There has been a lot of talk lately about “gut health”. Maybe you saw it on tv, the internet, or even heard it from a friend. At this point, you’re probably wondering what gut health is?
What Is Gut Health
Gut health is a relatively newer term. However, the concept has been around for centuries, primarily in Eastern medicine. The term gut health refers to the health of your gastrointestinal (GI) system. But we’re not talking about just stomach aches and being regular. The health of your stomach goes far beyond not having an upset stomach.
Our gastrointestinal systems have a great impact on our overall general well-being. The GI system is in charge multiple areas. These areas include: digesting food and absorbing nutrients, maintaining normal (good) bacteria levels, maintaining proper mucus sensitivity and production to aid in immune system support, and balancing our enteric nervous system including serotonin production.
Digesting Food and Absorbing Nutrients
Pretty much everyone knows that the gut digests food and absorbs nutrients. However, many people think this is all the GI system does.
The GI system takes the food we eat and breaks it down so that we can effectively absorb the nutrients. In turn, we should then have regular bowel patterns and be free from abdominal pain, constipation, nausea, and vomiting.
You may have heard by now that our gut has both good bacteria and bad bacteria. A healthy gut maintains the levels of bacteria so that there is not an overgrowth of bad bacteria.
Overgrowth of bad bacteria can surface in the form of stomach bugs or diarrhea.
Immune System Support
A healthy gut is directly tied to a healthy immune system. The GI system is responsible for not allowing bad bacteria to migrate. Additionally, the gut is responsible for maintaining a normal immune system.
The Enteric Nervous System & Serotonin
The enteric nervous system may also sometimes be referred to as “the second brain”. It is found in the lining of our GI system and works to maintain a healthy gut.
Serotonin is our natural mood stabilizer. Scientists now believe that 90-95% of our bodies serotonin is produced in our gut. Not only does serotonin regulate our mood, but it is also responsible for controlling bowel movements, nausea, sleep, blood clotting, and bone health.
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Why Is Gut Health Important?
Considering our gut houses keys to our stomachs, brains, and immune system we need to maintain a healthy gut to maintain a healthy body and mind.
When your gut is healthy your body is absorbing nutrients and minerals as it is supposed to. This leads to a stronger immune system, which means better health, skin, hair, and nails.
Additionally, when your gut is healthy your stomach is producing proper amounts of serotonin for your brain.
Furthermore, recent research suggests that gut health is directly linked to auto-immune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and heart disease. This means that when improving your gut health you may find improvement in your auto-immune disorders, decrease your chance of cancers, and decrease your risks of heart disease.
How To Restore Healthy Gut Flora
When you are ready to improve your gut health there are two steps to take that will lead to healing your gut. The first step is to cut out food that can be possible irritants for you. These foods are “the bad stuff”. The second step is to start eating gut healing foods. Research has shown that your gut will start to heal in as little as 24 hours after removing the bad stuff and introducing the good stuff.
Foods listed as “the bad stuff” are ones that people most commonly do not digest well and/or cause you to feel unwell. Removing these foods from your diet will require you to read food labels thoroughly. A lot of these offenders hide in foods. I would urge you to cut out fast food and chain restaurant food unless you can review ingredient lists and be certain that the foods do not contain items from the list.
“The good stuff” are foods that are typically known as health foods. These foods do not feed bad gut bacteria and provide absorbable nutrients and minerals. By provided absorbable nutrients and minerals, along with good bacteria, the gut is able to heal.
Gut Health Diet
Our stomachs have both good and bad bacteria. When we provide our gut with a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods, the good bacteria are able to feed and prosper.
The Worst Foods for Gut Health
Dairy – Humans are the only mammal that consumes the milk of another mammal. A lot of the dairy produced today in the United States comes from cows that are fed diets of corn and other cheap ingredients that negatively impacts the cow’s health. Additionally, the dairy found in your grocers has been pasteurized and homogenized, both processes which result in changing the molecular structure of the milk. This makes the milk a high cause of allergens. Many people have dairy allergies and/or intolerances and are unaware until they eliminate it from their diet and see positive changes.
Refined Carbohydrates – Refined carbohydrates come from highly processed products, including grains. Our bodies are not designed to properly digest highly refined foods. Nor do we receive nutritional benefit from these foods.
Soy – Soy oil and soy lecithin are highly refined foods, typically produced from GMO seeds and found in packaged foods. The GMO soy is typically full of pesticides and can act against the good bacteria in your gut.
Corn – A lot of corn is produced from GMO seeds and highly refined to be used as an additive in many packaged foods. Corn can also be a high source of negative reactions, including skin reactions in the form of rashes, eczema, and hives.
Eggs – Most eggs available today come from hens that are fed an unhealthy diet of corn and soy. This results in eggs with poor nutritional value and full of potential allergens. If consuming eggs, choose ones that come from a farm where they are fed a natural diet and allowed to roam freely.
Meat – Meat can be difficult for our bodies to digest and is full of carcinogens. If choosing to eat meat, be sure you choose meat that is provided a grass-fed diet and is humanely raised.
Sugar – Is often highly refined and feeds the bad bacteria in your gut. Completely eliminating sugar can be difficult. However, it can be easy to switch to organic cane sugar or natural sweeteners such as maple syrup.
The Best Foods for Gut Health
Fresh Vegetables – Dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, artichoke carrots, onions, peas, and squashes are great choices of fresh vegetables. Fresh vegetables provide a good source of fiber. Fiber helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut. Additionally, some vegetables contain prebiotics, such as inulin, which work directly with probiotics to improve gut health.
Fresh Fruit – Berries, apples, citrus, and stone fruits are all excellent fresh fruit options. Fresh fruit is a good source of fiber, which is necessary for strong gut health. Some fruits also contain vitamins and minerals that help reduce inflammation and increase good bacteria.
Fermented (Healthy) Foods – Kombucha, apple cider vinegar, whole wheat sourdough bread, organic tofu, organic miso, and sauerkraut are all examples of fermented foods. Fermented foods help to introduce good bacteria to your gut. The more good bacteria you have, the less opportunity there is for bad bacteria to grow and live in your gut.
Complex Carbohydrates – Are found in many of the foods in “the good stuff list”. Foods like sweet potato, oatmeal, barley, whole wheat, squash, quinoa, and peas all are sources of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are an excellent source of fiber and help to increase good gut bacteria.
Ancient Grains & Legumes/Beans – Examples of ancient grains and legumes and/or beans are quinoa, sprouted grains, buckwheat, lentils, black beans, and chickpeas. Ancient grains, especially sprouted grains, and legumes are easy to digest and allow the stomach to absorb more nutrients.
Healthy Fats – Such as those that come from coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Healthy fats provide beneficial acids which help kill off bad bacteria.
Probiotics – Probiotics are the good bacteria that are essential for a healthy gut. I strongly suggest supplementing with high-quality probiotics, such as one from this brand. Additionally, probiotics are best when taken at night, just before bed. This allows the healthy, good bacteria, time to work.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. Hippocrates
Healing Your Gut
So you’re ready to start your gut healing journey and you’re going all in! The first step is to remove “the bad stuff” from your diet. After 28 days, if you wish you can start to re-introduce the better versions of the bad stuff. Introduce each item one at a time and watch how your body reacts. If you notice negative changes in your body or mind, it is best to keep that item eliminated from your diet.
As you start cutting out the bad stuff, you should start introducing the good stuff on a regular basis. The good stuff along with a diet of whole foods will help support your body and mind.
You should also begin taking a quality probiotic. I personally like this brand and have my entire family taking one of their probiotics.
How To Improve Gut Health
Following the above recommendations might not be realistic for some, or many. It may be a drastic change in diet or something you’re just not interested in. If it is a drastic change for you, and you are not comfortable or don’t want to make such a huge change that is perfectly okay. You can take baby steps.
When you take baby steps you decrease the foods from the bad stuff list, instead of eliminating the foods outright. Then you also increase the foods from the good stuff list. You should also make changes so that any foods you consume from the bad stuff list are as gut safe as possible. Such as trying to make all dairy, meat, and eggs that you consume come from grass-fed pasture raised animals. Strive to have all sugar be organic cane sugar, as opposed to GMO corn or beet sugar. I would also strongly urge you to limit your sugar intake. However, when following the baby steps way to heal your gut, please be sure to follow the recommendation to supplement daily with a quality probiotic, such as one of these, that offers billions of probiotics from multiple sources.
A Healthy Gut
As you begin your journey go as fast, or slow, as you need to. Remember, that within 24 hours of starting the process your gut is already becoming healthier.
If you have any experiences to share or questions, I would love to have you comment.
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