Ever wondered if you should be paying more attention to the new medical research regarding the gut and microbiome? Has it ever crossed your mind that you might have a gut issue? Read on to find out and to discover some simple ways you can heal your gut !
You might think that if you don’t have digestive problems you don’t have gut issues. That simply isn’t true. Digestive problems can definitely be one indication of a gut problem. For example, you may have gas, bloating acid re-flux or bowel issues. But even if you don’t that doesn’t mean that you have a healthy gut. The gut can affect every part of your body! To understand the basics of this head over to my post The Secret to Good Health: Your Microbiome.
Other symptoms of gut damage
Some other symptoms you might want to keep an eye out for are, brain fog, fatigue, migraines, and autoimmune disease. You may even struggle with anxiety, depression or sleeping difficulties. And, gut problems are commonly behind asthma, allergies and skin conditions such as acne and eczema. Not to mention that your gut health could be preventing you from losing weight or even causing you to gain!
I think we’d all agree that everyone suffers from some of these symptoms. But, unfortunately, there really aren’t tests to find out if your microbiome is healthy. Until recently stool screening was the common test used to check for microbiome issues. However, research shows that stool is only a 20% representation of the microbiome. Invasive testing is not likely to be done and should be avoided. So, you’re left to guess.
Here’s the good news though! Following the steps outlined here will improve your overall health. It won’t harm you at all. So, whether you think you have gut damage or not, it’s worth a shot!
How to heal your gut?
Most of healing your gut is related to what and when you eat and drink. This makes sense. Your digestive system is constantly bombarded by outside substances. Some of them very beneficial and some not so much. There is no other part of the body that is exposed to so much of the outside world! But you get to choose what gets in!
There are some foods that it is best to eliminate to get a gage as to what’s going on with your gut. You might be able to add them back if you can tolerate them. Or, as in my case, you may find that they are the cause of the gut issue. It’s worth while to investigate and there is really no way to guess at this.
Sugar and hydrogenated oil
Universally we’re making poor choices about what gets into our bodies! That’s evident! Some foods are just obviously not healthy! Seriously sugar and hydrogenated oils are not necessary to human health.
Often sugar is added to processed foods (and excessively to low & no fat foods). It is best to give up sugar entirely while healing your gut. If you can’t then utilize the tips in 6 Ways to Minimize Sugar to get your sugar consumption under control. It is typically easier to cut it out entirely and deal with the withdraws. The cravings of sugar addiction are worsened by gut issues (and can even be a symptom of gut damage).
Hydrogenated fats include margarine and shortening. They are just as sneaky as sugar and appear in most prepackaged foods. You should also avoid corn, canola, safflower and vegetable oil. Instead cook with coconut or avocado oil and use olive oil for dressings.
I can hear your moaning from here! Eliminating gluten has become a huge weight loss trend. That isn’t what we’re talking about here though. What I’m talking about is removing gluten from your diet for at least 4 weeks then adding it back in.
What happens when people eat gluten
Here’s the thing with gluten. In ALL people (yes you read that right) gluten causes the lining of the gut to become more permeable. That means that the barrier between the inside and outside of your intestine essentially stretches a bit when you eat gluten. If you imagine that your intestines are a sweater than you can picture the fibers pulling a part leaving tiny holes. This is perfectly fine for some people. For some their gut lining just bounces right back. But for others it stays stretched and even gets more stretched. Then particles that aren’t supposed to can leave your intestines! This makes your immune system freak out and causes inflammation throughout the body. And it’s even believed this can lead to autoimmune diseases.
Why is this so prevalent now
I know what you might be thinking now. You may be wondering why this is suddenly an issue and why it’s so much more prevalent in the US. I personally have severe gluten sensitivity and I can eat pasta in Italy! Why would that be? Well, In the US we’ve changed the way we grow, harvest and use wheat and other grains. Firstly, we’ve homogenized it. There’s only one species grown unlike other countries that still grow hundreds. Secondly, when we harvest our wheat, we spray it with glyphosate (Roundup). It is used as a desiccant (meaning it dries the wheat out) and it also happens to be an antibiotic and carcinogen. The glyphosate is never washed off or removed from the plant between harvest or consumption. And, last but not least we add extra gluten to our products for texture and we skip the fermenting process in favor of speed. Fermenting wheat before we eat it helps our gut to digest it. These practices are relatively new. So, thank you commodity farming! UGH!
So, here’s what you do, cut the gluten for 4 weeks and see how you feel. Then see how you feel when you add it back. You’re likely to have a change.
When you cut gluten, you have to be extra careful. It hides in sneaky places (sometimes even lunchmeat or chicken breasts). Check processed food labels carefully! You also need to remove things from your kitchen that may be contaminated. Think things like your toaster and wood cooking utensils.
You’ve probably heard of this one before too. I’m not going to get into a long dissertation here about dairy products or the many ways they are damaging your health. I’m just going to discuss gut health. Dairy increases acidity in your body. When you eat or drink anything your salivary glands signal the rest of your digestive system about what’s coming. When you drink a glass of milk or eat a tub of yogurt your body signals BIG JUICY STEAK!!! Why? Because of the protein, which is called casein. Your stomach rachets up the amount of acid in preparation for all that protein. It isn’t needed though. So, you end up with extra acid in your stomach which can lead to all sorts of issues.
Casein is, in general, very disruptive to the gut. It is actually a common allergen, but people often write off the symptoms. Symptoms can appear to be sinus issues or congestion and can even feel like the throat is “coated”. It also causes inflammation throughout the body all on its own.
While you’re giving up gluten, give up casein. This means all dairy except ghee (which is fat only). Figure out which one you like or miss more and at the end of the 4 weeks. Then eat gluten OR casein for 3 days, wait 4 days and eat the other for 3 days. See what happens. Whatever you do don’t add them back at the same time. You might only have a problem with one, but you won’t know which and will have to start all over.
Don’t quit on me now!!! I know this sounds restrictive but we’re heading into foods you should eat a lot of. And, at the end of these sections I’ll recommend resources to help you!
Things to add
There are some specific things that you can add to your diet and lifestyle to help keep your gut healthy. These are the ones at the top of my list!
The best thing you can add to your diet is plants. Lots and lots of plants! Plants are prebiotics. Meaning they feed the microbes in your gut. If you want a healthy gut, you can’t starve your microbiome! For the purpose of healing your gut bitter and steamed plants are the best way to go. But, don’t go adding 8 cups of veggies tomorrow! That’s going to be hard on a weakened digestive system! Just add more every week. Cooked vegetables are best for your fragile gut so stick with those at first. Feel free to have frozen or fresh but avoid canned. And don’t forget to include fruit! Also, make sure that you stick to organic for the dirty dozen list and soak all non-organic fruits and veggies in a vinegar water bath before cooking.
Meat and eggs
I just wanted to take a moment here to reassure you that you don’t need to give up meat, seafood or eggs. I know that you might be thinking that they are difficult to digest and through this process that is necessary. It isn’t and these can be great things to turn to while you’re trying to eliminate dairy, gluten & sugar. Try to keep it clean though. By this I mean that whenever possible choose meat that is pasture raised, wild or grass fed. Game meat is best but can be hard to come by. I like to buy my meat in bulk when it’s on sale. It is also possible to find butchers or farmers in your area who will sell you a side or a quarter of beef or pasture raised chickens at very low rates.
Golden mylk (click for recipe) is a delicious warm spiced milk. Because it contains the higher healing fat of coconut milk along with turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg it helps to sooth inflammation and combat candida (yeast growth). Golden mylk will feel like a luscious and decadent treat that you will never want to stop drinking. Best part is, you don’t have too. Did I mention you can add cacao to it as well? YUM!
Bone broth and / or collagen powder
This is one of my favorite things and I’m not the only one! My husband, my friends (who’ve tried it) and even my kids love bone broth. It sooths the soul! It’s like drinking sunshine! I prefer to make my own broth so I know what’s in it and because it’s crazy expensive in stores. If you click here you will find my easy delicious chicken bone broth recipe. Bone broth is high in collagen (that’s what makes it different from regular broth). The inside of your intestines is made of collagen. I think you know where I’m going with this! When you consume bone broth you are giving your body the building blocks to repair your gut! Guess what else is benefitted by collagen… yep, hair, nails and skin! And don’t forget that there is now scientific evidence proving that broth can stave off or shorten colds and illness.
If you’re really freaked out about drinking broth or you don’t care for it you can add collagen powder to your water, tea, coffee, or smoothies. It is tasteless and dissolves immediately. I like to do both and get twice the benefits! My 2 favorite collagen powders are Ancient Nutrition multi collagen powder and vital proteins. I included the links because unless you can find it on sale somewhere Amazon has the best price.
Using both broth and collagen powder can be a great idea because they are sourced differently. When using both, I notice that I feel better, crave sugar less and my hair and nails grow more quickly and are stronger.
People always think that when you take probiotics they will go into your intestines and stay there. This isn’t actually true. The probiotics pass through your digestive system. They don’t stay. So, you might be wondering why you would take them. Well, when they pass through your body, they influence all of the microbes that live there to do as they should. They are a good influence and encourage them to reproduce and do their jobs. It’s like the boss or police are watching. Taking probiotics is beneficial to your microbiome. But, eating probiotics daily is better! Since you’re avoiding sugar and dairy through your initial healing yogurt and kombucha aren’t options. But you can drink apple cider vinegar (with the mother) diluted in water or nut milk kefir. You can also eat sauerkraut or kimchi.
Fasting (partial feeding and intermittent)
Fasting can be a great way to reset your body and help it heal quickly. I’ve written a separate post devoted to this subject and you can find it here. It is too long to include in this piece. But essentially giving your digestive system time to rest is helpful. I’m sure that makes sense.
How to keep your microbiome healthy
Now that you have a healthy gut and microbiome how do you keep it that way? First of all, because you are exposed to environmental toxins every day you are likely to need to be careful with your gut. In order to keep it thriving you should continue doing the things you did to heal it. Avoid sugar and hydrogenated oils. And avoid casein and gluten if you had issues when you reintroduced them. Don’t forget to continue eating plants, wild / pastured meat, golden mylk, collagen, and pro-biotics. If you slip up just get right back on track.
There are a few other things you can to help maintain a healthy gut.
Yes. You might need anti-biotics at some point in time. But you should avoid them when possible. If you aren’t certain that you have a bacterial infection as is common with ear and sinus infections, you may want to avoid them. Also, obviously don’t request them from your doctor. If you feel your doctor is very liberal with the Rx pad in this or any other capacity, you might want to get a second opinion or change doctors.
Not only do anti-biotics kill pathogenic bacteria but they also kill healthy ones. They are the chemo of bacteria. You wouldn’t use chemo unless you knew for certain you had cancer and even then, only if necessary. Don’t be so quick to use anti-biotics either.
Here’s the truth, the people on earth with the healthiest guts and microbiomes live in tribes or on organic farms! Yep, you heard that right! Exposure to dirt and germs is very important for our gut and microbiome. It is ESPECIALLY important for infants and children! I’m not suggesting avoiding hand washing (especially during flu season) but seriously STOP with the sanitizing! For more information regarding this check out How Clean is too Clean.
Heal your gut
I know that some of this might be overwhelming but let me just tell you, when I set out to heal my gut I reversed an autoimmune thyroid condition and lost 23lbs in 6 weeks. NO! I’m not kidding! Not only that but I cleared up my fatigue and brain fog and my daily headaches stopped. I’m not sure what led you to read this post but what I do know is that you have nothing to lose. Start today! Take the first step to better health!
Share this with someone you love! You never really know the struggles of others and it might be just what they need!