Do You Need to Heal Your Gut?
Our gut influences everything from our weight, to our mood, to our cognitive ability. It can be the reason for our back pain, the root of our depression, and of course, the cause of our digestive issues. If these are an issue for you, then consider testing the health of your gut and taking action now to heal your gut before your gut issues start to snowball.
If you’d like to know exactly what your gut problems are, you can take a stool test to find out. The GI-MAP stool test even has a report to help you interpret your results.
Regardless of whether or not you find gut issues, these tips can help you improve your gut health.
1. Decrease Your Stress
It turns out that stress can actually help bad bugs to thrive. This is how a short period of stress can snowball into major gut health issues. And it’s why creating an anti-stress lifestyle is key to both gut health and mental health.
2. Support Your Immune System
If your gut is unhealthy, your immune system is already churning away trying to heal it. Without proper support, your immune system can get overworked and worn down. So a nice gentle way to heal the gut is to support your immune system in doing its job.
To support your immune system, you can eat immunity supporting foods, like citrus fruits, garlic, and spinach. If your immune system is already weak, it can also be helpful to supplement with key vitamins and minerals that may have become depleted like, Vitamin B, Vitamin D, and Zinc. I also found that taking vitamins to support adrenal function was incredibly helpful as adrenals can get taxed when we are overstressed by gut health issues.
3. Reduce Inflammation
Another way to heal the gut is by removing inflammatory foods. This helps your immune system decrease it’s workload so it can spend more energy on healing the gut.
Although each of us have different problem foods, wheat and dairy tend to be problematic for many people with gut health issues. Sugar feeds many bad bacteria (all carbs are digested as sugar). And partially-hydrogenated oils are toxic, so they busy the immune system leaving other problems in your body unaddressed. That’s why it can be really helpful to remove these inflammatory foods if we want a healthy gut.
4. Consume Collagen
Collagen makes up the gut’s connective tissue—or the barrier between what’s in your gut and the rest of your body. If this barrier gets “leaky”, particles from the gut can seep into the bloodstream, causing everything from the herxheimer reaction (flu-like symptoms), to mental health issues, to autoimmune disease.
Consuming collagen is likely helpful for everyone, but especially those with an unhealthy microbiota. In general, those with gut issues tend to have low levels of collagen. In addition, your microbiota affect which symptoms (or diseases) you might get from a leaky gut. So if you have an unhealthy gut, leaky gut may be more problematic.
For example, research shows that one type of autoimmune arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis is caused by the bacteria, Klebsiella. Many of us have Klebsiella in our microbiome, so researchers hypothesize that it’s only when these bacteria “leak” into our bloodstream that they cause arthritis. So eating collagen (or high-collagen foods like bone broth) can potentially prevent these negative outcomes.
5. Eat Gut-Soothing Foods
We often eat with little consideration for what our gut must then do with our food. In fact, our guts must break down all the chunks, absorb the nutrients, and then push along the indigestible fiber to feed the gut bugs in the lower intestine—that’s a lot of work for an unhealthy gut.
To help ease the burden on the gut, we can eat gut-soothing foods such as soft foods, cooked foods, and juiced fruits and vegetables. These foods are already broken down, which helps ease the burden on the gut.
6. Focus on Macronutrients
When it comes to the role of macronutrients (i.e., Carbs, Protein, and Fat) in gut health, the experts are split. Some say that feeding our gut bugs with carbs like fiber, vegetables, and fruits is the best approach. Others say that starving our gut bugs by eating primarily fat is the best approach. Indeed, both approaches seem to have benefits… depending on your unique gut and microbiota. So it’s important to pay attention to how specific foods make you feel.
For some folks, consuming fiber can exacerbate gut issues. For others, certain types of carbs exacerbate gut issues. For others, consuming high-fat meals exacerbate gut health issues (e.g., those without the enzymes to break down fats). When it comes to your gut health, the key is to eat mindfully and explore how different foods make you feel. Only then can you know that you’re eating to heal your gut.