10 ways to Improve Your Gut Health Naturally – I’ve gone through my fair share of gut issues experiencing: gas, severe bloating, heartburn, constipation, weight gain, acne, eczema, food intolerance, and sleep disturbances. I feel your pain. It’s not fun, but there are ways to improve your gut health naturally and kick those symptoms to the curb.
IMPORTANCE OF GUT HEALTH
Gut health is everything! The gut compromises more than 75% of your immune system. Without a healthy gut, you are at risk for many diseases and autoimmune conditions.
The gut plays an essential role in not only our gastrointestinal health, but the well-being of the entire body. It’s the digestive process that provides the building blocks the body needs to live, function, and stay healthy.
Therefore, it is extremely important to understand the gut flora’s role in the body. Start taking care of your gut now, and reap the benefits later. With a healthy gut, you will have a strong immune system, glowing (acne free) skin, regular digestion, and more energy.
WHAT CAUSES AN UNHEALTHY GUT MICROBIOME?
- Chronic Stress
- Infections: parasites, intestinal dysbiosis, SIBO, fungi, pathogenic or opportunistic bacteria
- Diet: gluten, sugar, unhealthy oils, alcohol
- Medications: NSAIDs, birth control, antibiotics
- Diet low in fiber intake
SIGNS OF AN IMBALANCED GUT
Signs of an imbalanced gut include gas, bloating, heartburn, bowl changes (diarrhea, constipation), weight changes (gaining or loosing weight unintentionally), fatigue, acne, eczema, sleep disturbances, sugar cravings, autoimmune conditions and food intolerance’s.
WORST FOODS FOR GUT HEALTH
Here are some foods you should stay away from if you already have gut issues, or are in the process of healing your gut.
- Gluten/Grains: in cereals, flours, wheat, corn, barley, oats, rye, and millet.
- Dairy: If your body can’t breakdown lactose, you will have bloating and gas as a result. For many people diary is hard to digest and can lead to food sensitivities.
- Eliminate dairy for 30-60 days to see how you feel.
- Sugar: high fructose corn syrup, sugar (sucrose), brown sugar, cane sugar, rice syrup, agave nectar, and more.
- These types of sugars are found in ice cream, baked goods, soda, processed meat, yogurts, fruit bars, cereals, condiments, canned fruit, and fruit juices. Check the ingredient and nutrition label before buying a product.
- Processed meats: sausages, hot dogs, salami, deli meat, cured bacon, corned beef, smoked meat, beef jerky, etc.
- Eliminate processed meats for 30 days to see how you feel. During that time, stick with pastured pork and poultry, and grass-fed beef, bison, and lamb.
- Artificial sweeteners: aspartame, sugar alcohols, Stevia, etc.
- The name says it all, “artificial“. Artificial sweeteners can be causing you bloating, gas, or diarrhea. Stick with natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or molasses.
- Soy: soy milk, soy protein isolate, soy lecithin, soybean oil, soy flour, etc.
- Seed Oils: canola, corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, soybean, peanut, and sesame.
- Eggs: Surprising, but you may have an egg allergy to either egg yolks, egg whites, or both.
- If you notice you are having skin rashes, or acne remove eggs for 30-60 days to see if you notice a difference. If you choose to eat eggs, opt for organic pasture-raised eggs only.
GUT HEALTH, ANXIETY, & DEPRESSION
Gut health, anxiety, and depression are all correlated closely together. It’s called the gut-brain connection. Do you ever get “butterflies”? Or if you have anxiety, you start to feel nauseous?
If you are experiencing anger, anxiety, or sadness, these feelings can definitely trigger symptoms in the gut. If you have a lot of stress and anxiety in your life, try to implement strategies to help you deal with the stressors, otherwise your gut may never heal.
THE BEST FOODS FOR GUT HEALTH
The food that you eat greatly affects the type of bacteria (good and bad) that live inside you. If you are having gut issues, try implementing the foods below before taking a whole bunch of supplements. Aim to eat a variety of these foods for optimal gut health and healing.
- Sweet potato
- Butternut squash
- Wild caught salmon
- Healthy Oils: olive oil, coconut oil
- Pasture-raised poultry and pork
- Grass-fed beef
- Leafy greens: spinach, kale, chard, arugula
- Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts
- Bone broth
- Nuts and seeds
THE BEST GUT HEALING SUPPLEMENTS
Talk to your doctor before taking any of these supplements.
My favorite brand is Just Thrive Probiotics. Look for spore based probiotics. Remember, not all probiotics are good quality, and most don’t survive to make it to the digestive tract.
Taking digestive enzymes can help your body break down and absorb the food your eating.
Turmeric benefits the lining of the digestive tract.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)
DGL reduces inflammation and increases mucus production.
L-Glutamine can aid in gut healing, and regulate the function of the intestinal barrier during stress. 1.5 to 5 grams 2-3 times daily for 30-90 days.
Remember to try and get your Omega 3’s from whole-food sources before supplementing. If that isn’t possible supplement with cod liver oil, or a high quality fish oil.
NAC aids in gut healing and supports liver detoxification.
Zinc heals your intestines and helps to limit gut permeability.
Vitamin D is necessary for immune and hormone health. Get a blood test to see if your levels are optimal.
MY GUT HEALTH STORY–How I Healed My Gut
If you aren’t familiar with my health journey, read the back story here.
My gut health story starts (within a year) after a few things happen. 1. I got off anti-depressants 2. I got off birth control 3. My parents get divorced 4. My young brother unexpectedly passes away.
After all these things occurred, I had an extreme amount of stress and sadness flowing through my body everyday. I was doing a lot of things right like eating an anti-inflammatory whole foods diet, exercising everyday, and sleeping well. However, I was not managing my stress, which I think is critical for gut health.
I started experiencing severe gut discomfort. Constipation, gas, bloating (the 9 months pregnant type), heartburn (had never had this before), acne, and food intolerances. Oh, and I can’t forget to say that I gained 20 pounds in 1 month! I let these symptoms go thinking it would get better with time, and that I could just heal my gut with my diet. However, it got to the point to where the day to day pain and discomfort was too severe. It would feel like someone was blowing up a balloon in my stomach, and I would fear that my stomach was literally going to pop (just what it felt like).
At the time I was in Chris Kresser’s Health Coaching Program. One of the teachers in the program, Laura Schoenfeld, was taking clients. I started working with her, and little did I know, I had a lot of issues.
I took a stool test and it came back with results that I had gut dysbiosis/overgrowth bacteria, parasites, and H.pylori.
Laura pointed me in the right direction of what herbal medications and supplements I should take to start healing my gut and clear the infections. It was a lot of pills. I was taking anywhere from 10-15 pills per meal. And let me be clear, this journey wasn’t cheap. High quality coaching, and supplements are very expensive so you have to be willing to invest in yourself and get serious about feeling better.
I worked with Laura for 7 months and after our time together I finally started to feel better, but it took that long for my gut to heal. And honestly, it’s still healing to this day. I have done a lot of damage to it in the past, not knowing that the medications I was taking was wreaking havoc on my gut. The antibiotics, NSAIDS (motrin, advil, ibprofen), and birth control that I bombarded my body with for many years. The icing on the cake was all the stress I endured the year my parents got divorced and brother passed.
If you are having major gut or digestive issues yourself, I promise that they will get better. Some days it can seem like that will never happen, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Remember that the brain and gut are connected, so MINDSET is everything. If you have been doing all of the tips I give below, and you are still struggling, I highly recommend partnering with a functional medicine doctor. See my resources at the end of this article for recommendations.
MY TOP 10 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR GUT HEALTH NATURALLY
- Manage Stress
Chronic stress and not suppressing emotions will wreak havoc on your gut. Try to reduce your stress levels by implementing daily practices like: walking, playing with your pets, taking a warm bath, meditating, etc.
- Remove Inflammatory Foods
If you want to heal your gut, you have to remove gluten/grains, processed foods, seed oils (see above) and sugar. These destroy your gut flora.
- Check your Sleep Habits
Pour gut health and sleep are connected. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
- Eat Fiber
Get your fiber from whole food plant sources like sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, apples, pears, berries, carrots, other root vegetables, seeds, nuts, and green (unripe) bananas.
- Work with a Functional Medicine Doctor, Functional Dietician, Naturopathic doctor or Health Coach
If I wouldn’t have worked with a Functional Dietician, I wouldn’t have been able to solve my gut issues (see how I healed my gut above). I worked with Laura Schoenfeld. She gave me the guidance and supplement recommendations to heal my gut and get rid of infections.
- Stay Active
Stay moving throughout the day and avoid sitting for long periods of time. Exercise can improve your overall health and enhance benefical bacteria in the gut. Stay away from the super intense HIIT programs if you are already experiencing digestive problems.
- Eat Balanced Meals with Protein, Fiber, Healthy Fats & Greens
Keep your blood sugar regulated by eating balanced meals. Aim for eating 20-30 grams of protein per meal, with some healthy fats, and green vegetables.
- Eat Fermented Foods
Kombucha, sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, etc.
- Seek Functional Gut Testing with your Doctor
Ask for a stool test from your doctor to check for parasites, pathogens, and dysbiosis. This is so important to figure out the root cause of your gut issues.
- Take Probiotics
My favorite brands are Just Thrive Probiotics, MegaSporeBiotic and Seed Probiotic. These are all spore based probotics, so they survive the digestive tract. Save your money and stop buying generic probotics at the grocery store that won’t survive to reach your digestive system.
More Ways To Heal And Improve Your Gut Health
Stop Drinking Water (especially ice cold) with Meals
Drinking water with your meals makes it easier for you to not chew your food before swallowing, and reduces your stomach acid, making it harder to breakdown food. Drink water 30 minutes before you consume food and wait atleast 1 hour after.
Chew Your Food
(So important!) Chew your food 30-40 times before swallowing. Chewing your food makes it easier for your body to digest foods and allows the body to get the most nutrients. Chewing your food slowly may also prevent overeating and help you feel fuller after mealtime.
Eat Without Technology
Put your phone & computer away, shut your Tv off, and be mindful when eating your meal. Take small bites and focus on the taste and texture of your delicous meal. Distracted eating may cause you to eat more, therefore gain weight.
Drinking enough water everyday is a must to keep your bowels moving and your insides hydrated.
Eat a Variety of Foods
Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and different proteins daily. This provides your gut with a variety of beneficial bacteria for a healthy microbiome.
Eat Fewer Vegetables–if you already have digestive issues
If you already experience bloating, gas, or other digestive issues, lower your vegetable count and see if you notice a difference. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc can definetely cause bloating for some.
Swap Your Toxic Personal Care Products
Start swapping your personal care products for natural, safer beauty alternatives. My favorite brands are Primally Pure, Dr. Bronner’s, and W3LL People Makeup.
Consider trying a coffee enema
Yes, I said it. Try a coffee enema. It helps relieve constipation, boosts immunity, and increases energy. I have done a coffee enema a few times and have noticed immediate benefit. They can help flush out bacteria, heavy metals, fungus and yeast.