The Importance of a Healthy Gut
You’ve probably heard a lot about the importance of gut health lately.
And while it may seem like just the latest health trend, the truth is that having a healthy gut is essential to your overall health and well-being.
In fact, your gut houses 70% of your body’s immune system and plays a crucial role in digestion, nutrient absorption, and more.
So what does it mean to have a healthy gut?
First and foremost, it means having a balance of good bacteria in your gut.
This good bacteria helps keep your digestive system working properly and keeps harmful bacteria, yeast, and parasites in check.
A healthy gut also has a strong barrier that prevent toxins and other unwanted substances from entering your bloodstream.
So you want to make sure your gut is in tip top shape!
How does the gut work?
The human gut is home to a complex and diverse ecosystem of microbes, which perform a range of important functions.
These include breaking down indigestible food, producing vitamins and enzymes, stimulating the immune system, and protecting against harmful bacteria.
As it breaks down the foods we eat, our gut absorbs nutrients that support our body’s functions — from energy production to hormone balance, skin health to mental health, and even toxin and waste elimination.
How do you know you have an unhealthy gut?
There are a few key signs that can indicate you have an unhealthy gut.
If you’re experiencing any of the following, it’s definitely a good idea to talk to your doctor and then take some steps to heal your gut and see if it helps:
- Digestive problems like bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea
- Chronic fatigue or brain fog
- Skin problems like acne, rosacea, or eczema
- Autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis
- Mood disorders like anxiety or depression
- Food sensitivities or allergies
- Food cravings
- Weight gain
How to have a healthy gut
So how can you achieve a healthy gut?
Well, there are a few things you can do.
First and foremost, you need to make sure you’re consuming enough probiotics.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your digestive system.
You can find them in certain foods, which we will talk about, or you can take them in supplement form.
Here are 6 steps to healing your gut:
1. Lower your stress levels
Chronic high levels of stress can be really hard on your whole body, including your gut.
I know stress is a hard thing to control but maybe try taking some extra time for self care, budget in a monthly massage, take a yoga class, start meditating, diffuse some relaxing essential oils, have a glass of wine, whatever you need to relax.
2. Get enough sleep
Not getting enough sleep can have some serious impacts on your gut health, which can in turn cause more sleep issues.
Try your very best to get 7-8 hours of sleep, if you have trouble you can try using herbal teas, essential oils or a sound machine to help calm you before bed.
My favorite method to promote sleep is drinking lemon balm tea and diffusing valerian, vetiver or lavender in my diffuser at night. There are some other teas such as chamomile tea and lavender tea, and you can try using a lavender essential oil roll on. I also am a big fan of Mary Ruth’s Nighttime Multimineral.
3. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water has been linked to increased diversity of bacteria in the gut.
One study in 2021 also found that people who drank more water had less of a type of bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal infections.
Staying hydrated benefits your health overall but it’s also a very simple way to promote a healthy gut.
4. Take a prebiotic or probiotic
Adding a prebiotic or probiotic supplement to your diet can also improve your gut health.
Prebiotics provide “food” meant to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics are live good bacteria.
Make sure to check with your doctor first and make sure you choose a high quality supplement because not all probiotic supplements are high quality or effective.
I go into my favorite high quality probiotic supplements below.
5. Check for food intolerances
You may have a food intolerance if you have symptoms such as:
- abdominal pain
- acid reflux
You can try eliminating common trigger foods like gluten or dairy to see if your symptoms improve.
If you’re able to recognize a change and avoid any foods that are contributing to your symptoms, you may see a dramatic change in your health.
There are also several food sensitivity tests available but opinions differ on just how effective they are.
6. Change your diet
Processed foods tend to be high in sugar and low in fiber, both of which can contribute to an unhealthy gut.
Stick to whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible for optimal gut health!
Eating a diet high in fiber likely contributes to a healthy gut microbiome as well.
You may also positively impact your gut by eating foods high in micronutrients called polyphenols, like:
we’ll get more into what foods can help heal your gut next.
Foods that heal the gut
Diet and gut health are very closely linked.
Avoiding processed foods, high fat foods, and foods high in refined sugars is important for maintaining a healthy microbiome, but there are also foods you can eat that actively promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, contributing to your overall health.
These foods include:
1. High fiber foods
A big part of maintaining a healthy gut is eating plenty of fiber.
Fiber helps keep things moving along smoothly in your digestive system and also feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
High fiber foods include:
- whole grains
A small 2018 study of 49 people found that aged garlic extract increased diversity and levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
I don’t know about you but as a huge garlic lover, I am more than happy to incorporate more garlic into my diet.
3. Fermented foods
Fermented foods are great dietary sources of probiotics.
- sourdough (real fresh sourdough, you can find out more on my post about the benefits of sourdough)
Best natural probiotics for gut health
There are tons of great probiotic supplements on the market as well as tons of not so great ones.
The following probiotics are ones I have personally tried and had great results with.
I will never promote a product that I have not personally tried and loved so please keep that in mind.
While there are many possible causes of health problems, an unhealthy gut is often to blame.
That’s because an imbalance of gut bacteria can lead to inflammation throughout the body which can impact everything from your mood to your digestion to your skin health.
So taking care of your gut should be a top priority if you’re looking for better overall health.