How’s your gut? Are you thinking it’s doing pretty good? Maybe you get a little heartburn or indigestion now and then? Do you even know what that question means?
If you don’t really understand the question, you’re not alone. I didn’t have a clue what it meant when I was first asked. My thoughts on it were something like…
…well, I almost never throw up and I definitely don’t have heartburn like a lot of people I know, so I’d say it’s pretty good!
Turns out, my gut health was most definitely in need of some TLC, but I needed some insight into what the heck gut health even meant! I now realize I’m not the only one unaware of how much gut health affects overall health and wellness, so the purpose of this post is to shed some light on the topic – to help you understand the importance of a healthy gut, how to recognize the signs that your gut may need some TLC, and how easily you can help it.
First of all, I was super surprised to learn that gut health is a key indicator of your overall health. It controls your digestive function, as you’d expect, but it also supports brain function, the immune system, hormone balance, and sleep quality. There is a direct correlation between these things and gut health, which is why it’s one of the first things I address with each of my clients, regardless of why they seek my help. The health of your gut is negatively affected by things like sugar, processed food, medications, and stress, so it’s no surprise most of us suffer from one symptom or another.
Bottom line: there aren’t many people who won’t benefit greatly from some improvement in gut health. But how can you tell?
Some (but not all) of the symptoms that indicate your gut could use some healing include:
- upset stomach: gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, leaky gut
- acne, eczema, skin irritation
- autoimmune conditions (this is how I discovered my gut needed some TLC!)
- food intolerances (most people don’t even know they have)
- fatigue, sleep disturbances, brain fog
- chronic congestion (that almost everyone attributes to allergies)
- anxiety, depression
Anything sound familiar?
Before I started to work on improving my own gut, I had several of these symptoms…actually, it would probably be easier to list off the ones I didn’t have! What I find a little scary (knowing what I know now), is that most of them I simply chaulked up to something I ate, life with kids, and/or aging (but, I was only 38 at the time!). I usually just took something to allieviate the symptoms, but the problem is that approach didn’t actually help anything – the meds didn’t address the root cause and were also causing unwanted side effects in my body – further compromising my gut health (unbeknownst to me at that point). I’m not alone…most people experience some form or another of these symptoms and treat them the same way I did.
So wow! That’s a lot of information and might be a little overwhelming…particularly if you’re thinking you have a few (or all!) of those symptoms and thought they were just because. Don’t worry, though…I have a few easy suggestions that will help you give your gut the TLC it needs!
- Eat organic, non-GMO, grass-fed and free range foods. In my opinion, this is something we should all be doing, regardless of what specific issues you’re dealing with. We were hesitant to make this switch at first because of cost; however, it’s the healthiest option for you and your family and it’s a much cheaper alternative to illness. You can check out this post to see what labels to look for in the grocery store to find organic and non-gmo options.
- Drink lots of water! Anyone who knows me can attest to how much I preach this one – regardless of age or condition! Staying properly hydrated does many things, one of the most important being to flush everything through and out of the body. Good digestion is key to strong gut health and water is a key component of good digestion. Aim to drink at least half you weight, in ounces, every day and watch for my next water challenge! Check out my water post for more information.
- Rotate your foods. It’s super important to make sure you’re eating a variety of foods to ensure your body is getting a variety of essential nutrients…my youngest daughter hates this one because she has a limited “menu” of foods she likes! Besides providing lots of different nutrients that will support and help repair your gut, ensuring your diet includes a variety of healthy foods also helps to prevent the the development of food sensitivities (which further damage you gut and its lining).
- Sip bone broth regularly! Bone broth is one of the most nutrient-dense foods around and it’s SO GOOD for gut health. Medications, stress, sugary and processed foods can lead to tiny cracks in the gut lining and eventually to inflammatory diseases and chronic illnesses. Bone broth is rich in collagen, glutamine, glycine and proline – healing compounds that act like a crack-filler for the lining of your stomach. How cool is that?? They also work to reduce intestinal inflammation – BAM! The best part…it’s easy to make and delicious to drink! This is my current favourite recipe for bone broth – give it a try and let me know what you think.
- Start taking a probiotic and digestive enzymes. A good probiotic will help balance and correct the good/bad bacteria ratio in your digestive system and in my opinion, is a necessity for improving gut health. Digestive enzymes will make it easier for your body to digest and use the nutrients from your food, resulting in less undigested food sitting in your digestive system and better absorption. I tend to alternate between this probiotic (there’s a men’s and kids’ version, as well) and this one and we use this digestive enzyme product. We’ve noticed a significant improvement in our digestion since taking these products…most notable is how awful we feel when we forget to take them!
- MANAGE STRESS! I hope everyone is paying close attention to this one…if you want to heal your gut, you’re going to have to learn to lower, or at least manage you stress levels. Stress can cause bacteria overgrowth, changs in digestive secretions (leading to poor digestion), slower gut motility (slower waste passage through the system), and chronic inflammation (which can lead to autoimmune issues). It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just mental, or emotional stress that can add to these issues. Physical stress can also cause troubles for your gut – pushing yourself too hard physically and/or certain diet practices (fasting, insufficient hydration, excess sugar and process foods) count as stress on your body and can compromise gut health.
What symptoms on the list are you dealing with? What’s your current go-to remedy for them?