7 Quick Ways to Repair Your Gut
You may not realize you have a problem, but your gut (also known as your “second brain”) could probably use some repair.
Considering that gastrointestinal diseases affect 60 to 70 million Americans every year, it’s likely that you have suffered from some form of digestive discomfort.
Abdominal pain is the number one reason Americans visit their primary care physicians. In addition, hospitalizations for gastrointestinal issues doubled in the last 10 years.1
Maybe your symptoms have not reached the disease threshold, but pesky bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and other unmentionable symptoms can indicate a gut out of balance.
If you’ve been feeling sick or struggling with losing weight, your gut could be the cause.
Recent advances in medicine and microbiology reveal that the diversity of microorganisms in the gut has expansive effects on the body.
What you may not know is that keeping your gut in optimal health is slightly more involved than popping an antacid if you want to feel lasting effects.
Although there are over 200 over-the-counter remedies for gastrointestinal discomfort, taking these on a routine basis can cause their own stubborn and long-lasting digestive side effects.
Your digestion is connected to every system in your body. Most doctors don’t even realize the connection between the gut and disease.
How can you stop the downward spiral of gastrointestinal disease?
With your health in mind, we’ve compiled the most important and quickest steps to repair your gut.
How It Works: Digestion and the Gut’s Other Jobs
Have you ever thought about what goes on during digestion?
The digestive system begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. This complex system also includes accessory digestive glands such as the liver, exocrine pancreas, and the biliary system, including the gallbladder. This process uses many bodily resources, such as neurotransmitters, hormones, nerves, blood, and bacteria.4
This complex process is not just responsible for the absorption of nutrients and cleansing the body of toxins. The health of your gut is responsible for the optimal assimilation of food by deciding what toxins and allergens are kept out. It is a big job that depends on many factors.
Having a healthy digestive system is key for optimal health. A well-balanced gut microbiome helps to improve your metabolism, boost weight loss, and even support your immune system. It can also protect you from disease and improve your mood.
In absence of any serious functional issues in your digestive system, the most beneficial way to repair your “second brain” is to keep a healthy balance of good and bad gut bacteria.
The gastrointestinal ecosystem of bacteria must be in balance for you to be healthy. Too much bad bacteria, such as parasites and yeast, or not enough of the beneficial bacteria lactobacillus or bifidobacteria, can be a serious risk for your health.2
Although you may think of the gut as a dirty place, it is where bacteria and the immune system meet. Dan Peterson, a professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, explains, “A huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract... The immune system is inside your body, and the bacteria are outside your body... and yet they interact.”5
Dan Peterson’s research with mice and different intestinal bacteria has revealed that even having too much good bacteria can cause gastrointestinal diseases such as colitis. The balance of the two is what creates optimal health.
Also important to note is that your body is only separated from the bacterial ecosystem of your gut by a layer of your intestinal lining, which is only one cell thick.
This delicate layer, if inflamed or damaged, can lead to inflammation throughout the entire body and send your immune system off track. This is also the mechanism by which you can become intolerant or allergic to foods that may not have bothered you in the past.6
Your Gut, Your Second Brain
The enteric nervous system is another regulatory job of the gut. This nervous system, also known as the “second brain,” is how the gastrointestinal tract is connected to your body’s central nervous system.
It is a system of neurons and neurotransmitters that are in charge of digestive function and sending and receiving messages from the brain.
You may have heard of neurotransmitters before. Neurotransmitters are a chemical made by nerve cells so they can communicate with other cells.
Absolutely everything we do relies on the function of neurotransmitters. When neurotransmitters do not fire properly, connections between neurons fail. You may have heard of the role of the neurotransmitter serotonin in depression. Scientists hypothesize that a dip in serotonin levels in the brain causes depression.7
Believe it or not, the digestive tract has more neurotransmitters than the brain!8
This is why it is no surprise that research reveals a strong connection between gut health and depression. Alterations in certain species of gut microbiota may contribute to depression or more severe episodes of major depression.9
How to Know if Your Gut Needs Repair
If you don’t have a laundry list of digestive symptoms, you may be curious if you need to take steps to repair your gut health.
Almost everyone can benefit from a change in habits, but it’s important to also recognize if you meet any of the risk factors for gastrointestinal disease.
Risk Factors for an Unhealthy Gut
- Eating a low-fiber, processed, high-sugar, and high-calorie diet that comes from quick, pre-packaged or fast-food meals. This standard American diet feeds bad bacteria and allows yeast to grow in the intestines. GMO foods are a staple of the standard American diet. GMO stands for “genetically modified organism,” and it means the DNA of the plant or animal has been modified in some way. Research has shown that GMOs can alter the function and type of bacteria in the gut. Some of the most common GMO foods include corn, soy, dairy, the artificial sweetener aspartame, canola, rice, tomatoes, beets, and potatoes.
- Overuse or misuse of medications that can be harmful to normal digestive function. These include acid blockers, anti-inflammatory painkillers such as aspirin and Advil, prescription steroids, hormones, and opioid pain meds.
- Undiagnosed or misdiagnosed gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or food allergies and food intolerances, such as negative reactions to lactose, egg, or corn. These allergies set off inflammation throughout the body and can cause a variety of symptoms such as joint pain and dermatitis.10
- Chronic infections or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, also known as SIBO. SIBO indicates the presence of colonic bacteria in the small intestine. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, and distention. Other abnormalities from yeast overgrowth, parasites, or more serious gut infections cause widespread discomfort and need to be treated by a medical professional.
- Consistent exposure to toxins such as mold, mercury, lead, or fluoride, which damage the gut.11,12,13
- Lack of active, healthy digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes break down food in the digestive system to ensure proper absorption of nutrients. Your digestive enzymes can take a bad hit from over-the-counter antacid medication or a zinc deficiency.
- Unhealthy level of stress, which can send the normal balance of gut bacteria out of whack. Stress is related to leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome is a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged, and toxic waste and bacteria can leak through the intestine and into the bloodstream.14
- You feel consistently ill — if you suffer with chronic conditions such as arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, or eczema, your gut may need some help. These conditions and more have been found to be caused by gut problems.15 By focusing on your gut health, you can heal these chronic conditions.
It’s Time to Act: 7 Steps to Repair Your Gut
If you see yourself in any of these risk factors or are struggling with any type of digestive discomfort, it’s time to take action!
Follow these simple steps to get your gut back in balance. Your body will thank you.
#1: Eat Whole, Unprocessed Foods
- Focus on eating a whole-food diet. Cut out pre-packaged meals, fast food, and processed foods. The best foods for your gut flora are in their original form!
- Make sure you’re getting a high amount of fiber. This comes from the peels of raw fruits and vegetables. Other high-fiber foods include beans, nuts, and seeds.
#2: Eliminate Allergens
- It’s time to switch to an elimination diet. You may have food sensitivities if you experience consistent bloating, pain, constipation, and diarrhea after eating certain foods.
- The most common food allergens are gluten, lactose (dairy), yeast, corn, soy, and eggs.
- Although it’s not easy, cut out these foods from your diet for a couple weeks and see if your symptoms subside. If you experience improvement, introduce these foods back to your diet carefully and one at a time.
#3: Treat Any Infections
- Chronic infections or bacterial overgrowth may need to be treated by a professional.
- Signs you may have SIBO include abdominal pain, bloating, distention, and discomfort.
- See a medical professional if you suspect such an infection. Intestinal parasites, dangerous bacterial overgrowth, and yeasts must be treated in order for your body to heal.
#4: Replenish Digestive Enzymes
- As mentioned above, digestive enzymes are responsible for breaking down food into its optimal form for proper absorption.
- If your digestive enzymes are not up to par, you may suffer from unexplained weight loss, anemia, or other nutritional deficiencies.
- You can supplement your diet with daily, broad-spectrum digestive enzymes to solve this issue.
#5: Rebuild a Healthy Microbiome
- Restoring good gut bacteria and avoiding the growth of bad gut bacteria benefits the function of your entire body.
- Rebuild a healthy and balanced microbiome by taking probiotic supplements.
- One of the many benefits of probiotics is to increase the good bacteria in your gut.
#6: Add Healthy Fat to Your Diet
- Adding healthy fats, such as omega 3s, helps with problematic inflammation in the gut.
- Omega 3s can be found naturally in flax and fresh-caught fish.
- If you don’t get enough healthy fats in your diet, consider taking an omega-3 supplement daily.
#7: Repair Your Gut Lining
- Your single-cell-thick gut lining is the only delicate barrier between your gut’s bacteria and your bloodstream. Emotional stress can cause leaky gut syndrome, in which toxins are released into the body, causing an inflammatory response.
- Heal your gut lining by supplementing with the nutrient glutamine, which is found naturally in meat, seafood, and beans.
- Also make sure you are getting an adequate amount of zinc, which also occurs in meat, seafood, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Repairing Your Gut Health: The Takeaways
- Your digestive system, also known as your “second brain,” is connected to every system in your body.
- Repairing your gut microbiome is one of the most crucial ways you can take control of your health.
- Your digestive system is comprised of a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria.
- You may be at risk for gastrointestinal problems if you:
- Eat a standard American diet (fast food, processed food, and lack of fiber)
- Overuse medications that are harmful to your gut
- Suffer from a food allergy or intolerance
- Suffer from chronic gut infections, SIBO, or dangerous bacterial and parasitic invaders
- Experience consistent exposure to toxins such as mold, mercury, lead, or fluoride
- Lack active, healthy digestive enzymes
- Experience chronic and excessive stress
- Consistently feel sick
- 7 Quick Steps to Repair Your Gut:
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods.
- Follow an elimination diet.
- Treat infections.
- Replenish enzymes.
- Rebuild a healthy microbiome with probiotics.
- Add good fats to your diet.
- Heal your gut lining with nutrients such as glutamine and zinc.
To your health, Annalise May
Contributing Editor, Clear Health Now
To your health,