Natural Ways to Heal Your Gut

I recently listened to an interesting podcast on inflammation and the gut offered by Dr. Elena Villaneuva at Modern Holistic Health. In one of their materials for the masterclass, they outlined the importance of gut function and how chronic inflammation leads to various diseases.

Here is a short summary:

  • Why is the gut so important to our health? Our gut not only digests food but makes the brain’s neurotransmitters and impacts 70-80% of our immune system. Proper digestion by our gut is necessary to break down food and absorb the nutrients. If you experience poor digestion like upset stomach, gas or bloating after a meal or from eating fats and carbohydrates, your gut is telling you it’s not functioning optimally.
  • Your brain sends signals to your gut and has the ability to influence the intestinal microbiota. In the same way, the gut has the ability to influence brain and behavior. A perfect example is having butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous. So the good bacteria in your gut produce chemicals that control mood, appetite and memory. A troubled gut can cause a troubled brain (see my previous blog on The Impact of Gut Health on Mood).
  • Our gut microbiome consists of over 100 trillion organisms and has more cells than the rest of the human body. The microbiome is responsible for:
    • Nutrient metabolism
    • Production of vitamins and nutrients
    • Maintenance of structure of mucosal barrier
    • Immune regulation and protection from foreign invaders
  • Research has shown that changes in gut microbial composition are implicated in the risk for a range of inflammatory disesases such as allergic diseases, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and other chronic conditions.
  • “Leaky gut” is a condition that affects the lining of the intestines and the gaps in the intestinal walls allow bacteria and other toxins to pass into the bloodstream. Leaky gut or intestinal permeability can be caused by poor diet, stress, infection, toxins, inflammation, and medications.
  • Leaky gut can manifest in a plethora of symptoms and can cause:
  • Leaky gut can manifest in a plethora of symptoms and can cause:
    • Chronic inflammation
    • Thyroid and adrenal disorders
    • Digestive problems (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea)
    • Food intolerances
    • Skin problems (acne, rosacea, eczema)
    • Brain fog
    • Depression and anxiety
    • Autoimmune disease
    • Hormone imbalances (PMS, irregular periods)
  • A healthy gut has the right balance of good vs. bad organisms and keeps the body in control. If bad organisms overtake the good ones, you can expect to see symptoms like skin problems, inflammation, leaky gut and food allergies.
  • Biofilm structures are formed by colonies of harmful bacteria, fungi and parasites to guard themselves from the immune system. Common offenders like H. pylori, E. coli and Lyme disease bacteria secrete a gel-like substance which binds to sugars, proteins and other substances in the body to form a sticky, inflammatory shield behind which they hide. Biofilms interfere with detoxification and nutrient absorption, accelerate the growth of the pathogen throughout the GI tract, create arteriosclerotic plaque and give cancer cells a place to hide.
  • Here are some well-established biofilm busters:
    • Proteolytic enzymes are enzymes that are designed to break down proteins but not just the proteins in your food. When you take proteolytic enzymes on an empty stomach, they quickly enter your bloodstream to break down and clear out proteins that don’t belong there. It sounds like Pac-man for your body right? Please note that proteolytic enzymes are contraindicated for those taking blood thinners or anti-coagulants so I don’t advise taking these without consulting your doctor first.
    • Herbs like berberine, artemisinin, echinacea, goldenseal, gentian
    • Citrus seed extract, black walnut hulls
    • Oregano oil
  • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition where bacteria that normally grow in other parts of the gut start growing in the small intestine. This overgrowth prevents the small intestine from being able to properly absorb nutrients and get rid of nasty organisms. SIBO symptoms include gas, bloating, pain, diarhhea, constipation, vitamin deficiencies, food intolerance and fat malabsorption. Talk to your doctor about getting tested if you suspect SIBO – they are several options available.
  • General foods to AVOID for a healthy gut:
    • Processed foods
    • Sugar
    • GMO fruits and vegetables
    • Conventionally raised meats
    • Chlorinated or fluoridated water
    • Food that can trigger inflammation depending on your body type include gluten, dairy, nightshades, alcohol and eggs
  • Food to HEAL the gut:
    • Lots of leafy greens (at least 3 cups a day)
    • Low glycemic vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, squash, brussel sprouts, cabbage
    • Bone broth
    • Fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha)
    • Healthy fats (avocado, salmon, nuts)
    • Garlic
    • High fiber foods (apples, berries, artichokes)
  • 4 Rs of gut repair:
    • Remove – Identify and remove the factors that may be contributing to your symptoms including stress, biofilms, allergenic/trigger foods and pathogens.
    • Replace – You may need to supplement with digestive enzymes to restore what’s lacking in your gut.
    • Replenish – Reinoculate with good bacteria to obtain a healthy microflora in your gut. Prebiotics (non-digestible plant components that nourish the body’s microflora), fermented foods and probiotics (good bacteria that aid in the digestive process and maintain healthy gut and intestinal function) should be part of your healing plan over a 2-4 month period.
    • Repair – A whole foods-based healthy diet over time (up to six months) will help repair the lining in your gut.
  • Check with your functional medicine or holistic practitioner to identify and determine the best approach if you are in need of a gut healing program. 

If you are interested in learning more, see below:

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