You’ve heard a lot about “gut health” in the last year, and it seems like it could explain all of your latest woes and worries.
While it might impact everything from allergies, to that overblown fight with your significant other, you’re out of luck on things like paying back that Christmas credit card debt (... we know your bestie really needed those new earrings).
So first, what do we mean when we talk about your “gut health”?
Well, we’re talking about your gut microbiome (that rainforest that lives in your body and tries to keep everything balanced, fed, and properly hydrated), and it spans your entire digestive system. Whether you experience indigestion, the occasional bloat, or food sensitivities, your gut is at play.
Sometimes, there may be issues with the amount of hydrochloric acid (HCL) in your stomach, which breaks down food particles, particularly protein, you may have intestinal issues like IBS, or you may be dealing with what is known as “leaky gut”.
In short, leaky gut tends to happen from irritants like medication, and causes more pores than normal in your gut lining. When this happens, food particles can get through that aren’t meant to. We’ll talk about the consequences of that in a moment.
What happens when our gut is “unhealthy”?
Like we said before: it can explain your latest woes and worries. So there are quite a few things that can happen. Here are some of the big ones, and where they stem from:
1. Food sensitivities and allergies
Have you developed food sensitivities or allergies now that you didn’t have as a child? That might be due to your leaky gut and improper digestion. When we don’t chew our food or have enough HCL to break down proteins into their individual amino acids, they can sneak through our gut lining and into our bloodstream. Because our body doesn’t actually know what these little guys are, it attacks.
Digesting your food takes a lot of energy. Think about how tired you feel after a big meal. That’s your body putting its energy toward digesting what you have eaten. The same can happen when you’ve been eating poorly or your digestive system has difficulty doing it’s job. And when it’s not doing its job, it’s also likely you’re missing out on a whole lot of other nutrients as well.
3. Mood swings
Recent research has been looking into the brain-gut connection. Most of us have had a time where anxiety or stress has left us running for the washroom, but new research shows that the bacteria that makes up our gut, and inflammation through poor digestion can impact our mood on a daily basis.
4. Bloating, gas, and some other bathroom issues
Maybe you have low HCL, or possibly your gut bacteria is a little off. As we get older, we have reduced HCL in our guts, so you may start experiencing more gas, bloating or other issues with bigger meals later in life.
Now this is a bigger conversation, but to give you the short version: Candidiasis occurs when we have an overgrowth of yeast in our intestinal tract. In time, and depending on our diets, this candida can grow into our stomachs and potentially the blood stream, causing a host of other problems.
But do not fret! There is a way to help your gut heal.
Chew your food
This is literally where digestion starts, especially carbohydrate digestion. There is an enzyme in your mouth called amylase that starts the digestion process. The more you chew, the more surface area this enzyme (and the subsequent enzymes), have to break this food down.
Relax when you’re eating
In today’s world, it seems like we’re constantly in fight or flight (hello stress!). And when we’re under stress, our body puts its energy to our extremities, ready to fight or run, and our gut is left without the extra support.
Take a few moments to breathe before you start eating. Let your body relax, and try not to eat on the go.
Use foods to repair your gut lining
Foods like bone broth, aloe vera, slippery elm, and collagen are all great to soothe your gut lining and help repair it. Look for products like collagen powder, which you can put in your coffee, smoothies, or baking.
Make some bathroom time in the morning
You should be having a bowel movement at least once per day, and ideally in the morning. If this is a problem for you, try getting up a few minutes earlier and just sit (yup, just sit), in the bathroom.
And if you’re going more than three times a day, or your bowel movements aren’t looking so great, you may want to look at what you’re eating.
Some of the main irritants include:
If you’re having some gut issues, talk to your doctor, naturopath or nutritionist about testing an elimination diet.
Try a probiotic or digestive enzyme
If you have been on the birth control pill, taken antibiotics recently, or regularly take medications, it’s likely that your gut bacteria is imbalanced. Trying a probiotic to increase the amount of good bacteria is helpful.
If you find that certain foods cause you digestive distress (like leave you running for the washroom), try a digestive enzyme. It works by providing your body the proper enzymes to break down and absorb the food.