What is Good Gut Health And How Do You Get It?

What is Good Gut Health And How Do You Get It?

what is good gut health

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?”

gut health importance

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
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Lupus 
  • Psoriasis

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

what is good gut health

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.

1. Digestion

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.

2. Absorption

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.

3. Utilization 

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.

4. Elimination 

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.

good gut health - bacteria

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.

what is good gut health

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

what is good gut health - stress

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

best foods to heal leaky gut antibiotics

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

healthy drinking water facts glass of water

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

what is good gut health - 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.

what is good gut health - leaky gut

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:

  • Fatigue
  • Skin issues.
  • Weight gain.
  • Joint pain.
  • Thyroid conditions.
  • Syndrome X.
  • Digestive problems.
  • Food sensitivities.

There Are Several Steps To Healing A Leaky Gut.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Avoid dairy and legumes. Your digestive system needs to rest from the burden of trying to process difficult to digest foods.
  4. 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.
  5. Take digestive enzymes to help ensure food is fully digested, decreases the chance of food particles damaging the gut wall.
  6. 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.

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19 Comments

  • Hightek May 8, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    In аddіtіоn to these great tips…

    Good gut hеаlth bеgіnѕ in thе oral саvіtу! After brushing wіth SALIVA ONLY, ѕсrаре уоur tongue (I uѕе a big ѕрооn) аt least dаіlу, and thеn use one teaspoon оr ѕо оf blасkѕееd (kаlоnjі) оіl аѕ a mоuthwаѕh, ѕwіѕhіng it аrоund fоr аt least 5 mіnutеѕ before spitting (оr even ѕwаllоwіng it!)

    This is a well prepared article anyway.

    Thanks

  • Derek Marshall May 9, 2018 at 12:30 am

    Hi there,

    Excellent article! thank you kindly for sharing this with us all. I never thought good balance of our gut bacteria could help to reduce stress and well as energy.

    When i feeling fatigued I kind seek out nutrients, mineral rich food and try address it from the very source the mitochondria. It does make perfect sense as well as logic to balance bacterias..got me really intrugued as to why this works!.

    I do try keep my oral health in tip top shape by not using modern mouthwashes as they kinda destroy the good bacterias as well as the bad. Simple coconut oil is enough and parsley for fresh breath!.

    • Ann May 9, 2018 at 3:17 am

      Hi Derek thanks for your comments. As my article mentions I found out the hard way just how important good gut health is. You are correct about mitochondrial importance, that subject is already on my list for a future post. Agree re using coconut oil pulling for good oral health. 

      Seems you have quite a few bases covered already.!

  • Dr. Doug May 11, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    So interesting, I have an autoimmune that started as a gut problem. I had leaky gut, developed candida, treated for that but never got rid of gluten. Ten years later I was having autoimmune flares and finally nixed gluten, corn and most grains.

    I am now recovering but you are totally right, it all actually started in the gut. Kombucha is one of the best foods I’ve taken up on this quest to better health. I also use CBD to control inflammation. There’s a very good reason that so many cultures use fermented foods.

    • Ann May 11, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      Hi Dr Doug thanks so much for your comments. I’m glad you’ve found some relief by removing gluten and most grains from your diet. This is actually how I eat too. I ditched gluten and grains when testing showed I had a gut parasite that feeds on gluten and sugar. I got rid of the parasite and just continued to eat this way. I also use fermented foods and will be writing articles on this soon. This article on gut health is the first in this series of articles leading into ‘everything gut related’. I believe gut health is SO important to overall good health. 

  • Houston May 14, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    Hi Ann,

    Just wanted to say that I enjoyed your post about what is good gut health. My wife recently discovered that she has IBS so we’ve been doing a ton of research on gut health. Once my wife cleaned up her diet by not eating dairy and pasta not only did her IBS get better, she also lost about 15 pounds. I’ve been cleaning up my diet as well and I feel so much better. It’s amazing how much crap we eat and how out of wack out guts become.

    • Ann May 15, 2018 at 4:57 am

      Hi Houston

      Thanks for commenting. Yes unfortunately our diets are not always as healthy as they could be. Even when we are eating what we think is healthy we can be eating foods which our bodies are sensitive to. This sets us up for all sorts of difficulties with our immune system and gut problems. I’m glad your wife found some relief from her IBS by simply removing some foods from her diet.

  • sharon May 17, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    Wow how interesting i never really there was so much to know about your gut being unhealthy.
    I suffer with tummy aches and have ignored it as it goes away after a few minutes but lately my stomach has felt bloated and a bit uncomfortable so i am glad i have found your post as hopefully it will help me:)
    Could bread be my problem?or could it be gluten? i have never really given any of this a thought.
    Great post thanks for the info.

    • Ann May 17, 2018 at 2:27 pm

      Hi Sharon

      Thanks for commenting on my post, I’m glad you found the information interesting and helpful. We take our gut health so much for granted, until that is we encounter some problems. 

       There can be many reasons you suffer stomach bloating. You mention bread and gluten. Gluten is a very common sensitivity. Yeast in bread can be something that people are sensitive to. In my case I can handle gluten but not yeast and stopped eating bread years ago. 

       It could be worth cutting both of these items out for a while to see if you find any change in your bloating. If either of these things are causing your issue you will get a result pretty quickly, usually within a couple of weeks your stomach bloating should reduce.

  • Shane Black November 4, 2018 at 1:57 am

    Hi Ann, 

    This is a very interesting article on gut health that you have published, thanks so much for sharing. 

    It was crazy to learn that gut health can affect memory, mood, mental health and immune system. It definitely shows why it is important to take care of your gut and all the little organisms living in there! Quite a while ago, I cleared up ‘brain fog’ with a diet adjustment and probiotic supplementation to improve my gut health, so I can attest to it’s importance. 

    Cheers, 

    Shane 

    • Ann November 4, 2018 at 2:09 am

      Hi Shane thanks for your comments. It wasn’t until I experienced severe gut issues that I really started to understand the importance of gut health. Agree, it’s amazing it can affect your brain, but now studies show it’s link to  psychological disorders too.

  • Garen November 23, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Wow, I was completely unaware that your gut health could actually cause you to be fatigued.  

    I do have a question on probiotics foods.  Are there any probiotics that you recommend?   There are so many brands to choose from my head is spinning!

    Also, what kinds of foods are considered probiotic foods?  I am looking to get my gut health back on track.

    • Ann November 23, 2018 at 8:07 am

      Hi Garen Thanks for leaving a comment. 

      Yes there seems to be a lot of information out there about probiotics at the moment and it can be a bit overwhelming. However, it needn’t be. You don’t need to go mad, just start slowly and try adding one at a time to work out which you like. Some plain unsweetened yoghurt (containing live cultures) is a familiar probiotic to start with. A small portion of fermented vegetables on the side of your plate or as a condiment with cold cuts is an easy addition too. Then you can go on to experiment and try some Komucha tea and Kefir too. If you like Asian food, Korean food is usually served with some spicy Kimchi, which you can also buy and use as a condiment too. Hope you’ll give some of these a go. But start gradually and slowly build up. 

  • Stratos K November 23, 2018 at 8:01 am

    Amazing information found here. I never knew about all this. There are so many things we don’t know about our own body that I always find interesting reading health articles that can really make a difference in our everyday life. Unfortunately stress and our everyday diet doesn’t help and when you are running all day to have a balanced diet and be stress free is almost impossible. But we need to find time for changing because health is so important.

    • Ann November 23, 2018 at 8:09 am

      Hi Stratos Thanks for your comments and I’m so glad you found the article useful. Yes it’s all about balance I think, and working out what is important to you.

  • Angelique November 23, 2018 at 8:11 am

    Interesting and relevant healthy life advice 

    Being a vegetarian I don’t see how I can reach a good healthy gut i agree with the parasites not many people take it serious enough especially people who work with animals Horses Dogs and Cats or Pet shop workers.

    There is more bacteria in a tea towel and dish cloth than in a lot of foods most people don’t understand the 4 hour rule in food safety all schools should teach food safety its more than just washing the hands Chicken and frozen meats should be defrosted in the fridge left overs are ok but not chicken or Dairy 

    The diet you have mentioned and how to balance the gut I will agree probiotics in Yogurt is good and a beer now and again wont hurt but can cause yeast infections and imbalance and cause candida 

    There’s a lot of good information in here but as a vegetarian or for the vegan is there a diet that we could follow to have a healthy gut  

    • Ann November 23, 2018 at 8:40 am

      Hi Angelique thanks for leaving a comment. Yes, food handling is important to ensure you are not going to get an unhealthy dose of bad bacteria along with your meal.

      Vegetarians can keep their gut healthy by getting probiotics from fermented vegetables, dill pickles and sauerkraut. 

      If you like Asian food, Korean Kimchi, a fermented spicy cabbage is a great probiotic source and yummy as a condiment with noodles or ramen. Also Miso which is fermented soy bean paste can be used in salad dressings and soups. 

      Another source of probiotics is tempeh which is a fermented soy bean cake, it tastes great sliced then fried lightly in a little oil just to make the outside a little crispy. A different type of fermented soy bean dish is natto, which can also be used as a condiment on top of a noodle dish. Natto is quite an aquired taste though, as it has quite a pungent smell and unique sticky texture. 

      Yoghurt is another great probiotic source and nowadays you can buy is made from almond milk and coconut milk, just make sure it is unsweetened. 

      Coconut water kefir and kombucha tea are other probiotic alternatives suitable for vegetarian diets. 

      You need prebiotics too to feed these probiotics and if you are eating a wholegrain vegetarian diet, these shouldn’t be hard to come by. Some great prebiotic sources are asparagus and onions, along with the wholegrains. Hope this info is useful.

  • Jane lutwama November 23, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Hey Ann,

    Today I have learned a great deal! I try as much as I can to eat more veges and fruits as part of my weight control plan. But I believe I am not doing a great job yet.  I have lots of food sensitivities, so much that I cant tell which food is good and which is bad. I seem to itch even after taking water! 

    I am going to keep myself strictly on proper gut health practices as you outlined and see how that goes. Thanks for the  information.

    • Ann November 23, 2018 at 8:43 am

      Hi Jane thanks for your comments. If you can heal a leaky gut you’ll be able to get rid of food sensitivities too. Have you had testing carried out to find out which foods you are sensitive too? You may need to avoid those foods for a while. 

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