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Well this is a pretty sexy topic heyyyyyy! But it’s an important one and one I’m really passionate about. In fact, I will tell anyone who will listen, that one of the most important things you can do for your health is to get your gut health in order!
In my nutrition studies this year, a huge focus has been on gut health and how digestion is essential to our health and our ability to absorb and use the food we eat as fuel. Gut health is also crucial for the health of every other system in our body. From protecting us from hostile bacteria as one of the core disease-fighting systems of the human body, to communicating with the brain – sending physical signals such as gas or hunger and emotional feelings like anxiety, stress and even love, the gut is often referred to as our body’s second brain.
Having an unhealthy or unbalanced gut can cause issues like fatigue, bloating, weight gain, low energy levels, diarrhoea, hormonal imbalance and mood disorders but even scarier, can contributes to a wide range of diseases including diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, autism spectrum disorder, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.
This has really struck a chord with me because having a healthy gut is something I’ve always struggled with. And it isn’t just me. Conditions like dysbiosis (an imbalance of good and bad bacteria) and leaky gut (when undigested food, yeast and toxins that your body doesn’t normally allow through, flow freely into your bloodstream causing inflammation and allergies) are impacting more and more people every day.
When you look at some of the features of modern lifestyles that can disrupt the balance of bacteria in our gut and create inflammation – things like processed diets that are high in sugar, the contraceptive pill, chronic stress, poor food choices, lack of exercise, over-reliance on antibiotics and chronic infections – it’s not hard to see why this is a huge issue.
There have been so many occasions in the last few years where I have been curled up in bed (or on the toilet) with the worst stomach bloating, when I haven’t been able to go to the gym for fear of the unthinkable happening (!!) or when I’ve been to the toilet more times in a day than you have fingers and toes!
I was also getting sick all the time and would be the first person to pick up a cold, cough or infection. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing at best and debilitating at worst. Even though I was eating what I thought was a healthy diet, my ‘leaky gut’ meant food wasn’t being absorbed properly and therefore the rest of my body wasn’t working as efficiently as it should.
I look back now and see that years of being on the contraceptive pill, many rounds of antibiotics in my early 20’s and a staple diet of bread and milk amongst other things contributed to this.
It has really only been in the past 18 months where I have taken action and realised a healthy gut really does mean a healthy body! As I’ve healed my gut, my skin has improved, my sleep has improved, my bowel habits have become more normal (whoo!), my stomach bloating has ceased, my overall mood and concentration has improved and most importantly, my immune systems has improved beyond measure.
So what did I do? Basically, I removed offending foods from my diet, then I started to repair the gut lining, restore the good bacteria and then replace it with more good bacteria.
While it’s still a work in progress (and always will be!), the results have simply been life-changing.
Here’s my gut-healing program that helped heal my gut:
A high-quality probiotic.
It makes sense that years of antibiotics in my early 20s had killed a lot of good bacteria in my gut. Probiotics restore ‘healthy’ flora, rebalance the bacteria required for optimal nutrient absorbtion and support the body’s immune system.
Apple cider vinegar.
Once you get over the idea that you are drinking vinegar, it’s quite yummy. I have a few tablespoons in a glass of warm water every morning.
Sugar causes an imbalance between the yeast, bad bacteria and helpful bacteria and also suppresses your immune system. I haven’t completely cut it out but I’m much more mindful about eating it.
One of the gluten proteins gliadin has been proven to increase gut ‘leakiness’. Again, I don’t avoid completely but have cut down considerably and feel much better for it! Cutting back on bread (I used to eat A LOT) has also completely eliminated the pesky mouth ulcers I used to get. Score!
Eliminating cow’s milk.
Casein is the main protein found in dairy products which can be a problem for the digestive system. Dairy products are also acid-forming foods. In terms of milk, I stick to almond, soy or coconut milk these days and feel so much better for it!
Good quality food and digestive-friendly grains.
I try and buy the best quality food I can afford and add in lots of digestion-friendly grains like quinoa, freekeh, soba and buckwheat.
Cold-pressed vegetable juice.
Since I bought my cold-pressed juicer, I have a juice packed full of veggies most mornings. Veggies contain disease-fighting enzymes good for digestive health and help protect the immune system.
Full of probiotics, the friendly bacteria in foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, kim chi, kefir and yoghurt enhance digestive health. You can make your own from the simple recipes in The Whole Daily’s free eBook ‘Love Your Guts’ or support local producers like my favourite, Foleys (or Peace, Love and Vegetables.)
This is easier said than done (and it’s a constant work in progress!) but stress means decreased nutrient absorption and less blood flow to the digestive system.
Natural fats are so important for supporting gut health! I have plenty of good quality olive oil, good quality butter, avocados, salmon, nuts and coconut oil.
Chiropractic medication works by targeting anomalies in the functionalities of the nervous system which controls digestion among other things. Regular alignments have helped me enormously.
Now, over to you…
Are you in the process of healing your gut? What are the best things that have worked for you? I would love to hear from you.