Heal the Gut No Matter What

Sugar cravings. Bloating. Burping. Gas. Diarrhea. Constipation. Indigestion. Heartburn. Runner’s Trots. Colds. Sickness. Anxiety. Frequent fatigue. These are signs of impaired gut health, and if you’re experiencing these, you are not alone. If you’re not experiencing any of the above, don’t stop reading just yet. Your gut is often referred to as “the second brain” and/or “the missing link.” Keeping it healthy is important for everyone—not just those with digestive issues or disease. Working with our clients we find that even those who do not complain of a single digestive concern and have never had a “sweet tooth” can be struggling with reaching their goals (especially weight loss) due to impaired gut health. Thanks to years of following diets (consuming an excess of processed carbohydrates and sugar), rounds of antibiotics as a kid, or consuming conventionally raised meat and dairy products full of hormones; most of us have impaired gut health.

What is Gut Health?

The term gut health covers digestion and absorption of food, immune status, and the state of well-being. It is the cornerstone for optimal health and the avenue through which nutrients are absorbed, assimilated and incorporated into the body. Gut health is associated with every other process, system, organ and cell in your body! Your gut is where your metabolism starts, food is digested, nutrients are absorbed, neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) are made and the fighting grounds that keep foreign invaders are at bay. About 70% of your immune system is located in your gut and your gut is a barrier to toxins and pathogens. Keeping all of that in mind Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Normally we don’t pay much attention to our gut health, which is unfortunate because Hippocrates was right, your digestive system may be the single most important factor in your health. Whether your gut is healthy or unhealthy will determine how your digestion functions, how likely you are to have cravings, how energetic you feel, and how well your immune system works. When it comes to evaluating your health or beginning a new nutrition program, the most critical and often overlooked starting point is the gut. If your gut health isn’t up to par, even the most nutritious foods may not be broken down or absorbed properly, so while it is important to make the best food choices possible, it is just as important to be in the proper state to digest that food. The goal for gut health is to create an environment where gut bacteria are living in harmony and taking care of us as they should.

Sheaths of neurons line the entire gut — this is so extensive that the gut has been coined “the second brain.” Gut health and brain health work in tandem, affecting one another. There is a continual exchange of chemical messages between the two systems. You may already be familiar with this. Maybe when you are nervous or stressed, you get nauseous or an upset stomach. Conversely, problems in your gut can impact your mental health, and lead to anxiety or depression. Gut health is essential to maintain both physical and mental well-being.

What wreaks havoc on the gut?

The things that contribute to poor gut health include, but are not limited to the following:
• Refined carbohydrates
• Processed Food
• Antibiotics
• Chronic stress
• Chronic infections
• Substances you are sensitive to, like gluten or dairy

5 Steps to Healing Your Gut:

1. Keep your sugar intake low. Refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods create an environment in your gut flora where bad bacteria thrive. Strive to get your carbohydrates from veggies and fruits and have plenty of protein and healthy fat at your meals (PFC is key.)

2. Include fermented foods on a daily basis. Fermented foods are naturally high in favorable bacteria. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt and kombucha are a few good ones.

3. Supplement with probiotic, glutamine and fish oil. Nearly everyone can benefit from supplementing with a good quality probiotic, especially if you are not including fermented foods. Probiotics boost the good bacteria in your gut. Glutamine is an amino acid (a building block of protein), which helps to rebuild and maintain the structural integrity of the thin lining of the digestive tract. Fish oil targets inflammation and reduces it. Together, the combination of probiotics, glutamine and fish oil promote healthy intestinal lining and proper digestion by rebuilding that intestinal lining, reducing inflammation and restoring the good bacteria. Not all supplements are created equal, so we offer our favorite pharmaceutical grade ones in our Real Food Vitamins store. Our general recommendation is 1 capsule probiotic and 1,000mg of L-glutamine taken before meals and 1-2 capsules of fish oil with meals, depending on your goals. If you’re taking an antibiotic, the most important thing you can do for your gut is to counter it with probiotics (remember, antibiotics don’t discriminate; they kill off your good AND bad bacteria.) When on an antibiotic, our general recommendation is at least 3 capsules of probiotic per day for the duration of the antibiotic and 2 weeks after. For individualized recommendations, we would love to help you during a coaching appointment!

4. Manage your stress. Because your gut is intricately linked to your state of mind, stress affects your gut health.

5. Don’t let food sensitivities go unchecked. For some people, food sensitivities and/or allergies may increase inflammation and damage to the intestinal tract. The BIG FIVE food allergens are: gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, and nuts. This may seem obvious, but if you know you have a food allergy or sensitivity, completely avoiding the food is better for your gut. In coaching sessions, we help clients determine if they have any food allergies or sensitivities that may be impairing gut health and/or standing in the way of reaching their goals.

By implementing these strategies, you can rebuild, repair and support your gut, which in turn gives you life and energy. For our follow up post, check out Digging Deeper into Gut Health, where we look further at the normal digestive process and what can go wrong. We can help you rebalance your gut health so contact our team to set up an appointment with one of our dietitian coaches.

  • beth mitchell

    Do you recommend probiotics for just a period of time or daily. I have been taking them daily.

    • Cassie Bjork

      Most people can benefit from taking them daily! It just depends what your goals are. Typically at the beginning of a nutrition regimen, we recommend 2-3x/day.

  • CDSmoak .

    I have been mixing probiotics with my son’s yogurt. Is he still getting the benefits? Thanks for you great article.

    • Kateathealthysimplelife

      Good question! For most people, mixing additional probiotics in with yogurt wouldn’t be harmful at all (but as always, everyone is different and we only provide general recommendations outside of coaching appointments). If your son has been tolerating the probiotics and they are a high quality supplement, we wouldn’t see any reason to stop adding it. We are very particular when it comes to the kinds of probiotics we recommend though, so we would say Ultra Flora Children’s (http://www.dietitiancassie.com/store/healthy-kids/childrens-daily-probiotic/)u2014 you could crush the chewable and mix it in, or Ultra Flora Balance (http://www.dietitiancassie.com/store/gut-health/ultra-flora-plus-probiotic/) mixed with the yogurt would be the best options.

  • carol

    Great post 🙂 Can you get enough glutamine from eating a diet rich in grass fed beef( I heard it contains glutamine)? Is it possible to overdose on glutamine? Thanks!

    • Kateathealthysimplelife

      Hi Carol, great questions! You are right that grass fed beef IS a great source of L-Glutamine, but what constitutes as u201cenoughu201d can vary between individuals. L-Glutamine is SUCH an important amino acid, and we find that the majority of our clients benefit from taking an L-Glutamine supplement (along with a probiotic) to jumpstart the healing of their gut and production of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals), among other things. As far as overdosing on it, we havenu2019t heard of any of our clients experiencing any negative effects from it, but we are pretty conservative when it comes to our supplement recommendations. One of the docs we work with actually puts his patients on over 100 grams per day for those with leaky gut for great results (our capsules are 500mg per cap and our powder is 3500mg per tsp!) That said, you would probably need to take an excessive concentrated amount before experiencing any negative reactions, and if you did, those would include GI upset, indigestion and bloating so those are what youu2019d watch for. And like I said above, everyone is different, and depending on what it is that youu2019re trying to accomplish, we would love to help you figure out exactly the amounts that would benefit you!

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