Gut Health,  HEALTH

How to Heal Your Gut Health

Lose fat, boost immunity, decrease stress and more! 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably suffered from uncomfortable symptoms like constipation and gas that you didn’t know were related to your gut health. As a result of these symptoms, I feel strongly about the topic of how to heal your gut health, as I’ve realised that the kinder I am to my gut, the happier, lighter, calmer and more energised I feel. Not only do I not suffer from those uncomfortable symptoms anymore, I’ve discovered many more benefits…

Women holding her gut

What I’ve discovered is that the gut has been described as the “second brain” and I can understand why (22). Not only does having a healthy gut help with your mood and reduce stress, but it can also help give you clear skin, reduce inflammation, assist in losing fat, boost your immunity and help with digestion (2; 14; 35). Who doesn’t want that? 

Being a student and pursuing a diploma in Health Science has deepened my understanding of the importance of a healthy gut microbiome and the various ways to improve it. Today, I’d like to share that knowledge with you by summarising the most useful and actionable steps you can take to make a difference. 

Read on if you want to learn about signs of an unhealthy gut, the worst foods for your gut, fasting for gut health, indicators that your gut is healing and actionable steps you can take to improve your gut health. 

What are the signs of an unhealthy gut?

Usually, these signs are more noticeable after participating in an unhealthy habit like drinking alcoholic beverages or eating greasy foods. 

I can tell quite quickly if my stomach is upset as I get flushed cheeks, bloating, constipation and sometimes my anxiety creeps back. 

Bad diet, stress, antibiotics, alcohol and drugs, all affect the gut and can influence increased intestinal permeability and cause leaky gut syndrome.

The first step in learning how to heal your gut is to identify the common symptoms of bad gut health are:

  • Digestive Issues: Frequent bloating, gas, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation, indigestion and heartburn are key indicators of an unhealthy gut. These can cause long-term digestive issues that can lead to irritable bowel syndrome (6).
  • Food Intolerances: Developing intolerances to certain foods, especially those you previously could eat without issues, can signal gut imbalances. This can cause a loss of appetite and indicate an unhealthy gut (6).
  • Fatigue and Sleep Disturbances: Poor gut health can disrupt your sleep and lead to fatigue due to the gut’s role in serotonin production, a hormone that affects sleep and mood (29). 
  • Skin Problems: Conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne, and rosacea can be linked to gut issues, therefore focusing on gut health, could bring relief (35; 38). 
  • Autoimmune Conditions: An unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system, which can lead to autoimmune diseases (6).
  • Frequent Infections: A compromised gut can weaken your immune system, which can make you more susceptible to infections (6).

What are the worst foods for your gut?

Everyone has a unique gut microbiome. This means your food intolerances will differ from others and affect how your gut heals (26). This is something to keep in mind in your journey to healing your gut.

The below list should act as a guide as to what foods could damage your gut integrity, so you may want to limit or avoid some of these completely:

  • Processed Foods: Food high in unhealthy fats, sugars, additives and processed foods can disrupt the gut microbiota in a negative way(31; 34)
  • Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners: Excessive sugar can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, while artificial sweeteners may alter gut bacteria and contribute to metabolic issues (34).
  • Fried Foods: Fried foods can slow down your digestion and contribute to gut inflammation (25).
  • Gluten: Some people are sensitive to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, which can cause gut inflammation (8).
  • Dairy: Those with lactose intolerance or sensitivity can experience digestive issues from consuming dairy products (7).
  • Red Meat: High consumption of fatty red meat can negatively affect gut bacteria and increase inflammation (12). Sometimes it can even damage your DNA so it initiates diseases like colon cancer (12). 

If you have a leaky gut, it might be worth considering altering your diet to avoid unhealthy fats, sugars, additives, and ultra-processed foods and swapping this with more nutritious alternatives. More information on these healthier options can be seen below…

Can fasting help to heal the gut?

A women doing a water fast to heal her gut

According to a PubMed study (24), intermittent fasting can increase the range and amount of gut microbiota which is a useful tool when learning how to heal your gut. The study also notes that it can boost how your gut operates and also fight against harmful infections or diseases.

I’ve outlined some more key findings, that are useful to know when healing your gut below:

  • Rest and Reset for the Gut: Digesting is a bodily function that requires a lot of energy and fasting helps to give the gut a break and reset. Giving the digestive system a break can help relieve those pesky symptoms like bloating or gas.
  • Improved Gut-Lining Health: Inside a healthy gut, there is a mucous-type lining that helps protect harmful materials from entering the bloodstream. Fasting may help make the gut lining thicker which offers better protection (32).
  • Balanced Gut Microbiome: Periods of fasting can help balance the gut microbiome by encouraging the growth of useful bacteria to grow while restricting the growth of harmful bacteria. This can help have a stronger microbiome, with more variety.
  • Reduced Inflammation: Ongoing and chronic inflammation can lead to gastrointestinal issues like leaky gut. Fasting helps promote healing and lower inflation which causes such issues.
  • Autophagy Activation: Autophagy is a process where your body “rejuvenates” and cleans out damaged cells. During autophagy, the gut lining can heal and improve how it functions.
  • Enhanced Gut Motility: Gut motility refers to how efficiently food can move through the digestive tract. Fasting can help to improve this and future-proof issues like constipation and promote regular bowel movements. 

Signs your gut is healing

As your gut heals, you may start to notice some improvements in how your gut and body functions.

Below are some signs that your efforts in healing your gut are paying off:

  • Improved Digestion: You will have fewer digestive issue symptoms that lead to abdominal pain like bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea (16; 22; 28).
  • Better Energy Levels: You will have more energy to do activities that usually exhaust you (20). Within weeks of focusing on my gut health, I noticed I didn’t need my daily nap anymore! 
  • Enhanced Mood: Your moods will get better and become more regulated so you’ll notice symptoms like anxiety and depression reduce (18). 
  • Healthier Skin: You may have less flair-ups with things like acne, rosacea, and psoriasis (17). Personally, I haven’t had eczema on my eyelids for years! 
  • Stronger Immunity: You won’t get sick as often and have fewer infections with faster recovery times (37). 
  • Stable Weight/Weight Loss: It will be easier to achieve and maintain a healthy weight – I’ve used focusing on having a healthy gut as a tool to combat being overweight! (4).
  • Reduced inflammation: You’ll start to notice your body will feel less inflamed, so there will be fewer symptoms like swelling, redness, pain etc in areas (1; 10).


What are some things you can do to heal your gut?

There are many actionable steps that you can take when learning how to heal your gut but make sure to focus on diet, lifestyle, and overall health. I’ve outlined some specifics for you below: 

  • Eat a Diverse Range of Foods: Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will create a diverse microbiome in your gut. You can get a diverse range by eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds (1).
  • Include Fermented and Probiotic-Rich Foods: Eating fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and kombucha are beneficial as they have bacteria that support gut health and are rich in probiotics (5).
  • Consume Prebiotics: Prebiotics are non-digestible fibres that feed the good bacteria in your gut. Foods rich in prebiotics include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, and whole grains (27).
  • Limit Processed Foods and Added Sugars: If you can, limit sugary foods or processed foods as they can have negative effects on your gut microbiome (34).
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps move food through the stomach which can reduce nausea, a symptom of an unhealthy gut (33).
  • Manage Stress: Stress can affect you in many ways but interestingly, stress can negatively affect your gut (13). Some ways you can manage stress is by practising meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, and mindfulness (30). If work is your main source of stress, you can find some useful tips on how to manage work stress here.
  • Exercise Regularly: Exercising regularly positively affects the gut microbiome composition (11).
  • Avoid Unnecessary Antibiotics: Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut so only use them when necessary (23).
  • Consider Probiotic Supplements: If you want to tackle your gut health head-on, consider taking a probiotic supplement as it can help restore the balance of gut bacteria (15). I personally use a prebiotic and probiotic supplement and it has done wonders for my gut health but make sure to consult with a healthcare provider for your own personal recommendations.
    • *A popular probiotic and prebiotic that has rave reviews and comes highly rated can be found here.
  • Chew Your Food Thoroughly: Properly chewing your food aids digestion and can improve gut health (19).
  • Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can harm the gut microbiome and can cause a leaky gut (9).

Summary

Maintaining a healthy gut is vital for your overall health. By understanding the signs of an unhealthy vs healthy gut, avoiding harmful foods, and taking some actionable steps to heal your gut, you can significantly improve your gut health and, consequently, your quality of life. 

As always, listen to your body, make mindful choices, and enjoy the journey to a healthier gut and a happier you.

Until next time,

Greta


References and Disclaimer

Click to see the reference list
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Click to see the disclaimer

The information provided on this platform is based on personal views and experiences. It is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. *While I recommend probiotics for individuals in New Zealand, Australia, and overseas, these recommendations are not a substitute for consulting with a qualified healthcare professional.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or health objectives. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here. If you have any medical issues or a history of eating disorders, you should not try fasting to heal your gut without professional supervision.

Please note that this platform uses affiliate links, and I may earn a commission from your purchases. Use of any information provided is solely at your own risk. I do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find here is strictly at your own risk, and I will not be liable for any losses and damages in connection with the use of this platform.


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