Gut health is so important to your overall wellbeing. If your gut gets out of whack you can experience various problems all over your body.
It is easy to damage your bacterial balance but luckily it is not impossible to restore it. It will require, though, some effort and simple lifestyle changes.
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Healthy Gut Is Vital
As we now know through the latest research, gut plays a main role in the immune system response. It is said that 80% of your immune cells are in your intestines.
The immune cells work together with the good bacteria. These friendly fighters can detect invaders such as viruses and initiate an immune system response. Some probiotics also kill disease causing pathogens.
The more good bacteria you have the less space there is for the bad ones.
The good bacteria keep you feeling at your best by
- Balancing hormones
- Stabilizing sugar levels
- Keeping the intestinal lining healthy
- Supporting immune system
- Enhancing nutrition absorption
- Fighting off invaders
Nevertheless, it is easy to mess up this delicate bacterial balance and often we do it unknowingly.
What Causes Poor Gut Health
Diet full of processed food or loaded with sugar is not going to benefit your gut health. Nor is a diet lacking pre- and probiotic foods.
Antibiotics whether by prescription or in your food will damage the bacterial balance. Pesticides are not beneficial for the gut either. Also, toxins in personal care products and water are harmful to the good bacteria.
Additionally, over exercising and not getting enough sleep can affect the microbes living in your gut.
Since all those are stressors, we could say that unhealthy gut is caused by stress. Stress causes poor gut health and bad gut health causes stress. A vicious cycle.
Gut Health and Stress
Stress affects us every day.
When you are under stress your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. Your blood flow to the gut decreases which you might notice as nervous stomach and trouble digesting food. Stress can cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal system.
Stress also weakens the immune system by lowering the lymphocytes. Lymphocytes (white cells) produce antibodies and destroy damage causing cells.
Also, under stress adrenals start producing adrenaline and cortisol the (anti-) stress hormone to deal with the situation. Which is good of course. You need those. Cortisol is anti-inflammatory so it will help you to fight infections.
But if the stress becomes chronic or too frequent the adrenals can wear out. Once they get exhausted they won’t produce enough cortisol which will cause a variety of problems including bad gut health… and bad gut health causes adrenal fatigue…
So, how do you know whether your gut needs a little help.
10 Signs Your Gut Is In Trouble
I’m sure there are dozens of signs but to name a few:
- Skin Problems: If your gut is not healthy you might experience skin problems like eczema, acne, dandruff, and rosacea.
- Gastrointestinal Discomfort: Poor gut health leads to diarrhea and constipation.
- Sugar Cravings: “Give me some sugar!” That’s what the bad bacteria and yeast are screaming…
- Food Sensitivities: When your gut gets leaky, you can experience increased food allergies and sensitivities.
- Mood Issues: Healthy gut produces serotonin which makes you happy.
- Weight Loss/Gain: Parasites can cause weight loss or gain.
- Frequent Colds and Infections
- Insomnia: Bacterial Imbalance affects melatonin and GABA production.
- Adrenal Fatigue: Inflammation causes stress and if it becomes chronic it can lead to tired adrenals.
- Thyroid Problems: Poor gut health can trigger Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune disease.
“The health of your skin shows how well your body regulates stress and how well your immune system is functioning.”
– Dr. Jockers
Gut health is not the only thing that causes those problems but they are known signs of poor gut health.
How to Heal Your Gut
1. Improve Your Gut Health with Food
This can be hard for some of us. Processed food is so convenient. Just pull out the cereal box and milk and there you go: breakfast is served.
I find it always stressful if I try to make too many changes at once. Sometimes it is good to make small change or only a few changes at a time to give the body time to adjust to those.
Here are some things for you to consider:
a. Eliminate Foods You Are Sensitive or Allergic to
Eating foods you are allergic to cause inflammation which is not going to help. But many times, as your gut heals your food sensitivities go away and you can once again enjoy the foods that gave you trouble.
b. Avoid Processed Food to the Extent Possible
I know it is not practical or possible for all us to live on a farm and grow our own organic, non-toxic food but small changes are better than none. Prepare your own meals from scratch with good ingredients as often as you can. Maybe you can start with healthy snacks or replace a thing or two in your lunch bag with a healthier choice.
c. Eat Organic Food
Organic foods are always the preferable choice but it can get to be pretty expensive. Certain fruits and vegetables would be better eaten organic at all times. These really suck in all the toxic pesticides.
d. Add Fermented Foods in Your Diet
Fermented foods are in. And for a good reason. They are probiotic so they will help to balance the bacteria in the gut.
My favorites are fermented beverages like kefir and kombucha. Both are very easy to make and so good to your gut.
If you have a friend who makes these fermented beverages, ask for a kefir grain or kombucha scoby. Those things grow and multiply so they are easy to share with a friend. You can also find them online; Cultured Food For Life sells kefir grains that are not dehydrated.
You might also want to try the recipes in this book. It has some amazing recipes for fermented main and side dishes and even desserts.
e. Eat Prebiotic Foods
Prebiotics are nondigestible food ingredients that promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines. This nondigestible fiber passes through the stomach and small intestine. In the colon it feeds the good bacteria. So, prebiotics are essential to healthy microflora.
You can get prebiotics from various foods such as
- chicory root
- wheat bran
- dark chocolate (YAY!)
- chia seeds
2. Fix Bacterial Imbalance
Your gut should have mostly good bacteria to have a great balance. So obviously, you need to increase the number of friendly bacteria and decrease the bad ones. Also, in order to restore the balance any possible parasites and h.pylori need to be destroyed and yeast overgrowth brought under control.
I used some effective natural remedies to get rid of helicobacteria (H.Pylori). I talk about them more in that post.
Probiotic supplements are effective in balancing the bacteria in the gut and improving the way you feel. They e.g.
- aid in digestion
- prevent constipation and diarrhea
- improve resistance to allergies
- fight yeast and fungal infections
- prevent skin problems
- help maintain a hormone balance
- clear up brain fog
Klaire Labs Complete is what I use. Though it is recommended that it should be stored in the fridge the Klaire Labs say that it can be out of the refrigerator “for weeks or months without significant loss of viable organisms“.
3. Eliminate Toxins
Toxins can mess up the delicate bacterial balance in the digestive tract. Unfortunately, toxins are everywhere! No wonder we don’t feel well. It can be quite the task to eliminate all the toxins but making a few improvements can help a lot.
One thing I already mentioned, eating organic, non-processed food. Another one would be to switch to less toxic personal care products. Many of the hair and body products and other cosmetics contain endocrine disrupting chemicals, carcinogens, parabens which are xenoestrogen and alter the hormones.
Using more natural products reduces the stress your body experiences.
We also face huge amount of toxins in the household products used for every day cleaning. Find toxic free products that will help you to achieve a better health.
In this Things to Avoid When You Have Adrenal Fatigue post I list some personal care and household products that I have used.
Some houseplants clean air very well so it would be beneficial to have those placed around the house.
- English Ivy
- Bamboo Palm
- Rubber Plant
4. Reduce Stress
All of the things above reduce stress but now I want to focus on the emotional stress. I’m not sure if anything brings you down like emotional stress. At least for the “feelers” that is a big one.
Emotional stress messes up with your gut too. I mentioned the stress-gut connection earlier when talking about the fight or flight response. When that response gets activated digestion slows down.
If the emotional stress becomes too frequent or chronic it can wear out your adrenals. Since adrenals help with many functions in your body including fighting inflammation you will be more likely to have an inflamed gut.
Sign up for the Less Stress Challenge. It is a 10-week email course designed to help you to reduce stress. The course will give you tips for five common stressors. And to keep the course from stressing you out, you will have two weeks per stressor to implement the changes.
Heal the Gut – Enjoy Better Health
Take a step at a time to heal your gut and you might be surprised how much that will affect how you feel!
The Thyroid Gut Connection. ChrisKresser.com.
Is The Gut-Brain-Skin Axis to Blame for Anxiety and Acne. DrJockers.com.
11 Hidden Causes of Insomnia. DrJockers.com
Good Thyroid Health Depends on Good Gut Health. DrKNews.com
7 Reasons to Get Prebiotics in Your Diet – Plus Best Sources. Dr.Axe.com