Many people are unaware that 70% of our bodies’ immune system resides in the gut. Maintaining a healthy gut is becoming increasingly recognized as a key factor in maintaining health throughout the body. An unhealthy gut is now being linked to a variety of health problems, from depression to inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and hashimotos. If you’re feeling lethargic, depressed, have digestive problems, food sensitivities, or suffer from an autoimmune condition, examining your gut may be the key to unlocking your health.
What role does the gut play?
The gut is a powerful tool to protect our bodies from the outside world. It works to metabolize necessary nutrients and to eliminate dangerous toxins. The gut is also home to trillions (possibly hundreds of trillions) of microorganisms that work together to create an environment which prohibits the overgrowth of bad bacteria, like salmonella for example, which can make you sick. When gut health becomes compromised, our immune systems become weakened and the body becomes inflamed.
A healthy gut is characterized by a good balance of bacteria and a strong gut lining, which acts as a barrier, ensuring that foreign substances do not break through and make their way into the body. When this lining becomes compromised and the delicate gut flora becomes unbalanced, the gut is no longer able to do its job well. Larger and more harmful particles including toxins can penetrate through the gut lining, entering into the bloodstream, and an out of balance gut flora means that harmful bacteria can thrive.
Unfortunately, there are many things in our modern lives that can contribute to poor gut health. The Standard American Diet (SAD), stress, the presence of an autoimmune disease, and infectious agents in the body are all potential culprits.
What can you do to improve gut health?
Achieving and maintaining optimal gut health can be a lot of work, but the benefits are worth the effort.
Many health professionals stress the importance of the 4 R’s when it comes to gut health: Remove, Repair, Restore, and Replace.
1. Remove triggers
The first step in fixing the gut is to remove foods which are known irritants. There are many foods which are known to cause inflammation in the body, including sugar, gluten, dairy, and alcohol. Inflammatory foods should be removed for a period of time (often 30-60 days – sometimes longer) and should be re-introduced slowly and one at a time, so you can gauge whether or not you are sensitive to them. Removing inflammatory foods gives your gut a chance to rest and recover.
2. Replace with healthy foods
Healing the gut isn’t all about removal, it’s also about replenishment. Inflammatory foods should be replaced with healthy, nourishing foods that will help the gut to heal. Eat plenty of whole unprocessed foods like grass-fed meat, fresh fish, and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Additionally, you should try to incorporate foods known to have a healing effect, like bone broth, foods containing omega 3’s, and yogurt.
3. Restore the gut
To achieve the ideal gut flora, you need to introduce plenty of beneficial bacteria into your gut. A high quality probiotic should be taken daily while you are trying to heal your gut. Additional probiotics can be introduced by incorporating fermented foods, like sauerkraut and kimchee, into your diet. The goal is to rebalance the good and bad bacteria.
4. Repair the gut
It is often necessary to incorporate some supplements to help to repair the damage done. Prebiotics, for example, may be needed to create an environment where the beneficial bacteria from the probiotics can thrive. Another useful supplement is L-glutamine which promotes healthy digestion. The supplements needed can vary from person to person, so it’s important to discuss this with your healthcare provider.
Once you’ve achieved perfect gut health, it’s important to continue to eat healthy and keep a close eye out for any signs of an unhealthy gut. Good daily practices include incorporating probiotics and fermented foods into your diet, managing your stress, and eating whole, unprocessed foods as often as possible.
Are you sick and tired of feeling sick and tired? Addressing your gut health may be just what you need to achieve ultimate health and wellness. Successfully healing the gut takes time and dedication, but the payoff is well worth the work. Get started today and after a couple of short months you can achieve perfect gut health.