You probably know that having healthy gut bacteria is important for your immune system function and maintaining normal weight but did you know they can also help to detoxify?
While your immune system is very complex comprised of many internal organs, processes and functions, a great deal of your natural defense against illness, infection and disease has to do with your gut microbiome previously known as gut flora) and digestive health.
This is exciting news, because it is possible to regulate what is going on in your gut.
Why You Need to Keep Your Gut Healthy
Hippocrates, known as the father of modern Western medicine, is reputed to have stated that an unhealthy gut was the cause of all human disease.
Simply put, he knew thousands of years ago what modern digestive health experts will tell you today – a healthy gut microbiome is essential if you want to be healthy.
Gut bacteria and brain chemicals
Think about the phrases “gut instinct” and “go with your gut feeling”. The idea with those terms is that your gut somehow acts as a second brain, telling you what you should and should not do in certain situations.
In the early 21st century health researchers are understanding that not only should the gut be considered a driver of behavior in addition to the brain you have in your head, but it is actually not secondary to your head-centered brain in many ways.
Scientists have discovered that certain gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all of which play a key role in mood and regulate a wide range of bodily functions.
Studies have shown that there are links between inflammation and gut and mood. Improving gut health with the right food and certain probiotics can help lift your mood and reduce depression.
Gut bacteria control digestion and metabolism
Your gut contains trillions of organisms which form the gut microbiome. This is a complex community of organisms which control digestive processes and help manage your overall metabolism.
Since the metabolic process is linked to how your entire body works, and many of these processes are influenced by your gut, you can see how important this second brain is to overall health and wellness.
Your microbiome is home to both good (beneficial) bacteria and so called “bad” bacteria. When your gut health is managed properly, you don’t do away with all the “bad” bacteria in your microbiome. Some of them are still there, and always will be.
When you achieve and maintain proper gut health, you so dramatically improve the amount of good bacteria in your system that they keep the “bad” bacteria under control.
The end result of good gut health is a balanced ecosystem, where the different bacterial populations exist in healthy ratios.
The problem is, due to negative environmental influences, the move toward a more sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits and the use of antibiotics, most human beings have significantly damaged their gut health.
Signs of an unhealthy gut microbiome
Many people with an unhealthy gut have digestion issues which make them feel fatigued, foggy brained, bloated and suffer with flatulence and food intolerance.
They develop nutritional deficiencies, constipation, diarrhea, reflux, weight gain, an inability to lose weight, food cravings, low immune function, skin rashes and skin conditions like eczema, and hormonal imbalances.
These symptoms further manifest in the form of a wide range of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, IBS, autoimmune diseases, psoriasis, Crohn’s Disease, and even depression, and anxiety.
Simple Steps to Take to Restore Gut Health
Have you ever heard someone complain about not having enough time? A lot of people say this. In many cases, that is not an entirely factual statement.
There is almost always more than enough time in the day to do the things you need to do, but sometimes people prioritize their activities and tasks incorrectly.
They spend a lot of time doing things they shouldn’t be doing, so this gives them a time crunch when it comes to what should be high-priority activities.
This is true of your gut health.
You may think you don’t have enough time to make your gut healthy, or for other health-boosting considerations. The good news is that repairing and restoring your gut and digestive system to a naturally healthy level does not take a lot of time.
You probably already eat, at least twice a day. All you have to do is change what you eat, not how much time you spend eating (except to chew properly if you tend to eat fast), and you can improve your gut health.
Here area few tips on what to change in your diet.
Eat more raw fruits and vegetables, whole foods, and unprocessed foods.
Whole, gluten free grains, fresh unroasted and unsalted nuts, berries and seeds should take the place of processed grains, sweets, baked goods and high levels of white flour, commercial salt and refined sugar.
I advise eating gluten free grains, or pseudo grains as they are sometimes called, like buckwheat, quinoa and millet instead. Gluten is hard to digest and causes a lot of problems for many people even though they don’t have celiac disease.
Dr Fasano, researcher into celiac disease, says that we we do not have the enzymes needed to fully digest modern wheat which has much more gluten than ancient wheat. This can cause problems for many people.
Added to this is the fact that grains get sprayed with Roundup, the herbicide that contains glyphosate, a toxic chemical that gets into bread and cereals. Glyphosate can cause gut problems and is being blamed for the rise in older adults being diagnosed with celiac disease.
Eat fermented food.
To help maintain a healthy gut microbiome we should add good quality, unpasteurized fermented foods such as coconut kefir, sauerkraut, or kimchi.
Coconut is known to help reduce inflammation and improve nutrient absorption. It is also found to be helpful in sealing inflamed digestive tract linings. This makes it very beneficial for people suffering from leaky gut syndrome.
If you eat too many probiotic foods, the population of bacteria in your gut can become unbalanced. This will then result in digestive problems.
Make it a habit to eat them in small quantities. Monitor your body’s response, as everyone is different. If you are experiencing unexplained bloating and diarrhea, try cutting back on intake.
Prebiotic foods are high in special types of indigestible fiber that feed the good bacteria and support digestive health.We do not have the enzymes needed to break the fiber down and digest them. Only gut bacteria can do that.
They digest the fibers and produce short chain fatty acids which are a source of energy for colon cells. They also have a number of other health benefits.
By eating foods containing this fiber we are ensuring those trillions of microbes are well-fed so they can help us stay in good health.
Include bone broth in your diet.
Bone broth is an excellent source of gut-soothing gelatin. The colloidal properties of gelatin have been found helpful in digesting foods that usually cause a “sour stomach”. It can also reduce food sensitivities.
Drink filtered water and herbal tea instead of sodas and processed drinks.
These simple dietary changes can improve the health of your microbiome in no time.
Add herbs & spices
Ginger is a natural antibiotic. Several studies, including one published in 2017, have demonstrated ginger’s ability to fight many strains of unwanted bacteria.
Fresh, raw garlic has been used since ancient times as an effective killer of bacteria and viruses. And studies including a recent one have confirmed this. Two cloves a day is a good dose.
The alternative is to take capsules of the active ingredient because cooking garlic destroys the enzyme that converts alliin to allicin, the active ingredient.
Cumin contains a compound called thymol which is helpful in stimulating the glands for improved production of bile (through which the liver detoxes chemical and other toxins), acids and other enzymes. This results in improved digestion.
Cumin seeds also have the ability to prevent gas formation in the gastrointestinal tract and help combat the symptoms of flatulence.
Moringa is loaded with fiber which helps clean the intestines and also contains antibacterial components for killing off unwanted invaders that may adversely affect digestion and health.
Moringa is a powerhouse of isothiocyanates which serves as a natural antibiotic to help destroy H. pylori, which is the bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers.
Get up and Get Moving
Exercise is a proven mood and health promoter. Researchers have discovered that although the right diet can increase diversity of gut organisms so can exercise. Studies have found that increased cardio fitness can increase gut diversity by about 20%.
Exercise gets your digestive juices moving and your blood and lymph is pumping properly through your body. These deliver nutrients to your cells and toxins to your liver where they undergo neutralization and detoxification.
You can also do some skin brushing which helps to get the blood and lymph circulating.
Minimize Environmental Stressors and Pollutants
Breathing in the exhaust from automobiles can be just as negatively influential to your gut health as dealing with a cranky coworker on a daily basis.
When you consciously avoid environmental and physical toxins and stressors, you make it easier for your gut to do its job properly.
This is because stress of any kind increases the presence of cortisol and other hormones which promote physical stress and inflammation, two conditions which are at the basis of most human disease and illness.
Gut Repair Action Steps
Avoid processed food as much as you can for just 14 days. Instead, eat a plant-based diet, where your food is as close to its natural state as possible, meaning it is minimally processed and cooked. Drink lots of filtered water and herbal teas, and avoid sodas and artificially sweetened drinks.
When you notice you have been sitting and sedentary for 30 or 45 minutes, get up and get moving, even if for just a few minutes. Consciously look for ways to put yourself in less stressful situations and limit your exposure to environmental toxins.
Do this for just 2 weeks, and you will see your mental and physical health profiles improve dramatically. This is because those easy to execute practices have been proven to improve the ratio of good to bad bacteria in your gut, which supports overall health.
Beneficial gut bacteria can enhance your immune system, help detoxify your body, relieve depression, fight obesity and diabetes and provide numerous other benefits.
Image by Curtis Clark