The state of our gut health is an important factor for our overall wellness affecting everything from our mood, to our weight, to our immunity. In fact, the bacteria we host may be a major predictor of our long term health.
Alcohol, sugar, antibiotics, and poor dietary choices can wreak havoc on the gut – causing dysbiosis (when “bad” bacteria outnumbers “good” bacteria), but supporting your gut may be easier than you think.
Here are four steps to improving your gut health!
First, you have to remove the factors that are contributing to poor gut health – this means dropping sugar, alcohol, and sticking with whole foods. Gluten, dairy, and sometimes eggs, may also be excluded during this phase. If gut health is truly compromised, these items should be avoided for an extended period to allow the gut time to calm down without being exposed to whatever it was that may have been causing irritation or inflammation. Often, these foods can be added back into the diet once the gut has healed, but they should be introduced slowly to determine if any of them are causing specific issues.
Hydrochloric acid production may be diminished when the gut health is compromised which makes it more difficult to break down food properly and leads to gas and bloating after meals. Production of digestive enzymes can also be diminished with compromised gut health which may make digestion and absorption less effective. Some may choose to take digestive enzymes to help support digestion.
Now it’s all about supporting the proper balance of bacteria. Consuming probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, kefir, miso, yogurt (no sugar added), and tempeh help to promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Probiotic supplements can be a great way to help repopulate the good bacteria in your gut, but keep in mind that there are many different strains of bacteria and the same supplement may not work for everyone. You may want to seek out physician to help you choose the right strains for you if your gut health is compromised.
The most common strains that you’ll see are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Lastly, if you’re looking for a probiotic supplement, keep in mind that probiotics are live micro-organisms and that what is listed on the label may have reflected the number of organisms at the time of packaging, but may not actually reflect the number of organisms that you get – things like time, heat, and environment can all affect probiotic content.
Repair and Restore
Once the irritants have been removed and good bacteria is being repopulated, you can focus on repairing damage that may have occurred by reducing inflammation and intestinal permeability – which increases risk of inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and even some forms of cancer. Anti-inflammatory foods like those high in omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins C and E can help to repair inflammation and support the integrity of the intestinal lining.
There you have it – remove, replace, repopulate, repair/restore!