Gut health has become one of the most talked about, trending topics among wellness bloggers and health practitioners over recent years. And for good reason.
The state of our gut not only impacts our digestive system, but also every other system in our body. It is one of the main sources of entry from the outside world and host to the majority of our immune cells. When the gut is weak it can struggle to protect us from foreign invaders, allowing possible toxins to pass into the blood stream and travel to other areas of weakness in the body.
So what are the causes of a weak gut in the first place? They are the things that typically define our modern day living: stress, poor digestion, sugar and fatty foods, sedentary living and antibiotics, are some of the main culprits. These dietary choices and lifestyle habits can encourage bad bacteria and toxins to make home in our intestines, overburden our immune cells and cause inflammation in the intestinal wall. If this goes unaddressed, it can lead to foreign particles and toxins leaking into the bloodstream (aka “leaky gut”) and traveling to the brain, skin and other organs.
Therefore, a weak gut doesn’t just show itself within the digestive system (through indigestion, malabsorption, bloating, gas, constipation and other bowel issues). It can also show up in a variety of other conditions, including:
- eczema, acne and other skin concerns,
- PMS and estrogen dominance,
- food cravings and weight gain,
- hormonal imbalance,
- poor immunity,
- hair loss,
- body pain and inflammation,
- anxiety and depression,
- low energy and brain fog,
- learning difficulties, and
- developmental delays.
For these reasons, supporting the gut is the common recommendation I make to the majority of my clients, no matter what wellness goal they’re trying to achieve. While there are many, many ways to nurture your gut, here are some of the tips that I recommend most often.
Chew your food, really well.
Good digestion (and absorption) begins in the mouth. By chewing your food, you’re giving your stomach the time it needs to create hydrochloric acid and other digestive juices that then act as the catalyst for the gut to continue the job. If the gut isn’t receiving its cue, food can sit and ferment, leading to bad bacteria becoming the host of your gut. So, chew your food!
Eat fermented foods
Fermented foods support gut health with good bacteria that are so essential to your gut. Foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and yoghurt, and beverages like kombucha and jun, are the perfect additions to your daily diet. They keep your gut well-fed as they are full of probiotics – the good guys.
Note: homemade fermented foods are richer in probiotics compared to store-bought versions. Here’s a recipe for homemade yoghurt if you’d like to give it a try: http://tashelstine.com/2017/08/08/my-recipe-for-homemade-yoghurt/
Avoid stress, particularly when eating
Get into the habit of enjoying a meal in a calm, peaceful environment. Why? Because when our body is in fight or flight mode (the sympathetic nervous system), it can’t be in rest and digest mode (the parasympathetic nervous system). And so, whatever you eat while you’re stressed will just sit in your digestive tract and possibly ferment, creating bad bacteria. So before you sit down to a meal, take some deep breaths, journal, or take a walk around the block (maybe even a little jog if you have the time). You could also watch a comedy sketch online – whatever helps you decompress! And then, chew and enjoy the food that’s about to nourish you and your body.
There is so much that can be done to care for your gut; it is my hope that these are some easy first steps to get you started!
More than anything, I recommend getting to know your own body’s cues. If you ever experience indigestion, gas, irritable bowel, constipation, bloating, skin issues, fatigue, brain fog or PMS, don’t ignore it. It’s your body’s way of trying to tell you something.
As with any health protocol, be sure to consult with your health practitioner prior to following any of the wellness advice above.