For better or worse, our guts influence every part of our body's health and function, including mental health. Our modern lives tend toward chronic stress and overly-processed diets, which disrupts the gut's delicate balance - try our simple, proven methods to naturally restore gut health.
Some might say that the brain or the heart is the primary source of our body, and while they're both essential to life, I think in the growing research, a new center is emerging as the most critical part of our body - the gut.
Good gut health trickles down to influence every other function in our bodies, from cellular generation, joint health, and weight, to a healthy immune system and brain function. On the other hand, gut issues and an unhealthy microbiome connect to a slew of health issues, diseases, and cancers.
Modern society affords us many conveniences to enjoy. Still, it comes with a bit of a downside - a diet of highly-processed foods and a stressful, fast-paced environment wreaks havoc on our sensitive guts.
All of us experience minor gastrointestinal upset at some point in our lives, and if you haven't, congratulations, and also, what on earth is your secret? Sometimes we can see and feel the signs of an unbalanced microbiome in our guts - diarrhea, excess gas, bloating, stomach pain, and constipation.
But sometimes, it's not apparent that an issue is rooted in the gut as our symptoms present themselves in other areas of our bodies.
Whether you're struggling with severe gut issues or just want to strengthen your gut bacteria after a nasty stomach flu or a round of antibiotics, you can use our natural solutions below for restoring gut health. Help your body to not only survive but be well-nourished and thrive!
Gut + Body Connection
When we talk about a healthy gut microbiome, we're not just referring to our bodies, but the trillions of bacterial microorganisms that live within us, too.
Our bodies are more "not us" than they are "us." The human gut contains 100 trillion microorganisms, while our entire body consists of 30 trillion cells. The size of each is a whole different matter, but it's strange that technically, we're outnumbered.
While the idea of a load of bacteria living inside us might feel a little creepy, it's an entirely natural and symbiotic relationship that allows the bacteria to survive within us while helping us fight off disease, break down toxins, and digest our food. Think of your gut bacteria as friends, trying their best to help you survive.
How Does an Unhealthy Gut Develop?
The food we ingest goes into our gut and needs digesting to send the nutrients off to our cells, required for every single body function. An under-functioning stomach cannot break down food properly, leading to low nutrient absorption.
Unbalanced gut microbiome = Poorly broken down food = Less nutrient absorption = Poorly functioning body.
On top of the issue with nutrient absorption, we ingest small amounts of toxins in our food that our guts break down and flush from our system. An under-functioning stomach leads to a build-up of toxins, which leads to illness and disease throughout our body.
Causes of Gut Inflammation and Unbalanced Health
- A low fiber, high-sugar, and highly-processed diet causes excess inflammation of the gut
- Stress receptors in the gut may release too much stomach acid and make the stomach barrier weaker, which can lead to leaky gut
- Antibiotics and some other medications meant to kill off harmful bacteria also kill off our healthy gut bacteria
- Chronic gut infections can significantly affect our gut microbiome and reduce healthy bacteria levels
Signs + Symptoms
While we know that the symptoms of a poor gut can vary, here are a few of the most common signs something is up with your stomach:
- Bloating and excess gas
- Lowered energy levels, fatigue, and brain fog
- Joint pain
- Developing food sensitivities and intolerances
- Drastic changes in weight; gain or loss
How to Improve Gut Health Naturally
While we suggest you eat a gut health diet full of foods to heal the gut below, there are a few other steps to take to regain the balance of your gut's microbiome.
#1: Fermented Foods + Probiotics
The Beauty of Fermentation
The importance of gut health starts with the diet, and one crucial key for healing the gut is to consume fermented food for gut health regularly.
The process that creates fermented foods also stuffs them full of probiotics for gut health, some of which we add to our gut microbiome, which keeps helpful bacteria levels high.
Fermented foods tend to be sour, which some people love, and some don't; there are plenty of fermented options if the taste of one of them just isn't your jam. These foods pack a hefty dose of healthy bacteria, so you don't need to eat a significant portion to reap the benefits.
Try to consume some kombucha, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, cultured milk and yogurt, tempeh, miso, and sour pickles daily.
While we recommend ingesting probiotics through gut-healing foods over supplements, vegan probiotics pills can help you in the first stages as an added support.
Do some research to find a good-quality pill, usually kept in the refrigerated section of the health or grocery store.
#2: Cut out Added Sugar and Alcohol
We're very sorry for this one, but we promise it'll be worth it. Sugar and alcohol feed the unhealthy bacteria in our gut and need minimizing to promote the harmful bacteria's death.
The transition away from added sugar and alcohol can be challenging - our bodies become addicted to sugar in the same way it does hard drugs. But, you will feel better once your body has detoxed from its sugar addiction.
It's best to completely avoid processed sugar and alcohol as you repair your gut and eat foods good for the digestive system, but this isn't a lifelong sentence. As your gut balance improves, you can start to eat and drink these again in moderation, and your body will be better at digesting them quickly - it's a short-term sacrifice for a long-term payoff.
#3: Give Your Gut a Break with an Easy-To-Digest Diet
Your gut is struggling to digest food already, so the last thing you want to do as you heal is put undue stress on the good bacteria by eating healthy, hard-to-digest foods.
Cooking your food makes it easier to digest, as the heat begins to break down the food for you and relieve your gut of some of the work.
Try cooking high-fiber veggies well, and puree them into soups. Cook your meats and proteins well, too, and choose fresh fruits and veggies that are water-dense and easier to breakdown - think cucumber and butter lettuce, not kale and raw carrots.
#4: Explore Food Sensitivities and Allergies
Your gut may be in rough shape if you unintentionally ingest foods that it can't digest properly. Head to a naturopath or a doctor who can test for common food sensitivities and allergies and, most importantly, stay away from any harmful foods!
#5: Stress Reduction
We know that our guts have stress receptors built right into them, and chronic stress will cause stomach issues, an unbalanced gut, and many other health issues.
Reducing stress will improve your gut, so focus on real ways you can destress your mind regularly. Try exercise, talking with loved ones, stepping outside, deep breathing techniques, or meditation daily.
Avoid eating at stressful times or while distracted by stressful news. Instead, sit down and make an effort to focus on smelling, tasting, and enjoying your food thoroughly.
Usually, mindful eating helps to slow down your eating, so you chew each bite for longer, which goes a very long way in breaking down your food before it reaches the gut, aiding digestion.
#6: Get Enough Rest
A lack of adequate sleep is more than just annoying - it negatively affects the bacteria balance in your gut, your immune system and weakens your gut's lining.
If you struggle to fall asleep most nights, start a bedtime routine to help you wind down. Take a bath, read a book, or cuddle with your pet instead of looking at a screen, which can affect our circadian rhythm.
Die-Off Signs + Symptoms: It's a Good Thing!
If your stomach health is in rough shape, you'll likely feel pretty terrible as you begin healing your gut with a healthy gut diet. Don't let this discourage you - these symptoms are a sign that things are changing within.
- Nausea, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation
- Low-grade fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and brain fog
- Sore throat, itching, muscle and joint soreness, and flu-like symptoms
- Irritability and rashes
As the unhealthy bacteria in your gut die off, they'll release toxins that may make you feel terrible. Over time, the symptoms will subside as your healthy bacteria strengthen and replenish themselves.
If your symptoms are severe, the gut bacteria are dying off too quickly to be comfortable. Use liver supplements to support detoxification and collagen to keep the toxins from leaving the gut and entering your bloodstream.
If your symptoms keep getting worse, head to the doctor to ensure there isn't another underlying issue at hand.
Final Notes: Building Up Good Gut Bacteria
It can feel like an impossibly difficult task to correct years of poor gut function and an unbalanced microbiome. Some of us live with these gut issues for decades.
Not to fear - the great news is that our bodies want to function well and will quickly turn around when fed the right things and treated in the right ways.
The gut detox process can be difficult and uncomfortable, but the payoff is invaluable!