Digestion

How To Improve Gut Health

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” 

Our gut plays a huge role in our overall health

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many 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, and nutrient deficiencies. 

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It’s here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The 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 guys 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 is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “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. And 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. 

 

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. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut 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 have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar. 

 

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health! 

 

Belly photo with cartoon bugs.

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.

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.  

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 our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colorful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish. 

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. Make these a part of your daily diet. 

 

Want to make your own fermented recipe that’s easy, delicious and is healthy for your gut? Check out the recipe below.

 

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 the 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. 

 

And don’t forget the extremely important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, dealing with stress, 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. 

In a nutshell 

The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes. 

The main way 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, alcohol, dairy, and grains. 

Here’s a recipe to help nourish and support your gut health:

Fermented Carrots (Probiotic-rich)

Fermented Foods

Servings: 12

Carrot Bunch

Ingredients

  • 1 Liter warm water
  • 4 tsp sea salt
  • 4 organic carrots, medium, peeled, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)

Instructions

  1. Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.
  2. Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of headspace at the top.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. Serve & enjoy!

Notes

Tip: Use this as a side dish, or even a snack. 

https://www.naturalhealthanswers.com/how-to-improve-gut-health/
 

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Woman's hands forming heart over her stomach.

References: 

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health
http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

What Your Bowel Movements Reveal about Your Health

Get the Scoop on Your Poop

The Scoop on Your Poop

Unless you’re the parent of a toddler who has just mastered “going potty,” poop is probably not a hot topic in your household. But the composition of what you deposit into the toilet has important implications for health.

Although it’s not a comfortable subject, I have to ask my clients what’s going on with their poop. Many are embarrassed since it’s not usually a topic that is talked about in friendly conversation!

 I got over my embarrassment a long time ago since I knew I was going to be talking about it with my future clients. It’s so important to look (some people don’t!) and actually see what’s going on with what’s coming out.

Did you know the features of fecal matter—such as the size, color, shape, odor, and consistency indicate how well the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is functioning?

Those same features also provide clues about how your body is (or isn’t) faring against threats of infection and more serious diseases like celiac disease, hepatitis, urinary tract infections, malabsorption disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, and cancer.

 

To give you an idea of what healthy, normal stool looks like, check out the Bristol Stool Chart.  The healthy range for fecal matter is of a consistency that is not too hard, not too soft, and mostly solid—as opposed to lumpy, pellet-like, or liquid. Normal stool color is in the light-to-medium brown range and is not offensively odorous. Also, bowel movements (BMs) should pass easily from your body to the toilet.

5 BMs that Require Medical Attention

Unless you are aware of dietary changes or a medication that could produce the following types of stool, it’s advisable to seek medical attention if you observe the following changes in BMs.

1. Stool that is hard to pass, requires straining or is accompanied by abdominal pain.
2. Black, tarry stool might indicate infection or GI bleeding, while bright red stool could indicate infection and/or bleeding in the GI tract or anus. Seek immediate medical attention.
3. White, pale, or gray stool could indicate problems with the liver, bile ducts, or pancreas.
4. Yellow stool could indicate serious infection or gallbladder problems.
5. Mucus in the stool can indicate inflammation, infection, or even cancer.

How Often Should You Go?

How frequently you have a BM is important, too. And, what’s typical for you may be different for other people in your family. Three daily BMs are considered the norm. No matter how often you poop, you should not have to strain or experience pain while excreting. Additionally, be aware that the appearance and frequency of BMs will vary based on what’s in your diet, sleep and exercise patterns, hormonal changes, travel, stress, hydration level, medications or supplements you are taking, and exposure to toxins (from nicotine to industrial toxins).

How Low Should You Go?

There’s also evidence that the position you take to evacuate the bowels has health implications for the physical structures of the GI tract. So much so that some scientists indicate sitting to poop is a contributing factor in the development of colon and pelvic diseases. Before potty training, young children squat to poop in their diapers—they don’t sit. Yes, there’s a difference between squatting and sitting. The modern toilet places the thighs at a 90-degree angle to the abdomen, whereas squatting has a much deeper angle that gives more motility to the intestinal muscles and organs. Evacuating the bowels is much easier on the body in the squatting versus seated position. Toilet position should be a consideration for everyone over the age of five, but is especially important for the elderly, the disabled, and individuals with compromised mobility.

You can learn more about proper toilet position in this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P8L0r4JVpo

Even though this may be an uncomfortable topic, I hope that this information will help you to pay better attention to what’s coming out (as well as what’s going in!) so you’ll be better informed about the health of your digestive system and body!

If you’re needing help with sorting out what may be going on with your digestive health.  I offer a free 30-minute health discovery call where we can chat and see how I can help you get to the root of the problem so you can finally feel strong, sexy and confident again!  Schedule your free session here

Resources
Mercola, J. “What You See in the Toilet Can Give You Valuable Insights into Your Health.” Accessed February 2015. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/02/14/normal-stool.aspx

Monastyrsky, K. “Gut Sense: What Exactly Are Normal Stools?” Accessed February 2015.
http://www.gutsense.org/constipation/normal_stools.html

Sikirov, D. “Comparison of Straining During Defecation in Three Positions: Results and Implications for Human Health.” Abstract. Digestive Diseases and Sciences 48, no. 7 (July 2003): 1201-5.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12870773

Step and Go. “Step and Go Ergonomically Correct Toilet Position.” Accessed February 2015.
stepandgo.com