How To Care for Your Gut Health
You know how your Mom used to always say “you are what you eat”? Well, you’re not going to turn into giant broccoli or a burger, but Mamma was right… everything you that you eat and drink matters. Yes, nutrition is important, but even more crucial than the nutrition of the foods we eat, is maintaining our overall gut health.
If you live in LA, whether you like it or not, you’re probably tuned into the latest health trends. In that case, you’ve more than likely heard the term “gut health” being passed around over the last few years. Maybe you’ve even heard the term “gut microbiome“. But what does it all mean? Does it matter?
Short answer. YES. Gut health makes a dramatic difference in not only how you feel physically, but mentally and emotionally. Everything from mood swings and skin issues to digestive problems and body odor can all stem from an unhealthy gut.
Let’s dive in!
What is the “gut” really?
Firstly, your gut is more than just… your stomach. It’s not a food locker or a dumpster, but a highly organized and efficient multi-level department [like if you combined homeland security, post-office, a doctor’s office, and sewage into once building]. The gut is essentially its own vibrant ecosystem. In fact, the world biome means an integrated community of flora and fauna, microbiome means a small biome, a living community of bacteria.
So, if it’s so intelligent, why do I have to keep it safe?
The gut may be a well-oiled-machine, but it’s also delicate. Modern food, alcohol, portions, and stress can put the gut into over-drive. And when your gut stops functioning at it’s best… bad things can happen.
What Your Gut is up to:
- Look, let’s be honest, what happens in your gut is naaaaasty. There’s acids, bacteria, digested food, gasses… it’s like a toxic cauldron of gunk that needs to be processed. Around that gut are your entire immune system and other vital organs. What keeps all the unprocessed toxic gunk from entering the rest of your body? A very thin layer (which is actually the size of a tennis court if you un-stretched it) of a barrier. That barrier is all that’s protecting you from getting really really sick.
- Your gut also has its own nervous system. In fact, your gut has more neurotransmitters than your brain! When business is humming along, messages get shot back and forth between brain and gut at rapid speed and mind and tummy are at peace. However, if those messages get slowed or scrambled, your health really begins to suffer.
- Then there’s that sewage part of the department. Of course your gut’s main job is to get rid of toxic byproducts. But if your gut is slowed down, overworked, overstuffed, or inflamed, you can guarantee a lot of those toxins won’t be processed and will just kinda hang around causing more problems.
- And last but not least, your gut’s most important job… nutrient, vitamin, and mineral sorting. Your gut has to literally break down everything you place in your mouth and separate it into its individual components and send them to the right departments across your body for use. This is why we say, it’s no use eating healthy if you’re not also taking care of your gut consistently. If your gut has been abused for years, a single kale salad isn’t going to save it.
Signs Your Gut is Out of Whack
- Pain in your stomach
- Frequent smelly gas
- Heartburn or Acid Reflux
- Dark urine
OTHER PHYSICAL SIGNS
- Bad breath
- Cystic Acne
- Eczema or other Skin Irritations
- White coloration on fingernails
- Mood Swings
- Extreme Highs and Lows
Could this be you? Here are some of the things that cause poor gut health.
- Lacking bio and nutritional diversity
- Lacking fiber, vitamins, and minerals
- Ingesting chemicals and compounds found in processed foods
- Ingesting processed sugar products which tear intestinal linings
- Drinking alcohol
- Smoking cigarettes
- Sleeping less than 7 hours
What can you do about it?
Eat more whole grains, nuts, load up on veggies, beans and fresh fruits.
Barley, oats, quinoa, bulger, and other whole grains have fiber that we need to bulk up our intestines and help things to move through.
Whole grains then become a type of feed for the bacteria inhabiting the microbiome. It may sound strange that we have all these minute bacteria floating around in there, but they keep things running smoothly.
Eating more whole grains has been shown to increase the types and numbers of bacteria in our gut. The same is true of nuts, so pick up a variety of walnuts, pecans, pistachios or almonds, remembering that a serving is what fits into the palm of your hand.
Eat Dark Chocolate
This one is an obvious favorite. Who needs an excuse to dig into some chocolate?
Rich in fiber and plant-based molecules, known as polyphenols, travel into your intestines where microbes use them for fuel. Foods that are rich in polyphenols, such as dark chocolate, have anti-inflammatory properties, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels and decrease stress.
What are some other foods to improve your gut that are rich in polyphenols?
- Red grapes, wine made from red grapes
- Green tea
Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are full of good bacteria to improve your belly. They contain a high count of lactobacilli bacteria, which create an acidic environment that the germs do not like. They are also the ones that convert sugar to acids and alcohols:
- fermented vegetables
Oil Pull Daily
Whenever we have a health issue, we start to think of what we can add to our habits, what pills to take, what new diet trend to start. What we often ignore is our oral health.
The first step of digestion is your mouth. Everything you eat and drink passes through your mouth, gathering bacteria and toxins to take with them down to the gut. Studies at Cornell University and in Sweden have found that bacteria from your mouth can get into your stomach and cause problems.
Beyond just brushing and flossing, oil pulling (an Ayurvedic technique of swishing organic oil around your mouth for 20 minutes in the morning) helps reduce oral toxins and bacteria by over 80%, and continued oil pulling can lead to not only better gut health, but healthier and whiter teeth, better breath and less frequent colds and flus.
Get Spicy with Garlic, Turmeric, and Ginger
When it comes to gut health, Ayurveda and Indian holistic health has been ahead of the game for a few thousand years. What western scientists are discovering now, they’ve known since the time of the Pyramids. One of their ancient discoveries was the digestive effect of eating spices, especially garlic, turmeric and ginger. What they call digestive fire or Agni, is actually just a clean high-functioning gut. So, spice up your life!
Practice Modest Intermittent Fasting
You may already be intermittent fasting, you may not be interested, but whether you like it or not, your gut needs a break to repair, clean, and process. Don’t skip meals or skimp on calories, but be conscious of how often you’re giving your a gut a chore, and remember that the more energy your gut has to use, the less energy your body has to fight off more important diseases.