The health of your gut pretty much determines the health of your whole body — it dictates what nutrients are absorbed and what toxins, allergens and microbes are kicked out.
In the first four parts of the Gut Feelings series we learned that our gut serves multiple functions to keep us healthy:
- It must break down all the food you eat into individual nutrients that are absorbed into your bloodstream to be used by your body and brain
- The bugs in your intestines form a diverse ecosystem that help digest food, regulate hormones, excrete toxins and produce vitamins to keep your body healthy. As we learned, there needs to be a balance of good and bad bacteria for optimal health.
- 80% of our immune system lives in the gut; it filters out potentially harmful microbes and pathogens that we ingest to prevent us getting sick. If the barrier is damaged, then food allergies can arise and inflammation is triggered throughout the body as our immune system kicks into overdrive.
- Your gut is like your second brain — it actually contains more neurotransmitters than your brain. Serotonin, for example, is a feel-good hormone that also controls your body clock; a large proportion of it is produced in the gut!
As we’ve discussed before, there are so many symptoms that crop up when our gut health is compromised or out of balance. From everyday issues like bloating and indigestion, to more severe consequences like IBS, diarrhoea, and chronic fatigue or anxiety — these are all indications of a damaged gut.
By simply focusing on your gut health, you can eradicate many of these symptoms and start feeling better as overall inflammation is reduced. Here are 5 simple steps to get you started:
1) Eat whole, properly prepared foods
Foods in their natural state are what we as humans were designed to eat. Processed foods have little nutrient value and are high in refined sugars and chemical additives, which irritate the gut lining and lead to Leaky Gut. Sugar also feeds the harmful bacteria in your gut, which can lead to overgrowth.
Stay clear of industrial seed oils (e.g. corn, soybean, sunflower, canola) – not only are they prone to oxidative damage, but they can overburden your liver and gallbladder, which makes it harder on the rest of your digestive system to break them down.
Make sure you’re focusing on high quality proteins and fibre from non-starchy fruits and veg. Fermentable fibres from tubers like sweet potato, yam, and yucca can also be helpful if tolerated.
If you choose to eat nuts & seeds, legumes, and grains, make sure to properly soak or ferment them before cooking to remove gut-wrecking toxins.
2) Eliminate food allergies & sensitivities
If you find yourself reacting to certain foods, it’s likely that your gut is already compromised and continuing to eat those foods is just adding fuel to the fire. If you think you have food sensitivities, try an elimination diet. Cut out gluten, dairy, yeast, corn, soy, and eggs for a week or two and see how your gut feels and what happens to your other symptoms.
3) Introduce gut healing foods
As you eliminate inflammatory foods, make sure you’re also adding in gut-healing ones that are rich in glutamine, collagen, and zinc.
You can help maximize nutrient absorption and preserve the integrity of the gut barrier by getting glutamine into your diet. Glutamine is used by the cells of your gut to build and repair the intestinal lining, preventing leaky gut and keeping them healthy. One of the best sources of glutamine is bone broth. Make sure you look for grass-fed organic bone broth if you’re buying in store!
Other glutamine-rich foods include: grass-fed beef, spirulina, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, and organic poultry. You could supplement with L-Glutamine, but whole food sources should always be your first choice.
Collagen is in the gut’s connective tissue (as well as your joint, skin, and muscles!) and can help support and strengthen the protective lining of your digestive tract. Get this amazing stuff from bone broth and eating meats off the bone; or add collagen powders to your coffee, smoothies, or yoghurt.
Zinc is an essential micronutrient that we need for many enzyme and body functions. It is also a key factor in the healing of the digestive lining- studies have shown that zinc can help stabilize the gut lining and to promote repair. Excellent food sources of zinc include: grass-fed red meats, shellfish, pumpkin and hemp seeds, nuts like cashews and almonds, eggs, and dark chocolate.
4) Rebuild your gut flora
Fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and tempeh help boost the rainforest of healthy gut bugs to keep your immune system strong, as well as regulate the inflammatory response from food allergies.
Prebiotic foods are equally important as they feed the probiotics. Pre-biotic rich foods include: asparagus, garlic, flaxseed, onion, leeks, chia seeds, bananas, leafy greens, oats, and potatoes (cooked with a slight crunch left).
Ensuring that you have a good balanced ecosystem of bacteria in your gut is paramount to a healthy digestive system and body.
5) Manage your stress
From Part 3 of this series, we know that stress negatively impacts the way you digest your food, can contribute to leaky gut, and compromises your good gut flora. By taking step to your stress levels — slowing down at meal times, getting sufficient sleep, moving regularly, and practicing mindfulness — you can help ease the digestive process as well as reduce overall inflammation in your body.
The gut healing process is not an instantaneous one, and often times it takes a little bit to trial and error to figure out which foods work best for your body and which irritate it. But, I promise you, that sorting out an irritated gut is one of the biggest steps you can take to heal your body and can alleviate many of the symptoms you may be experiencing on a daily basis.
Have gut problems, but don’t know where to start? Schedule your FREE 30 minute call with me to see how we can fix that!