That’s right, all diseases begin in the gut. Of course, not all diseases, but our digestive system health (aka our gut health) does play a critical role in our overall health. Our gut health not only determines digestive issues like IBS/IBD, bloating and heartburn but its also responsible for other aspects of our health like allergies, muscle and joint pain, acne, and mood disorders – just to name a few.
In fact, about 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut! So when your gut health down, so is the rest of your body.
The Role of Our Digestive System (Gut)
In short, our gut is responsible for the absorption of nutrients and the elimination of waste and other toxins in our bodies. Usually a healthy gut does its job and maintains its barrier, separating the good bacteria from the bad. However, things aren’t always so black and white. This is because anything and everything we consume is absorbed by the gut. An unhealthy gut – due to a number of different sources we will explain later – allows the gut becomes irritated, causing bacteria and toxins to “leak” into our bloodstream. This effect is called leaky gut syndrome, which we will take a deeper dive into.
As you can see, a leaky gut can cause a plethora of health problems throughout the body, brain, and skin including but not limited to:
- Acne and eczema
- Food sensitivities
- Frequent colds or viruses
- Thyroid issues
- Joint pain
- Digestive issues
- Depression and anxiety
- Adrenal fatigue
The root cause of almost all of these different types of diseases most likely stems from an unhealthy gut. Unfortunately, many of these health problems are treated with antibiotics and other medications that only worsen leaky gut over time. But what causes to leaky gut in the first place? Let’s take a look.
What Causes “Leaky” Gut?
There is not one sole cause of leaky gut, it’s something that happens over time from continued exposure to gut-irritating habits like:
- Eating processed grains like cereal
- Excess sugar intake
- Exposure to GMOs, pesticides and other pollutants from foods and products
- Continuous consumption of antibiotics and other prescription medications
- Chronic stress
- Lack of sleep and proper exercise
Avoiding these types of “gut killers” altogether may not be completely possible for your lifestyle. However, there are several steps you can take that will have a significant impact on your overall health.
How to Improve Your Gut Health
REMOVE: Eliminate Irritating Foods
Not only do the types of foods you’re eating matter, but the quality of the foods you’re eating are just as important. However, the standard American diet, or SAD diet fittingly named, typically consists of processed meats, pre-packaged food and high fructose corn syrup. Do you know how much sugar is in your daily venti frappuccino? Do you know how to pronounce the ingredients in your favorite bag of chips? Probably not. But that’s okay…baby steps. You should first focus on cutting out or at least limiting the following leaky gut culprits:
- Refined grains
- Processed foods
We are literally killing our gut (and our bodies) because of our poor food choices. Old habits die hard, but your health should always be your number one priority.
REPLACE: Increase Intake of Healing Foods
A good rule of thumb to follow is that if your food doesn’t come from the earth, then your body probably doesn’t need it. Always try to buy organic, non-GMO foods when possible. The following foods have been known to help heal and restore your gut bacteria:
- Bone broth
- Cooked vegetables (preferably steamed or grilled, without tons of oils/butter)
- Wild-caught fish
- Grass-fed beef
- Coconut oil
- Fermented foods and drinks (i.e. kimchi, kombucha, Greek yogurt)
- Soluble fiber (i.e. sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, black beans)
This is simply a guideline, remember to listen to your body and eat what makes you feel good. And remember, no one is perfect (and indulging once in a while won’t kill you) but little changes over time can make a huge difference for your body in the long run.
REPAIR: Take Probiotics & Natural Supplements
Now that you know which foods to eliminate and/or incorporate into your diet, the next step to healing your gut is with the help of probiotics and natural supplements. In my previous post, Everything You Need to Know About Supplements, I explain the importance of probiotics for the gut:
“Probiotics aid in promoting gut health by balancing your good and bad bacteria for your body to function properly. The good bacteria in your gut help maintain optimal digestive health and boost your immune system.”
Taking probiotics is not only beneficial for repairing your gut health but will also aid in improving your mental health, immunity and other symptoms caused by leaky gut. A few other great natural supplements to repair your gut – along with a proper diet – including the following:
- Glutamine – amino acids that act as energy for cells to repair themselves
- Aloe vera – helps with inflammation and aids in repairing intestinal wall
- Collagen – helps facilitate the growth of gastric juices and intestinal lining
- Licorice root – regulates hormones, decreasing adrenal fatigue
- Marshmallow root – contains natural mucilage that absorbs toxins and reduces inflammation
- Slippery elm – contains antioxidants and coats the stomach lining
- Digestive enzymes – aids in the digestion process to help break down foods
- Tumeric – has anti-inflammatory properties and relaxes intestine muscles
Start Healing Your Gut!
Obviously, if any of these have been a habit of yours, say for the past 30 years, getting your gut health back on track is definitely not going to happen overnight. But you can be more cautious and careful about your lifestyle habits moving forward with this knowledge. This journey to healing your gut will be slow but worth it!