5 Ways To Naturally Improve Your Gut Health
The famous Hippocrates saying that ‘all disease begins in the gut’ has been affirmed by modern research, showing us just how important our gut health really is! When our gut is healthy and in tip-top shape, our body as a whole is usually ticking along pretty nicely. That’s because our gut doesn’t just influence the way we digest our food, but it impacts everything from the production of our neurotransmitters to the running of our immune system.
When it’s working in the way that it should, our gut is responsible for breaking down nutrients from the food we eat, giving us the energy to live our best lives. It helps rid the body of pathogens and eliminates waste products, preventing infections and hormonal imbalances.
It’s also the home of trillions of microorganisms that manage neurotransmitter function and impact inflammation and immune health.
Because our gut has such a widespread influence on the rest of our body, signs that your digestive health isn’t in the best shape may seem completely unrelated to the gut itself. Along with the common digestive complaints like bloating, irregular bowel movements and digestive discomfort, other signs that your gut may need a little TLC include skin conditions like eczema, hormonal imbalances and even poor sleep. If you’re lacking energy, having trouble focussing, or if you're experiencing symptoms of imbalance in any way, focusing on improving your gut health is the best place to start!
How to improve your gut health naturally
Reduce processed & inflammatory foods
It’s no surprise that the foods we eat have a direct influence on the gut. You really can’t go wrong with a whole-food diet, focusing on foods that have been minimally processed and are low in sugar. Fiber is also a key player and eating fiber rich fruits and vegetables will feed the gut bacteria and encourage the elimination of harmful waste products. When it comes to gut health, diversity is crucial! Getting a wide variety of nutrients in your diet encourages a more diverse gut microbiome, which creates a healthy environment for your gut bugs. It may help to focus on getting a range of colours in each meal, or ‘eat the rainbow’ as the saying goes!
Focus on gut healing foods
The term ‘leaky gut’ has gained a lot of attention recently, and it’s probably a lot more common (and easier to resolve) than you might think. Our digestive tract is lined with cells that are tightly knit together, creating a barrier between our digestive tract and the blood stream that allows small amounts of nutrients to pass through. Intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, is a condition that creates large gaps in the lining of the intestinal walls, allowing potentially harmful bacteria and other undigested substances to pass into the bloodstream. This alerts the immune system and causes those uncomfortable digestive symptoms like bloating, excess gas and irritable bowels.
The good news is that healing and sealing the intestinal walls to prevent leaky gut can be done with the right nutrition! This is where bone broth comes in. As an incredible source of glutamine and other important amino acids, bone broth maintains the function of the intestinal wall and actually helps prevent leaky gut. It nourishes the lining of the digestive tract and supports the production of collagen and connective tissue, making it the perfect gut healing food.
Identify food triggers
Foods that are irritating the gut will be contributing to intestinal permeability. By keeping a food diary and monitoring your symptoms as you eat different foods across the day, you may be able to identify which foods are setting you off. Common food triggers include dairy, gluten and eggs. But don’t worry, taking a break from these foods doesn’t mean you need to avoid them forever! It just means that your gut may need some time to heal before these foods are re-introduced.
Stress can often be the biggest influence when it comes to our gut health. When the body is in a state of stress, our fight or flight response kicks in and we experience a surge in stress hormones like cortisol. This response gears the body for survival, and prioritises the organ systems required to combat any immediate threat. This means that our digestion effectively shuts off, because in a state of fight or flight - the body isn’t concerned about the efficient absorption of our food!
Along with the disruption caused by increased stress, it’s true that our gut and nervous system are in constant communication. IBS is a great example of this, and while stress isn’t the exclusive cause of IBS, we know that it’s a huge factor that contributes to those uncomfortable digestive symptoms. Research has identified that around 40-60% of individuals with IBS also have a mood disorder like depression or anxiety. There are even probiotics that have been shown to directly influence anxiety and other mood disorders, which highlights the way our gut bacteria can influence our mood. So if you’re experiencing digestive woes, don’t neglect those mood and stress managing techniques to support your gut health!
It’s estimated that we may have up to 300 trillion bacteria living inside of us, and most of these are actually found within the gut. Research is still uncovering the incredible potential of this colony of bacteria, also known as our gut microbiome, and the influence it has on our entire body. Having the right balance of gut bacteria has been linked to improved immune health, weight loss, clear skin and of course, improved digestion. Focusing on probiotic rich foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi is a great way to increase your exposure to these gut-healing bugs. Modern research has identified many different strains of probiotics, and we know that some are more beneficial than others for various conditions. The influence that our gut bacteria have on our overall health is huge, so introducing a specific probiotic to manage this balance of bacteria can be a game-changer!