It’s really quite remarkable that so many diseases and conditions that plague us stem from the same place—our guts.
Your gut health involves so much more than your digestion. Gut problems can mean GI symptoms like nausea, indigestion, and constipation, but an unhealthy gut can also lead to even more complex conditions.
How Do You Know If You Have an Unhealthy Gut?
Our digestive system is complex and extraordinary. Every piece of food or drop of liquid that we swallow is broken down, and nutrients are extracted to give us energy, help us grow new cells, and repair damaged tissues.
Unfortunately, factors like medications, diet, stress, a sedentary lifestyle, pollution, and more can adversely affect our guts.
In time, the lining of our intestines no longer protects the surrounding tissues from food particles, bacteria, or toxins that would otherwise be expelled from our bodies, and we develop what’s commonly referred to as “leaky gut.”
These things get outside our intestinal walls, and our bodies recognize them as intruders. The body then sends in the immune system troops to attack, creating stress and inflammation.
This immune system attack not only leads to gastrointestinal problems, but also hormone imbalances, anxiety and depression, autoimmune diseases, fatigue, insomnia, migraines, food sensitivities, unexplained weight changes, and so much more.
If you don’t think you have digestive problems but suffer from any of the above, chances are your gut could use some TLC.
The good news is that our body, including our gut, can repair itself when we give it the right tools and environment to thrive. When your gut is happy and healthy, the rest of you will follow.
How to Improve Your Gut Health Naturally
1. Reevaluate Your Medications
Medicine has its place. Unfortunately, the overprescription of antibiotics, birth control, NSAIDs, and antacids deplete the unique ecosystem inside us (our microbiome), cause a leaky gut, and severely lower stomach acid.
There is a time and place for medicine. The best thing you can do for your gut is to limit using painkillers and antibiotics.
As for birth control, check out what I use instead. It’s effective and doesn’t come with any nasty side effects.
2. Stop Eating Fake Food!
Studies show that high consumption of ultra-processed food significantly impacts the gut’s microbiome and leads to an immune response or “inflammation.”
Our bodies aren’t crazy about the artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, preservatives, pesticides, artificial food coloring, and other harmful chemicals, including azodicarbonamide (the chemical that makes yoga mats squishy!), found in so many of our food and drinks. It recognizes them as invaders and puts your body in constant attack mode.
3. Identify and Avoid Trigger Foods
Unfortunately, if your gut is already damaged, it will become more sensitive to certain foods over time. Many of these are even nutrient-dense foods like eggs!
If you continue to eat food that you’re sensitive to, it will continue to damage your gut.
Common food sensitivities include:
- Low-quality dairy products
- Low-quality meat
Once you’ve identified your food sensitivities, focus on healing your gut before reintroducing them to your diet.
4. Balance Your Fiber Intake
Most of the western population doesn’t get enough fiber in their diets. Fiber is important because it softens your stool while at the same time increasing the weight and size, making it easier to digest.
Fiber can also improve the diversity in your gut microbiota which in turn affects our metabolic function.
The reason I say “balance” instead of simply “increase” is because while the average American doesn’t get enough fiber in their diet, there are those who seem to have a “healthy” diet and continue to deal with gut symptoms.
There is too much of a good thing when it comes to fiber. It’s recommended that women get between 21 and 25 grams of fiber a day. More than 70 grams a day can irritate your gut, not to mention cause gas, bloating, and constipation.
Bulking up on vegetables and legumes for every meal is neither necessary nor optimal. Make sure to include SOME fiber in every meal, but it doesn’t need to and shouldn’t be the main dish for every meal.
Also, remember that fiber needs water. Fiber works by absorbing water and pulling it into the colon to produce softer, heavy stools that prevent constipation.
If you’re eating plenty of fiber and not drinking enough water (half your body weight in ounces daily!), it will only lead to dehydration and constipation.
5. Feed the Good Stuff
Your microbiome isn’t just the good bacteria in your gut. It also includes other microorganisms like viruses and fungi. It really is a rainforest of thousands of different species.
So how can you keep the good ones alive and thriving? Feed them!
Food high in fiber won’t only keep you regular, but it feeds the good bacteria in your gut so they can grow.
Some good examples of high fiber food that improves the diversity of your microbiome include raspberries, artichokes, lentils, chickpeas, green peas, and broccoli.
Apples, in particular, have been shown to include the bacteria Bifidobacteria, which helps prevent intestinal inflammation and supports gut health overall.
Fermented foods are especially beneficial to your gut health. Try incorporating foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, and yogurt into your weekly routine.
If you tolerate dairy, opt for unsweetened yogurt. Some yogurt brands are high in processed sugar, food coloring, and other gut-harming ingredients. So make sure you’re looking for yogurt that doesn’t have any added sugars.
I’ll add berries, chia seeds, and ground cinnamon to help make it tastier and add a serving of healthy fat that keeps me full.
6. Increase Your Collagen Intake With Bone Broth
Our modern diet doesn’t include much collagen, which is unfortunate. It’s essential to maintaining healthy bones, skin, hair, muscles, tendons, and yes, even your gut.
You can always take a collagen supplement, but you’ll see more improvements from getting it from a whole food source such as bone broth.
Bone broth has collagen and gelatin, and minerals such as calcium, sulfur, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Additionally, bone broth is rich in the amino acids proline, glutamine, and arginine, which help repair the gut lining, fight inflammation and boost your immune system.
You can drink bone broth directly or use it as a base in your soups, stuffing, gravy, pasta sauce, or cook rice or eggs in it.
7. Slow Down and Rest Up
Do you ever feel like you inhale your food? Suddenly your plate is empty, and you don’t even remember what you ate. Yes, we live in a fast-paced world. But we need to slow down and be present when it comes to eating.
Digestion begins the moment we put food in our mouths. Slowing down and chewing your food thoroughly will improve your digestion and help you absorb the healing nutrients. Swallowing our food before it’s adequately chewed can damage the stomach lining and reduce the effectiveness of our natural digestive enzymes. I see this all the time on the gut tests that I run on clients.
It seems simple – and that’s because it is.
It will also improve your mental health when you take a break from the constant hustle and bustle just to sit down and enjoy the flavors and textures of your meal.
Getting enough quality sleep each night will also impact your gut. It will give your body time to repair and reset after digestion. Prioritize getting to bed early each night with the goal of 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
8. Move Every Day
Regular movement increases blood flow to our digestive system helping it do its job quicker and more effectively. Exercise encourages our intestines to contract and push waste through the system.
Studies also found that those with an active lifestyle have more good bacteria in their gut than those with a sedentary lifestyle.
It’s even more beneficial if you choose a movement that you enjoy. Take a dance class, ride your bike, go for a walk after lunch, or play with your kids. Whatever activity makes you happy, do it and do it often.
9. Get Functional Lab Testing
Why is functional medicine lab testing important? You can implement all of the above, but if you don’t identify the root cause, chances are you won’t see permanent improvements.
Gut problems can stem from nutrient deficiencies, parasites, food sensitivities, and more. Before you can begin healing, we need to address those stressors in your gut and remove them.
You can find a full breakdown of the lab tests I offer here. You get access to several of these tests in both my Activate and Transformed programs.
Keep Your Gut Happy and Healthy
As your gut starts to heal, you’ll notice not only a difference in your digestion but also your hormones, skin, energy, and even mood.
Wherever you are in your healing journey, prioritizing gut health by implementing these nine steps is essential to seeing actual results.
It’s time to uplevel your health! To learn more, join my email list or see how functional lab testing has helped women just like you.