Our Health begins in our Gut.
Gut health is an important factor in maintaining overall health. Furthermore, the functional medicine approach to total- health and balance in our body focuses on gut health as an important pillar in the foundation to health and wellness. However, this is not a new concept.
Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”
And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, research increasingly demonstrates that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in the progression of more diseases than we used to think. And we’re not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We’re talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, nutrient deficiencies and more.
There are a many reasons that disease may begin in the gut.
Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It’s in the gut where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. Furthermore, these nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body.
We’re just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of “the gut-brain axis”?). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These resident microbes also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.
So, let’s talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I’ll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.
Our gut’s role in our overall health
Our gut’s main role serves as a barrier to let things in the intestinal system that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. For instance, think “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.
This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.
For one thing, our guts can “leak.” Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it’s not supposed to.
Subsequently, when your gut wall gets irritated, it can “leak.” When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don’t seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there, creating “hidden” distress in the body.
Chronic types of distress is a starting point and linked to intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”
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FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.
A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Therefore, maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health. This supports our immune system, hormone system, detoxification and digestive system as well.
Often overlooked, but still affected by our gut is our neurotransmitter and brain health.
The second main-part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and contribute to all kinds of other health benefits such as; mental health, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.
So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of our health beginning in our gut !
How to improve gut health
There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. In addition, how about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.
You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health. Working with a Functional health professional to test for food intolerance can fast track this process.
By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair the intestinal lining and delicate mucosal cells, and every other body part as well. In addition, some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colorful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.
Each one of us have specific metabolic type needs for diet. Finding your specific balance is an important link to good gut health.
The second pillar of gut health is our microbes.
By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Don’t be afraid to try a few of these and make them a part of your daily diet.
Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better.
What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.
Ruling out parasite, bacteria or yeast/fungal infections and overall imbalance or dysbiotic bacteria can be achieved with functional lab testing. Once identified working with your doctor or applying a natural herb based self-treatment protocol can eliminate this unwanted stress. Be sure to eat foods that repopulate the good bacteria or choose an appropriate probiotic.
And don’t forget the ultra-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function and how these types of distress affect how our health begins in our gut.
The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good intestinal barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.
The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.
Functional Lab testing and Lifestyle coaching can be the key to improving both pillars of gut health: Testing for “hidden” stressors such as bacteria imbalances and food intolerance can eliminate some of the guess work.
Recipe (Probiotic-rich): Fermented Carrots
1 L warm water
4 tsp salt
4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)
Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.
Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.
Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don’t float (you can use a “fermenting weight”).
Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop. Feel free to open and taste.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Use this as a side dish, or even a snack.
If what you’ve read resonates with you, leave me a comment or contact me at: Tess@cometcreekfamilywellness.com
I’m on a mission to help women restore their energy and reduce overwhelm, so they can be more productive home and work; for themselves and their families. Visit https://tesshanke.com/about/ to read more.
I am here to serve you as your family wellness functional health professional.
The information in this article is provided for educational, inspirational and self-empowerment purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any illness and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. It is the personal opinion and experience of the writer. Please see your medical professional for specific advice and medical needs.