How to Restore Gut Health Naturally
We all heard that fibre and probiotics intake plays a fundamental role in restoring gut health, but what more can we do?
We can make many small and simple changes to naturally improve gut function without drugs that thin the gut lining and only temporarily mask the root cause. We all need a road map that we can act upon to achieve meaningful changes. While this is not a personalised plan, it is a great starting point to optimal gut health.
The Art of Eating:
The way we choose to eat is somewhat reflexive. We don’t think about that; we just do it. We assume that our bodies have it easy in breaking down food. We couldn’t be further from the truth.
Chewing food properly is one of the simplest changes you can incorporate into your daily life. Why chewing is so important? Firstly, it kick starts digestive enzymes production and secondly, it ensures larger particles are broken down into smaller pieces. These aspects are essential to ensure we reduce stress on the oesophagus and the stomach. Bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation, and food intolerances are widespread culprits when larger food particles reach the digestive organs.
Being in a relaxed environment and with a relaxed mindset is more important than you think! Grabbing food on the go and answering emails and messages are the most common habits that are not serving our digestive health. The opposite of Fight or Flight is Rest and Digest. The parasympathetic system decreases our heart rate, alertness, and muscle tone during this response. Digestion is stimulated.
We want to have a good amount of hydrochloric acid, pancreatic juices, and bile. The lack of digestive juices results in undigested food, and we not only become vitamin and mineral deficient and invite a host of more serious health conditions. Chewing food while in a Rest and Digest mode is the first step. Consuming ginger, apple cider vinegar, bitter green leafy veggies and, in some cases, foods high in histamine is sufficient. Some people require more help, and we may need to use supplements such as betaine HCL with pepsin, zinc, and B complex.
The idea here is that we should not mix foods that challenge each other. This eases the digestion process as well as ensures more varied food options.
- Starchy foods such as bread and potatoes are not to be combined with heavy proteins such as meat and cheese. Why? Protein is mainly digested in the stomach, while starchy carbs are absorbed in the small intestine. Protein digestion takes much longer than starchy carbs, which means fermentation kicks in, resulting in gas and indigestion.
- Avoid mixing proteins and fats together. Fat inhibits digestive juices needed to break down protein and digested in the small intestine. Fried foods such as bacon and eggs are very poor food combinations.
- Avoid carbohydrates with acid fruits in the same meal. A tomato sandwich is a perfect example. Bread is broken down in the mouth in an alkaline environment. Brining in an acidic food reduces the effect of the enzyme.
Pairing the right foods together is one of the most beneficial ways to improve small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Remove Toxins and Pathogens
Unwanted invaders come in many forms. The body produces toxins internally (endogenous) as part of the daily biochemical processes, and also we ingest them. External toxins (exogenous) are alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, medicines, additives, preservatives, etc.
Pathogens very often get into our bodies through drinking and eating. However, sometimes we are not aware of it, as we do not present with symptoms. Therefore, it is good to test to have an accurate landscape on which pathogen or pathogens cause the issues. Then, the protocol is formulated depending on the type of pathogen (bacteria, fungi, parasite, virus).
The human body is primarily made up of water. We cannot survive without water for longer than five days. When we are young, intracellular fluid (inside the cell) is much higher than extracellular fluid (outside the cell). As we age, this ratio shifts and our cell’s ability to absorb water decreases and can be dehydrated. Discussing the functions and role of water in the human body is outside the scope of this article.
- Coffee, tea and alcohol are all diuretics. Always drink 1-2 glasses of water when you consume these drinks.
- Fruits and vegetables generally have high water content. For example, tomatoes and lettuce are 95% water, while melons, oranges, broccoli, and carrots are 90% water. So go wild with consuming the rainbow!
- The purity of the water is paramount. If your budget does not support installing a water filtration system in your home, go for a simple Brita Jug and add charcoal sticks to it to get double filtration.
Constipation increases the risk of faecal toxins passing into the bloodstream and recirculating. Additionally, it changes the gut microbiome composition. Methane producing bacteria is more prevalent, which further slows transit time. There are some simple changes to improve bowel function:
- Increase fibre and water consumption. Bulking up and softening the stool are both widespread solutions to address constipation.
- Moderate cardio exercise stimulates the bowels. Constipation loves a sedentary lifestyle.
- Supplement with magnesium (600-800mg daily). Magnesium stimulates muscle movement.
The human body uses up about 50% of its energy for digestion. Regular fasting resets the body by redirecting that energy to other biochemical processes. Therefore, when we are unwell with no appetite, we must listen to our bodies and refrain from eating. A licensed alternative practitioner should supervise longer fasts (over 48 hours). All toxins are mobilised into the bloodstream from fat tissue during a fast, which is unpredictable. I invite you to watch our webinar on belly fat and fasting to learn how and when to do fasting safely. Our previous blog post Gut Microbiome and human health is also very informative and useful to read.
There are a lot of misconceptions and uninformed views behind some of the most popular trends and diets. However, the above recommendations are safe, simple, and effective. Put them in practice today!
Author: Anita Andor
Women’s Health Specialist
mBANT Nutritional Therapist