Gut health is taking centre stage in health advice these days, and for good reason. The more scientists research it, the more they are finding that it is key to your wellbeing in so many ways. From your mood, your neurology, your hormonal balance, to your energy levels and eventually the development of serious or chronic diseases, making sure your gut is in top form can make a huge difference to your health. They say disease begins in the colon.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF POOR GUT HEALTH?
1. Bloating, constipation or gas
The symptoms you would obviously expect would be bloating, constipation or gas, and you would be right. This is the most obvious clue that it’s your gut causing you problems and it means you are not processing and breaking down your food properly. It is mostly diagnosed as IBS, leaky gut or acid reflux and there are a host of commercial products available that can help alleviate the symptoms. In the end though, they may just exacerbate the issue as they don’t tackle the root cause.
So those are obvious symptoms. What about other symptoms that you may not necessarily link to your gut?
2. Excess weight around your waist
Your gut breaks down all your food and that includes those infamous carbs, as well as fats, having an impact on your metabolism. To do this effectively it needs to have the full range of microbes that work to help you digest your food. If these foods aren’t broken down properly, excess waste could be stored in your fat tissue
3. Frequent infections
70% of your immune system is located in your gut. That’s massive. A strong colony of gut microbes act like a little army that combats unfriendly bacteria that get into your body. If you’re getting sick a lot your gut is one of your first lines of defence.
4. Skin problems
Your skin is a good indicator of your health. If your skin is glowing and radiant, chances are you’re feeling good too. Healthy bacteria are so good for your skin they are even starting to make skincare products with probiotics! Your gut flora also plays a role in processing hormones such as oestrogen, another factor that influences your skin’s health.So if you are struggling with lacklustre skin, breakouts, eczema or rosacea it could mean that your gut is toxic, inflamed or imbalanced.
5. Feeling run down
It follows that if your gut isn’t able to break down your food properly, you won’t be getting a good supply of energy. This means that you are not making the most of the food you are eating. Problems with chronic fatigue or feeling under the weather or lethargic a lot could benefit from rebalancing your gut health.
6. Anxiety, depression, mood swings or irritability
95% of serotonin is made in your gut. If you consider that this is a major neurotransmitter that regulates your moods and that many antidepressants, both natural and synthetic, target, it gives you an idea how important your gut health really is for your neurological health. Scientists are finding in their research that it plays a major role in many things we used to just associate with the brain. It is in fact, your second brain. Think about how you feel a knot in your stomach when you are anxious, or sometimes don’t feel like eating if you are really sad.
7. Brain fog, ADD or ADHD
If you suffer from this extremely frustrating problem you may feel like your brain just won’t get into gear – you forget simple vocabulary, where you put your keys and struggle to follow the thread of a conversation. This could be being influenced by your ‘second brain’, as inflammation in your gut has a knock on effect on inflammation in other parts of your body.
8. Autoimmune issues
If the wall of your gut isn’t healthy and resilient, it could result in leaky gut. This means that particles can escape from your gut into your bloodstream, a route that they are not meant to take naturally. This results in your body attacking foreign particles, overstimulate your immune system and leading to autoimmunity and chronic inflammation in your body, leading to problems such as thyroid issues and adrenal fatigue.
9. Food allergies or sensitivities
You may find when you eat certain foods you become bloated, or your body feels inflamed or you experience brain fog. This means your body may be having an immune reaction to them. This could be linked to having a leaky gut too.
HOW TO DO A RESET: REMOVE OR RESET
Removing or remedying some of these possible triggers is the first step to re-balancing your gut:
1. Inflammation triggers
Inflammatory foods, such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and sugar, can lead to food sensitivities. You can do an elimination diet to test which foods you react to by removing the foods for two weeks or more and then adding them back in, one at a time, seeing how your body responds.
Grains that contain gluten such as wheat, rye, barley and spelt can be hard to digest for some and may become addictive as they are comfort foods. The undigested partial proteins in gluten can actually have powerful morphine-like properties, becoming potent drugs once they enter the bloodstream.
Some other foods that can be irritating to the gut are caffeine, alcohol and drugs, especially antibiotics.
You can read more about leaky gut here.
Antibiotics are used freely these days and do more than kill the infection you have (if they work), if you really need an antibiotic, keep in mind that they can also kill off a lot of your healthy gut flora and you will need to re-balance your gut after a course. Otherwise, it could lead to a vicious cycle of re-infection as your gut immunity has been compromised.
Birth control pills can change your body pH and have been scientifically linked to chronic yeast overgrowth because it creates an imbalance of estrogen dominance by feeding your system a steady dose of estrogen. If you take the birth control pill, consider its pros and cons for you, and be aware that you need to take special care of your gut if you take it.
Antacids: Conventional treatments for acid reflux often involve suppressing your tummy’s acid production. By suppressing your stomach’s acid, you take away its defensive ability to kill a particular infection known to reflux called H. pylori, as well as disrupt the balance of your gut flora, so you can actually be making things worse. (Here are some natural tips for dealing with acid reflux).
3. Parasites & fungal infections
Once your gut is compromised, it can be a breeding ground for parasites and fungal infections such as candida, or bacteria. It’s pretty obvious your diet would play a central role in your gut health and refined foods and particularly foods high in refined sugar can lead to a runaway infection of baddies as sugar is their number one favourite fast food. You need to reduce your sugar intake drastically, and be prepared to overcome those cravings! (Take a look at our blogs about cleansing parasites (and here) and candida for more info).
4. GMOs & pesticides
There is some evidence to suggest that genetically modified organisms and pesticides can harm the balance of your gut flora.
Chlorine may kill off harmful bacteria in your water, but that same chlorine can kill off good bacteria in your gut. Consider using a quality water filter to remove chlorine and other harmful chemicals in your water.
Once you have taken a look at remedying the possible causes, re-colonising your gut with healthy flora is your main priority. You can help kick start your digestion with digestive enzymes or a digestive aid for a start, or you could just start adding healthy gut flora to your diet and let your digestive system rectify naturally. See what works for you.
1. Inoculate with healthy flora
Restoring beneficial bacteria is at the core of resetting your gut. Probiotic foods are a tasty and convenient way feed your gut friendly bacteria on a regular basis. Unpasteurised foods that have been traditionally fermented such as yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut are full of natural beneficial flora and are also easier for you to digest. Eat a variety of these foods to give yourself a broad spectrum of beneficial flora. (Take a look here for more tips on healthy probiotic foods that will help colonise your gut with the good stuff). You can also take a good probiotic supplement if you feel you are really run down and need an extra boost.( Here’s some more info on probiotics)
Here are some nutrients that help repair your gut lining and build your immune system:
- L-glutamine helps to rejuvenate the gut wall lining
- Other useful nutrients: zinc, omega-3 oils, Vitamin A, C, and E
- Herbs such as slippery elm and aloe vera create a protective coating that soothes and protects the gut lining