Many medical professionals and holistic health practitioners alike now agree that supporting digestive and intestinal health and protecting or restoring the gut wall should be your most important overall health goals…and for good reason!
Let’s explore what it means to have good gut health and examine the keys to achieving it.
There really is no one definition or measurement for what defines good gut health. However the key to a healthy gut is having a robust, balanced, and diverse microbiome.
The Human Microbiome – your body’s own unique garden
Each of us has an internal complex ecosystem of bacteria consisting of 10-100 trillion microbes found primarily within the digestive system, that we call the microbiome.
Dr. Josh Axe, Author of Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause explains that “our individual microbiomes are sometimes called our ‘genetic footprints’ since they help determine our unique DNA, hereditary factors, predisposition to diseases, body type or body ‘set point weight’ and much more.”
What establishes this microbiota, our own in-house gardens if you will, is what we do to our bodies — the foods we eat, how we sleep, the amount of bacteria we’re exposed to on a daily basis, and the level of stress we endure. In fact, stress is a major contributor to upsetting the delicate balance of our microbiomes!
FUN GUT FACT: Did you know that 95% of our serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter, is actually manufactured by our gut bacteria? So, you can imagine that it’s not a stretch that our gut has been nicknamed the second brain!
Signs of a poorly functioning digestive system
“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates
Ok, perhaps not ALL diseases, but did you know that a staggering number of diseases can be traced by, to, or have some association to poor gut health?
Many of the issues which stem from poor gut health is an overly permeable intestinal lining, now being commonly referred to as leaky gut syndrome.
Here’s a list of issues that may be attributed to poor gut health, often associated with leaky gut and intestinal dysbiosis – a disturbance in the microbiome, as adapted by Amy Meyers, MD, The Autoimmune Solution:
- Flatulence, belching, bloating, and acid reflux
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Weight loss resistance
- Abdominal pains or cramps
- Bad breath
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies (including iron and B12)
- Undigested food in stools
- Mucus in or around stools
- Sticky, mushy, or greasy stools
- Skin problems, such as acne or rosacea
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Eczema – especially on hands
- Cracked feet and/or hands
- Having frequent colds and lowered immunity
- Autoimmune diseases
- Lower back pain
- Breathing/asthma problems
- Food allergies or sensitivities (both a symptom and a cause!)
- Vertical crack in middle of tongue
- Periodontitis and/or gingivitis
- Sinusitis and sinus infection
- Vaginal yeast infection and chronic vaginitis (vaginal irritation)
- Fungal infection of the nail
Testing your gut health
My favorite way to evaluate gut health is with a GI MAP stool test. The GI MAP checks for bacteria, parasites, viruses, opportunistic organisms, normal flora (healthy bacteria), fungi (Candida), antibiotic resistance genes, and more. It is excellent for pinpointing specific issues which leads to a very tailored treatment plan. Contact me if you would like to learn more about this incredible resource.
How to heal your gut – natural gut health support
Healing your digestive system and supporting digestive health are the best things you can do for your health overall as the benefits are so far reaching.
Here are my top 5 recommendations for supporting your gut health:
- Take a quality probiotic and incorporate fermented foods.
- Avoid overuse of antibiotics – take only when absolutely necessary.
- Eat less sugar, way less sugar!
- Lower stress levels, and sleep more – sleep can impact gut health and vice versa.
- Eat less refined and processed foods and lean toward a more anti-inflammatory diet that includes plenty of high fiber foods like chia seeds, vegetables, fermented veggies (which you should rotate through) and, of course, bone broth. It’s even ok to eat red meat in moderation (think grass-fed), but rotate it with other high quality proteins or it can significantly change your gut’s microbiome.
Additionally, because no one’s nutrition is perfect (not even your nutritionist!), it might be a good idea to supplement with some targeted “nutriceuticals” to help fill in the gaps in your daily diet.
Supplements that can benefit gut health
The following can all help keep free radical damage and inflammation from disturbing your microbiota:
- Bone Broth
- Fermented Foods
- Chicken or Beef Bone Broth Powder
- Collagen Peptides or Marine Collagen
- Vitamin and minerals with antioxidant properties – selenium, vitamins C, E, and D