How Much Does Good Gut Health Really Matter?
Poor gut health had devastating consequences on how I felt as my overall health spiraled downwards and all of my chronic fatigue symptoms worsened. I found out the hard way what poor gut health is. This awful experience made me ask – “how can I improve my gut health?”
Starting to understand how important a healthy gut is to overall health was the turning point in my struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome. Working together with my naturopath I implemented many changes to my lifestyle and diet.
As it turned out, poor gut health was found to be a major contributing factor in my worsening chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. Through carrying out comprehensive stool testing I found out my poor gut was in horrible distress.
The cause of this distress was dysbiosis, leaky gut, candida overgrowth, and an out of control parasite infection, a quadruple whammy that was hitting my gut hard. Real and lasting recovery from my chronic fatigue syndrome didn’t happen until I started healing my gut.
Gastrointestinal health, good or bad, can have a major effect on your entire body affecting memory, mood, mental health, immune health and more. Who knew that your digestive system could play such a huge and important role in overall health?
Autoimmune conditions are reportedly on the rise thought to be caused by environmental causes, but poor gut health can also play a part in several autoimmune diseases, including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Heart disease
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
Extremely important to your overall health and well-being, the state of your gastrointestinal system plays a key role in the maintenance of good health. However, there are several components that make up a healthy gut, and they all need to be addressed if you want to benefit from good gut health.
4 Components Of Healthy Gut Function Everyone Should Know
If one or more of the components of your gut are not functioning as they should, your health will begin to suffer. Symptoms may take a while to appear, but eventually as your gut health deteriorates symptoms will show themselves as, fatigue, diarrhea, unexpected weight gain, bloating and constipation among others.
Digestion is where the process begins and it can also be the first place where issues show up in the form of heartburn, bloating and gas if your digestion is not working as it should. Your body digests (breaks down) the food you eat into fuel which it then uses for energy, as well as for the effective repair of tissues.
The fuel and nutrients from the food we eat must be absorbed properly for the optimal functioning of our bodies. However, if you eat a diet consisting of refined food, sugar, meat, grains and conventional pasteurized dairy you most likely have a coating of plaque on your intestines.
This plaque has a detrimental effect on how the nutrients from food are absorbed and used. And if you are unable to absorb nutrients well you become undernourished which then affects several of your body systems.
This is how well our cells are able to use the nutrients from the food we eat. However in a standard western diet many of the foods we eat form an acid environment in our bodies.
Acidity causes inflammation throughout the body which can result in many conditions such as kidney stones, gallstones and liver stones forming. It can also affect how well your glands work in supplying hormones to the many systems throughout your body.
Chronic inflammation has also been linked to certain diseases such as metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disorders, heart disease and stroke.
The final component that makes up a healthy gut is elimination. Elimination can be carried out through sneezing, sweating, coughing as well as via bowel movements.
Regular elimination is needed in order to avoid congestion which can cause the death of our cells. Moving your bowels, urinating several times a day and sweating ensures a good elimination cycle.
Each of these elimination processes can be improved upon by eating plenty of fiber, making sure you are well hydrated and getting regular exercise.
By working to ensure the 4 components function in a balanced way, you will begin to improve your gut health naturally.
You Need Lots Of Friendly Bacteria For A Healthy Gut
Throughout our bodies we have a complex ecosystem of bacteria called the microbiome. This is a community of microbes, and the largest majority of these bacterial species making up our microbiome are located within our digestive system.
Trillions of friendly bacteria in your digestive system are responsible for several important functions involving your digestion and immune function. About 80% of your body’s immune system is located in your gut.
In fact the importance of your gut microbiome cannot be overemphasized as it is home to trillions of microbes that contribute to nearly every function of your body.
We help shape our own personal microbiome with the foods we eat, the level of stress we have in our lives, our sleep patterns and the amount of bacteria we are exposed to on a daily basis. Antibiotic and medication use also play a part in how healthy or unhealthy your gut is.
What Determines If Your Microbiome Is In Good Shape Or Not?
It comes down to the balance of good bacteria versus bad bacteria in your gut. You need to have a higher ratio of the good guys to the bad guys in order to remain healthy and symptom free.
Due to lifestyle factors like high stress levels, poor diet and being exposed to environmental toxins, your microbiome can be host to billions of dangerous yeast, fungi, parasites, bacteria and pathogens. However, it seems that good bacteria are the most important element when it comes to controlling inflammation and your immune function.
Eating To Support A Healthy Microbiome
If your microbiome is healthy it supports immunity and lowers inflammation in your body. Your diet plays a big part in supporting healthy bacteria in your gut. A lot is still being discovered about the various strains of gut bacteria and how they either help or adversely affect different body systems.
However, there are foods that help improve gut health by building friendly bacteria. And there are foods that increase inflammation. If you really want to reap the benefits of good gut health, be mindful of what foods you are eating every day.
WHAT FOODS ARE BAD FOR YOUR GUT?
FOODS THAT INCREASE INFLAMMATION IN YOUR BODY AND SHOULD BE AVOIDED
- Refined carbohydrates and processed grain products.
- Conventional animal products like eggs, meat and poultry raised on corn and cheap feed.
- Added sugars found in canned foods, breads, snacks, confectionery.
- Refined vegetable oils high in omega 6 fatty acids like canola, corn and gm soy beans.
- Pasteurized dairy products.
- Trans fats used in packaged and processed products.
HOW CAN I INCREASE GOOD BACTERIA IN MY GUT?
FOODS THAT LOWER INFLAMMATION AND HELP INCREASE GOOD BACTERIA LEVELS IN YOUR GUT
- All vegetables, herbs and sea vegetables.
- Whole fruit, not fruit juice.
- Wild caught fish.
- Free range eggs and poultry.
- Pasture fed meat.
- Healthy fats like coconut oil, grass fed butter, extra virgin olive oil.
- Nuts and seeds and their butters.
- Unrefined legumes.
- Probiotic foods like natural yogurt, kefir, kombucha and fermented vegetables.
- Prebiotic fiber from foods like asparagus, onions and artichokes.
- Red wine in moderation.
Other Ways To Keep Your Gut Healthy Naturally
REDUCE STRESS IN YOUR LIFE
When you are experiencing stress your body diverts energy away from fighting off infections as it focuses on the immediate threat you are under. You become more susceptible to infections and develop higher levels of inflammation throughout your body. Finding ways to reduce the stress in your life can have a beneficial effect on your gut health.
Chronically high levels of stress take a toll on your whole body, not only your gut. Easy ways to reduce stress include easy walking, having a massage, practising yoga and spending time with friends.
AVOID USING ANTIBIOTICS IF POSSIBLE
Whilst antibiotics can save lives when they are truly needed, nowadays they are overused and sometimes misused. Research shows a direct link between antibiotic overuse and the emergence of resistant bacteria strains.
The effect they have on your gut is to kill off the good bacteria at the same time they kill off the bad guys. This can lower your immune function and raise the risk for allergies and diseases. There are some effective natural antibiotics that work to not only kill bacteria, but viruses, yeast and parasites too.
GET ENOUGH GOOD QUALITY SLEEP
A study shows that poor quality sleep, such as chronic sleep disruption is known to promote obesity and insulin resistance. These symptoms are known to be related to the gut microbiota. So getting enough sleep regularly can have a profound effect on your gut health.
When you regularly experience low quality sleep, your gut health becomes compromised. In addition, sleep disorders can disrupt the functioning of the microbiome. So, if you are aware that you aren’t getting good solid sleep, perhaps your gut health needs some work.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE ADEQUATELY HYDRATED
Drinking sufficient water keeps your intestines smooth and flexible and helps move the food you eat through your intestines thus allowing food waste to be eliminated from your body.
If you are insufficiently hydrated you can suffer from chronic constipation as the stool becomes hard and difficult to pass.
CARRY OUT COMPREHENSIVE STOOL TESTING
If you have spent considerable time making adjustments to your diet and lifestyle and are sure you’re now regularly eating only foods that support good gut health but you still have symptoms. Or perhaps you just ‘feel’ that something is still not right, it could be time to carry out comprehensive stool testing.
This test can show you if you have gut dysbiosis, yeast or parasite overgrowths, or bacterial infections. You can then start a protocol of natural herbal supplements to rid yourself of any invaders. To determine what is going on with your gut, you can read more about the importance of comprehensive stool testing here.
How To Repair An Unhealthy Gut
Gut health as I found out for myself, can be the root problem of many other health issues making it ultra important to ensure your gut health is optimum. It is now widely recognized that gut health can influence other health issues including brain and mental health. Your general mood, memory, hormone regulation, vitamin and mineral absorption, and more can be influenced by the state of your gut.
These days with so many things that can wreak havoc on the digestive system, it may seem impossible to restore the balance of your gut. However, once you understand the different elements of what constitutes a healthy gut, working on repair becomes easier. It requires an action plan, some determined effort and patience as it takes time, but it can be done.
By using testing, dietary changes, and supplements it is possible to bring about positive changes not only to the function of your gut but to your overall health as well.
INFLAMED AND LEAKY GUT
Your gut may be inflamed from trying to digest too many processed foods or food types you are sensitive to. It is therefore important to identify and remove any foods you are sensitive to and give your digestive system a rest.
Your naturopath can arrange food sensitivity testing as well as comprehensive stool testing. After suspect foods are removed many people start to feel relief from some of their gut issues. Supplements to help calm an inflamed gut can also be helpful in the early stages of improving your overall gut health. Read my review of the great supplement I used to calm my gut inflammation and help start healing my leaky gut here.
An imbalance of bacteria in your gut causes damage to the mucosal lining of the digestive system which then becomes permeable and is commonly known as leaky gut syndrome. Tight junctions (tiny gaps) in the gut lining open up allowing food proteins to enter the bloodstream which starts an autoimmune cascade within your body.
Symptoms of a leaky gut include:
- Skin issues.
- Weight gain.
- Joint pain.
- Thyroid conditions.
- Syndrome X.
- Digestive problems.
- Food sensitivities.
There Are Several Steps To Healing A Leaky Gut.
- Remove any foods you are sensitive to from the results of testing. After your gut is healed you may be able to re introduce these foods.
- Remove grains and gluten from your diet. In sensitive people when gluten containing foods are eaten, gut cells release zonulin which is a protein that can break apart the tight junctions of the intestines. Proteins, microbes and undigested food particles then escape from the gut and travel throughout your body via the bloodstream when leaky gut has developed.
- Avoid dairy and legumes. Your digestive system needs to rest from the burden of trying to process difficult to digest foods.
- Repair your gut lining with specific herbs and supplements like L Glutamine, Quercetin and Licorice root. Introduce healing foods into your diet like bone broths, coconut products, Omega 3 fats from grass fed beef and lamb and wild caught fish like salmon. This high quality supplement containing Glutamine and quercetin amongst other beneficial ingredients can help calm inflammation and assist in healing a leaky gut.
- Take digestive enzymes to help ensure food is fully digested, decreases the chance of food particles damaging the gut wall.
- Re balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut with the use of probiotics. High quality probiotic supplements may be used in conjunction with probiotic foods such as fermented veggies, coconut kefir, kimchi and kombucha tea. Try this easy fermented vegetables recipe, it’s a simple way to start including more probiotic food regularly into your diet.
Putting It All Together
Good gut health is vital to your overall health and wellness. If you suspect your gut health is less than optimal and could be contributing to health issues you are currently experiencing, including chronic fatigue syndrome, take steps to improve it.
Carry out food sensitivity testing and remove foods you are sensitive to from your diet. Make sure to improve your overall diet by introducing healing and probiotic foods daily. If needed, take supplements to calm inflammation and heal your gut. The good news is that the mucosal lining of your intestine can start to regenerate very quickly given the right conditions.
Comprehensive stool testing can be undertaken to discover if dysbiosis, yeast, bacterial, viral or parasitic overgrowth could be a problem for you. If so, there are several natural herbal antibiotics, antivirals, antiparasitics and antifungals that can help with any of these issues.
Your gut didn’t become unbalanced overnight and likewise it will take some time to get it back into balance again if you have several issues. Persistence is required as healing your gut can take quite some time. However, slowly your symptoms will start to reduce and your overall health will start to improve.
Please feel free to leave any comments or questions.