Everything You Need to Know For a Healthy Gut In 5 Comprehensive Tips!
"Gut Health", a new buzz word and trending topic in the health and wellness community right now is gaining attention for the major impacts it has on our body and overall quality of life. When the microbes living in and on you are balanced they serve as soldiers to protect you from the bad guys and promote beneficial bodily functions (regulate blood sugar, boost your immunity, communicate with your brain to affect mood & mindset, etc.).
However, the majority of people living a “western” lifestyle have a gut that is in dysbiosis. This means the microbe populations that promote disease verses prevent disease and promote healing are out of balance! If you regularly eat processed foods, have ever taken a few rounds of antibiotics throughout your life, were born by C-section, didn’t grow up on a farm or immersed regularly in nature then your gut microbes are not operating at their highest potential to keep you healthy and less stressed. I think we all have a reason to heal our gut, myself included!
Most of our microbiome is developed as a child, which has a major influence on what future diseases and allergies you develop.
I am happy to talk about this trending topic because as researchers continue to discover more and more relationships between our bacteria and the body’s metabolic pathways it becomes more important that everyone jumps on the gut health bandwagon!
In this article I want to break down the steps you can use to heal your gut. I am not a licensed physician, but I do read and listen quite a lot on this topic, so please consult your physician if you are in a risk category. If you see underlined words or sentences click the link to find the scientific data I’ve referenced!
Check out my latest articles “What You Need To Know About Gut Health” and “How Your Health is Connected to Remarkable Soil Microbes” also if you want to understand more general information about the microbiome and our environment.
Let’s Start Digesting This Stuff!
1. Fiber Rich Food
Fiber a.k.a. plant polysaccharides are your microbes favorite food and can become yours too! Eating a diet abundant in plants, especially high-fiber foods like legumes, veggies, and whole grains, will feed your healthy microbes. By adopting a plant-centered plate you can promote further growth of the good guys while starving the ones who crave processed food. In my eyes, this is the most critical step to accompany your gut health makeover! Check out my most popular blog for simple ways to add more life to your plate!
P.S. Gas is normal when you start eating more fiber! It's a sign that your microbes are upping their fermentation game yay!
From start to finish various enzymes aid the process of digestion, but tend to be under recognized for the work they do! The pancreas secretes most of the digestive enzymes, but for many people it could use some help! There is promising research showing taking over-the-counter digestive enzymes help with healing digestion issues, as well as reduce inflammation (many athletes use), stimulate the immune system, boost absorption of vitamins and amino acids, and more! I tried Bioptimizers MassZymes when I was having digestion issues and they worked great. I had about three pills with each meal, but probably could have benefited from taking more! After listening to an interview with the founder, a professional bodybuilder, I felt I could trust the company and ingredients (suitable for vegans) so I suggest checking them out! They have HCl and probiotic supplements too!
The more natural approach would be to consume more raw organic fruits and vegetables in addition to fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. These are foods that are still alive, which means they contain enzymes! The process of heating can kill the enzymes so it’s best to mix up between raw and cooked veggies. If you are having digestive issues though I suggest you do more than eat tons of raw veg because a good supplement will be more efficient for your body to utilize.
3. HCl Acid Production
With the sight, smell, or anticipation of food your brain signals the release of Hydrochloric acid into the stomach in order to prepare for digestion. HCl breaks down proteins and kills potential pathogens preparing the food to enter the small intestine where microbes further digestion and nutrient absorption.
Whether or not you are producing enough HCl is important to factor in when aiming to create a healthy microbiome! HCl breaks food down into molecules, like beneficial short-chain fatty acids, so the microbes are able to feed and ferment on these smaller molecules. If HCl doesn't preform its job large proteins go undigested causing you bowel stress and opportunity loss of nutrients.
Low levels of HCl could be due to stress (constant sympathetic nervous system arousal), low zinc levels, antacids, and bacterial infections. Interesting to note, many people who experience acid reflux you would assume are producing too much HCl, but actually it’s the opposite and your doctor may not think twice to consider this thus prescribe antacids to help, which ironically only furthers this issue because antacids suppress acid production.
To check whether you have adequate levels try this at-home method using baking soda.
4. Prebiotic & Probiotics:
The gut health trend has been monetized by supplement and food companies who promote their new products that contain pre- and probiotics. So are the products worth buying? Will these actually help my gut? The answer is it depends haha! Just like most things it depends on the brand’s reputation, bacteria species, how you eat it, and how your body breaks it down. With so many factors it can be tricky, but if you’re serious about revamping your microbiome these supplements are a great addition.
What should you consider when buying and consuming these supplements?
Two Types of Probiotics:
Colonizing Strains remain in the gut for a long period of time and will increase their population size in response to being fed the correct pre-biotics, like fiber-rich foods! This is great if you’re targeting the growth of a specific bacteria species. However, if you unknowingly try to establish a species of bacteria that isn’t a right fit for you it could be causing more dysbiosis.
Transient Strains don’t colonize, only spend 3-7 days in the intestinal tract, and allow for a more natural approach to colonize your gut. These strains will help establish good bacteria in the gut and push out the bad ones if accompanied by a nutritious diet (dominantly whole plant foods).
If you are not working with your doctor or have not thoroughly researched the strains in a colonizing probiotic then I recommend transient strains to start you off!
Once you find a product check online reviews and detailed information (ensure bacteria will be able to withstand strong HCl acid in the stomach, 5 million CFU or higher are more beneficial, make sure there is a labeled expiration date). If the probiotics aren't designed with quality then you're wasting your money! Click this article for more probiotic info.
5. Embrace the Outdoors
Being a dirty hippie can actually boost your microbial flora so take your shoes off and buy farm-fresh organic produce! Rich healthy soil is teeming with bacterial life that can add many benefits to our flora. By walking around barefoot in nature you naturally collect more microbes that can be beneficial for your skin and maybe find their way inside of you (hopefully only the good ones make it)! Studies have linked a soil bacterium with reduced stress levels due to the increase in serotonin production, just step outside to get your daily dose of natural Prozac. Likewise, leftover soil microbes on local, organic produce are a great addition to your plate. Don’t scrub your veggies too clean, a quick rinse will do! If you want to learn more about our relationship to soil microbes read my previous blog!
Now you've had an inside look at your insides why don't you show them some love! Even if you don't experience digestive issues these 5 areas to gut health can help your body far beyond just balancing your belly bacteria!
"Live Dirty, Eat Clean & Green",