Your gut plays an extremely important role in your overall health and well-being. If it does not function properly, it can have significant implications on everything from your weight to your mood, your brain health, inflammation in your body and your body’s immune function. Let’s find out why gut health is crucial for your overall health.
Why is Your Gut Important to Your Health?
Your gut is the segment of your gastrointestinal tract that extends from the pyloric sphincter of your stomach to your anus. The mouth is the start of your gut. This is where food goes into your body. The food travels down the esophagus and then into your stomach and then into your small intestine. The small intestine is where the food is digested, and nutrients are extracted and absorbed into your bloodstream. Following the small intestine comes the large intestine where your appendix is attached. Your large intestine then connects upwards to your colon that crosses your body and ultimately connects to your rectum and anus.
As you can already see, your gut makes up a large part if not all of your digestive system. Your digestive system processes food and nutrients for your body to survive and thrive. While some foods and liquids are absorbed through the lining of your stomach, most of what you eat is digested and absorbed in your small intestine. The muscles in the wall or lining of your gut help mix the food you eat with the enzymes in your body and they also help move the food along towards to end of your gut to be disposed of.
I am sure you have heard of the fact that there are trillions of bacteria in your body. These bacteria exist mainly in your intestines and your skin. They collectively coexist in harmony where most of them are good and a lot of them are in your gut. Bacteria in your gut are known as the gut microbiome and you want all the good guys in there for optimal health.
Symptoms of Gut Problems
Your gut is a delicate space and life’s stressors such as too little sleep, high consumption of processed and sugary foods can have a negative impact on our gut microbiome.
When you have too many bad bacteria running the show in your gut, your health suffers because your digestive, immune, nervous and endocrine systems all communicate and interact with one another. And when the center of it all – your gut, is not functioning properly, your body will tell you in many ways such as:
• Bad moods / mood swings
• Brain fog and lack of ability to focus
• Food allergies or food intolerances
• Skin problems such as breakouts and rashes
• Digestive issues such as bloating and abdominal pains
• Autoimmune issues
• Bowel issues such as constipation or diarrhea
• Joint pains
• Headaches and migraines
• Unintentional weight changes
• Fatigue or exhaustion
• Insomnia and trouble sleeping / staying asleep
Conditions Caused by Bad Gut Function
You might have already heard of “Leaky Gut”. Leaky Gut refers to a condition where your intestinal lining loses its integrity and ability to function properly and becomes an entry point for inflammatory pathogens. If you experience one or more of the symptoms mentioned above, you might have a leaky gut. A leaky gut that is not fixed can lead to many other chronic health conditions such as:
1. Ulcerative colitis – a long term condition that causes the colon to be inflamed and ulcers to develop
2. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – refers to ailments related to your bowel and can include abdominal pain and spasms, diarrhea, constipation, bloating and swelling of the abdomen, incontinence, sharp rectum pain, etc.
3. Indigestion – finding undigested food in your stool, belching and burping
4. Hemorrhoids – where the blood vessels in your rectum and anus become inflamed
5. Gallstones – crystals that form in your bile and when they are big enough, they can cause constant and even severe pain and requires surgical removal
6. Crohn’s disease – usually in the lower gut, this is a condition that causes inflammation in your gut and causes symptoms such as pain, diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite and ulcers
7. Celiac disease – a food sensitivity or allergic reaction to the protein gluten that is commonly found in wheat, barley, and rye.
8. Skin disorders – causing eczema, psoriasis or skin fungus
9. Liver disease – nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
10. Autoimmune diseases – self-attacking as lupus, Hashimoto, or RA.
11. Brain Disorders – cognitive dysfunction, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis or ALS.
12. Chronic Inflammation – conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or hormonal imbalance.
Natural Remedies for Better Gut Health
Getting better gut health does not have to mean spending money at the doctor’s office and getting a bunch of pills. The good news is there are many things you can already start doing today to get your gut health back on track. And some of these natural remedies will not even cost you a dime.
We can always live our lives a little better, with a little bit more balance and a little less stress. Here are some quick and easy lifestyle changes that you can already make today to get your gut health in the right direction.
1. Lower your stress levels through practicing meditation or exercise.
2. Find ways to relax such as cultivating a hobby or spend more time with friends and family.
3. Get enough sleep with regulating your bedtime, getting your sleeping space more conducive for resting.
4. Try to have enough time for each meal such that you have time to eat slowly.
5. Stay hydrated throughout the day. Carry a water bottle with you in your bag or purse.
Foods and dietary changes
As I always say, food is our natural medicine and should be our natural medicine. You are what you eat, and the good news is you can eat your way to better gut health. Your journey to better gut health can be a yummy and delicious one.
Below is a list of healthy food choices that you can already start incorporating into your diet today for better gut health. The general rule for better gut health is a primarily plant-based diet with lean protein. This list of 13 foods and food categories are very common and can be easily found at your local supermarkets these days. Eating well for gut health should not be a difficult challenge at all.
1. High fiber foods such as beans, legumes, peas
2. Leafy greens such as dandelion greens that are rich in inulin (a prebiotic)
3. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli
4. Asparagus – rich in prebiotics
5. Seaweed – strengthens the gut mucosal lining
6. Root vegetables rich in inulin such as sunchokes, jicama
7. Fruits such as bananas and apples that are high in fiber
8. Garlic and onion – antibacterial and antifungal
9. Fermented foods such as kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, yogurt (sugar-free of course)
10. Fermented beverages such as kombucha, kefir
11. Good fats such as olive oil, avocadoes
12. Almonds – they have good probiotic properties
13. Ginger – promote healthy production of stomach acid and stimulate the digestive system
While there are many foods to add to your diet for better gut health, there are also foods that you should avoid or better yet, eliminate from your diet.
1. Reduce or eliminate sugary foods and beverages.
2. Reduce or eliminate foods that can cause inflammation in your body, such as excessive red meat, dairy, fried foods and processed foods (especially those that contain a lot of added sugars and preservatives)
If you need another boost to your already gut-friendly diet, try one or a combination of any of these 18 natural health supplements to start your journey towards an optimally functioning gut.
1. Prebiotic – promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut
2. Probiotic – live good bacteria that promotes gastrointestinal health
3. Zinc – boost metabolism and immune system functionality
4. L-glutamine – important amino acid for repairing the intestinal lining
5. Collagen peptides – a protein that contains anti-inflammatory properties
6. Fiber and butyrate – fiber promotes the growth of a healthy gut microbiome while butyrate is a short-chain amino acid that is created when the fiber is fermented in but healthy gut bacteria. Together, both improve the lining on your intestinal tract.
7. Licorice root – reduces inflammation and promotes healthy mucus production for the intestinal lining
8. Curcumin – found in turmeric has amazing anti-inflammatory properties
9. Berberine – an alkaloid that has amazing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties
10. Acacia fiber – an excellent prebiotic
11. Aloe Vera – full of vitamins and minerals and essential amino acids that help to strengthen your intestinal lining
12. Chamomile – an excellent digestive remedy that helps with bloating, gas and indigestion
13. Digestive enzymes – helps to breakdown food and absorb it
14. Fish oil – an excellent source of healthy fatty acids (especially Omega-3) to promote survival of beneficial probiotics in your gut
15. Marshmallow root – helps coats and soothes irritated membranes and alleviates inflammation in your gut
16. Quercetin – helps seal gaps in your gut barrier
17. Slippery elm – helps soothes the digestive tract and has excellent antioxidant properties
18. Vitamin D3 – especially if you do not get enough sun exposure. Vitamin D3 helps increase the diversity of your gut microbiome to fight off the bad bacteria.
This list is by no means exhaustive but is a really good start to knowing what you might be able to do to get better gut health. It can be quite long and might even be a little daunting to navigate for some of us who are not familiar with the supplements aisle at your local market or your local health food store.
How would you rate your gut health?
Check out the most recent articles on health and wellness.
Sign up for my FREE newsletter.
Bonus: Download my ‘12-Key Tips for Healthy Digestion’ Guide
If you are unsure if you are really experiencing gut health issues or would like more advice on how to chart your course to better gut health, or just need a helping hand to navigate through all of this information about your gut and its health, please do not hesitate to reach out to a professional functional nutritionist like myself. When there are so many different foods and supplements to choose from, it can be tough to decide which ones are best for you. Should you take them all? Chances are probably not. So feel free to CONTACT ME today and I can help you navigate through all of this information.