon/evening), reduce sugar, go screen-free in the evenings, and develop a nightly routine to kickstart your circadian rhythm.
- Reduce Stress Levels | This might be the hardest habit to control as it often feels uncontrollable. We either need to reduce the stress in our life, or learn how to cope with our stress levels in a healthy way.
- Avoid Anti-bacterial Products | Remember, we WANT bacteria, so it’s crucial to avoid anything that claims to kill 99% of bacteria. This doesn’t mean you have to live in filth, but opt for less harsh cleaners for your home and body!
- Exercise / Movement | No, you don’t need to spend an hour at the gym every day. But getting in some movement every single day really helps to keep you regular (if you know what I mean ? ).
- Walk Barefoot | Getting your toes or fingers in the dirt greatly benefits your body’s microbiome! Don’t be scared to walk barefoot in the grass or at the beach!
FOODS TO SUPPORT GUT HEALTH
- Drink More Water! | Ok, not a food but close enough! Your body NEEDS water to function properly. Water aids our digestive system, among so many other things! Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces. So if you weight 150lbs you should aim to drink 75oz of water! Having a water bottle that I love and a stainless steel straw helps me drink more water!
- Fibre | Fibre has lots of benefits. It helps us feel full which reduces overeating. It also creates healthy & firm stools which is necessary for a healthy gut! Good sources of fibre are leafy greens, lentils, chickpeas, beans, oatmeal, almonds, chia seeds.
- Bone Broth |High in collagen, bone broth is a gut health powerhouse! It helps to reseal the holes in your intestinal walls, and create a healthy gut. Bone broth is also full of vitamins & minerals that are easy for your body to absorb. I’m sipping on homemade bone broth while I write this!
- Reduce Processed Foods | Our bodies were never intended to eat ingredients we can’t even pronounce. Stick to real foods that come from nature – Humanely raised meat & dairy, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce PUFAs | Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs) are industrial oils such as safflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil. Processed foods are full of these oils that cause massive inflammation in our bodies. Replace these factory created oils for natural oils such as coconut oil, olive oil and even grass-fed butter!
- Prioritize Organic | Conventional food (both produce and meat) are full of pesticides. Conventionally raised meat is treated with antibiotics and fed grains sprayed with pesticides. Prioritize organic foods when and if possible!
- Add fermented foods | Fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir are full of probiotics and prebiotics. Just make sure to purchase high quality fermented foods without added sugars (sugars just make the problem worse!)
SUPPLEMENTS TO SUPPORT GUT HEALTH
- Probiotic | A good quality probiotic is essential to repair a leaky gut! Probiotics contain millions of good bacteria which helps to repopulate your gut microbiome!
- Digestive Enzymes | Digestive Enzymes help your body digest food. If you’ve ever heard of someone taking “dairy pills” or “lactose pills”, they are likely a version of digestive enzyme!
- Apple Cider Vinegar Shot | This is technically a food but I take it daily as if it’s a supplement. A shot of apple cider vinegar helps to jumpstart your metabolism and digestion. It also neutralizes the PH in your body which promotes healthy stomach acid!
I truly hope you found this helpful! I know how frustrating it can be to have chronic health problems that you can’t figure out.