One of the BIGGEST things I have learnt on my health journey, is the importance of gut health. I’ve had acne, food intolerances, persistent bloating, abdominal pain, toilet troubles, parasites, IBS, dysbiosis, and leaky gut. What did they all have in common? MY GUT!
I’m going to share with you everything I have learnt about the gut, gut healing and curing various ailments that have plagued you for years.
★ The gut (gastrointestinal tract) is a system involving multiple organs, from your mouth to your anus. It digests food, extracts and absorbs nutrients from food, filters toxins, and eliminates waste.
★ Inside you are trillions of micro-organisms, including yeast, viruses, fungi and hundreds of different kinds of bacteria. Collectively, they are known as the gut microbiome.
★ Our gut microbiome develops right from birth and is influenced by genetics, delivery method, breast feeding, environment, diet, medication, stress, illness, and age.
★ There is no ideal microbiome as it is unique to every person, but it important that yours are able to function at their optimum and carry out their various roles to keep you healthy.
★ When your microbiome are balanced, happy and healthy, so are you.
★ An unbalanced microbiome is referred to as dysbiosis and leads to ill health.
★ 9 times out of 10 POOR HEALTH CAN BE LINKED TO POOR GUT HEALTH; acne, anxiety, asthma, auto immune diseases, Crohn’s, eczema, depression, dementia, IBS, IBD, psoriasis and type 2 diabetes are ALL linked to gut health!
When it comes to gut healing, you have to BE PATIENT (something I struggle with). Depending on the severity of the imbalance, the organs effected and duration for which the issue has been going on, it could take anywhere from a few weeks to months or even years to fully heal your gut and cure your symptoms.
I had severe gut issues, due to contracting parasites in Bali. For two years I was in pain, and unbeknown to me parasites had caused dysbiosis, leaky gut, mass inflammation, colitis, food intolerances, mineral deficiencies along with stomach, gall bladder and liver damage. It took me 4 months for my body to begin to heal and for my unwanted symptoms to go. I used this 3 STEP HEALING PROCESS to get me back to homeostasis (optimum health).
Some people say that ignorance is bliss, but when it comes to your health ignorance is simply ignorance. Just like with any ailment, you NEED to identify what it is, before you can treat it.
Imagine a doctor ignoring your symptoms and performing surgery without knowing what they were looking for. Crazy, right! There is a reason for your symptoms, find out WHAT that reason is and WHY it is happening.
If you don’t know what you’re treating you’ll be in limbo, guessing how to heal yourself and possibly doing more harm than good. Trust me, I know from experience. I was misdiagnosed with IBS, put on a low fodmap diet i.e cutting out things like: onion, garlic and fermented foods. Turns out I had liver fluke and helminth parasites (don’t Google it, they’re gross) and I should have been eating parasite killing, immune boosting, gut nourishing foods like garlic, onion and fermented foods.
Once you know what you’re dealing with, it’s time to GET RID OF IT. This step is all about cleansing the body of any toxin build up, bad bacteria overgrowth or inflammation, in order to begin the healing process and the path back to optimum health.
Depending on what gut issue has been identified, you may have to cut out certain foods until your body is able to digest them properly. I am currently unable to eat grains, cashews, pistachios and am intolerant to dairy, gluten and soy.
There’s still plenty of food I can eat and these are my favourite GUT CLEANSING FOODS
Technically not a food, but drinking plenty of hydrating fluids is essential for assisting the kidneys in doing their job to eliminate waste from your body. I love to start my day with a cup of hot water and half a lemon squeezed in. Lemons are a source of immune (and collagen) boosting vitamin C and according to Ayurvedic medicine, a morning lemon water kick starts the digestive system and helps relieve constipation.
One word; FIBRE. Most of us don’t get enough of it in our diet, this guy is full of it; 1 tbsp = 25% RDA. Bonus: as well as reliving constipation and diarrhoea, it has prebiotic effects, meaning it can help feed the good bacteria in your gut.
Think of charcoal like an intestinal cleaner, binding to toxins in the intestinal tract and preventing their absorption into your bloodstream. It’s also been shown to ease intestinal gas and diarrhoea.
You may lose some friends, but I highly recommend eating garlic regularly. It’s antimicrobial, immune boosting, and contains inulin (a natural prebiotic) to feed good gut bacteria.
Best eaten raw, pumpkin seeds contain a parasite paralysing compound called curcurbitacin. They also contain omega 3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation.
GINGER –has been shown to reduce H. pylori (a type of bacteria associated with stomach ulcers and potentially stomach cancer).
OREGANO – oregano oil is anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic and can prevent leaky gut.
PAU D’ARCO – antimicrobial, reduces H.pylori, is anti-inflammatory and a natural candida remedy. I drink it in a herbal tea mix.
Or even better, matcha, is rich in polyphenols, specifically a catechin called EGCG which has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting properties.
Moving your body engages blood flow to the muscles involved in digestion, and strengthening your core can actually strengthen your bowels. Furthermore, a quarter of your body’s toxins are released through the skin so getting sweaty is a great way to encourage those nasties to vacate your body.
Specific dietary advice depends on what has affected your gut and whether other organs are damaged too, like the liver, stomach, colon etc.
This phase is all about:
NOURISHING the gut and surrounding organs
BOOSTING immunity to better fight off future microorganisms
REBALANCING the microbiome to restore dysbiosis
Eat a diet of WHOLEFOODS; food that is as close to how mother nature intended as possible. Eating less from a packet and more from the earth, will ensure that your body is getting MAXIMUM nutrients, without additives, preservative, sugars and starches that will feed bad bacteria.
Fill your plate with FRESH PRODUCE; vegetables (especially greens), fruit (especially berries), lean grass fed meat, wild caught fish, free range eggs, nuts and seeds (activated is best as they’re easier to digest) and healthy fats.
Beans, legumes and soya products like tofu can be difficult to digest and contain lectins which can damage the intestinal wall. Most nutritionist’s advise against eating vegan based foods when your gut is damaged. However, everyone is different so if you can tolerate them, feel free to eat them.
BUY THE BEST QUALITY YOU CAN AFFORD, if you can buy organic, do. Even better, if you can grow it yourself, do.
LIMIT INFLAMMATORY FOODS: dairy, gluten, alcohol, processed foods and refined sugars cause inflammation in the body and can decrease good gut bacteria, whilst feeding the bad.
My favourite GUT HEALING FOODS
Leafy greens like spinach and kale contain a specific sugar called sulfoquinovose which feeds good gut bacteria. They are also a source of fibre and vitamin C. Another type of greenery I love is algae; spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, barleygrass. Algae is extremely rich in nutrients and anti-oxidants, aids detoxification, is anti-inflammatory and promotes the growth of good bacteria.
I love beets for their blood cleansing properties; they increase the production of detoxifying enzymes in the liver. Beets are also a good source of fibre, vitamin C, and are anti-inflammatory (due to pigments called betalains).
I eat raspberries for fibre, strawberries for vitamin C, blueberries for anti-oxidants and a source of prebiotics, cranberries for vitamin C and a specific anti-oxidant (proanthocyanidines) to help prevent diseases.
TURMERIC – contains the potently anti-inflammatory compound curcumin. Tip: add a little black pepper to aid the absorption of curcumin by up to 2000%.
GINGER – anti-inflammatory, relieves nausea, may prevent the formation of stomach ulcers, aids emptying of the stomach and proper digestion.
LIQUORICE ROOT – has flavonoids that repair intestinal lining, increases intestinal blood flow and regeneration of intestinal cells. Get deglycyrrhizinated liquorice (DGL) as glycyrrhizin can cause hypertension (high blood pressure).
MARSHMALLOW ROOT – its Greek name, Althainean, literally translates as ‘to heal’. Marshmallow root soothes irritated mucous membranes and contains antioxidants to heal tissue cells.
PEPPERMINT – anti spasmodic, meaning it can relieve pain, cramping and gas.
FENNEL – helps the smooth muscles of the gastrointernal system relax, reducing gas, bloating and cramps.
One of the main components of bone broth, a.k.a gut broth, is gelatin a source of amino acids that build and repair tissue in the body. It’s also rich in collagen which eases symptoms of leaky gut and IBD.
This stuff is magic! It’s an amino acid that provides the preferred fuel source to the cells of the small intestine, allowing them to regenerate and repair the intestinal lining. This reduces the permeability of the gut, reducing symptoms of leaky gut, such as bloating.
A natural mucilage that heals and soothes inflamed stomach and intestinal cells. Mucilages also coat the intestines, making them less susceptible to damage.
Any time your body deviates from homeostasis (optimal health) it puts pressure on your immune system, and 70% of your immune system is located in your gut! The camu camu berry is the best source of vitamin C in the world! I sprinkle a ¼ tsp of camu camu powder into my breakfast for an instant immune boost.
They provide energy to fuel the good gut bacteria, i.e. the food for the good guys. I love sweet potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, flax, cacao, blueberries, bananas, apples and seaweed.
These are live micro-organisms that provide various health benefits i.e good bacteria and yeasts. My favs are yogurt (I love Coyo), sauerkraut, kombucha (I drink Remedy Kombucha) and a quality probiotic supplement.
LIFESTYLE FACTORS FOR GUT HEALING
Besides diet, lifestyle plays a HUGE role in your gut healing.
Your gut is your second brain. Your brain and your gut are STRONGLY interconnected, that’s why when you’re nervous, you may feel butterflies in your stomach or have to take a few extra trips to the toilet.
Scarily, stress (our modern plague) can negatively affect gut flora in a similar way to eating a highly processed diet! Stress contributes to stomach pain, IBS and leaky gut.
Stress is impossible to avoid but keep it under control by practicing yoga, meditation, talking to someone about your troubles, or asking for help if you need it.
If your gut is unbalanced, your brain will be too. This is why poor gut health leads to neurological disorders such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and autism.
Your body’s endocrine system produces more than 50 hormones and your gut bacteria strongly influence them, including: serotonin (happy hormone), cortisol (stress hormone), estrogen (female sex hormone), insulin (blood sugar regulating hormone) and melatonin (sleep hormone).
Lack of exercise results in a lack of gut bacteria diversity, an increase in bad bacteria and a reduction in good bacteria. This contributes to obesity, inflammation and increased risk of disease.
Celebrate your body by moving it every day; a yoga class, a HIIT session or walking your dog. Every step counts!
Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria. That means as well as killing the bad, they also kill the good. If you absolutely have to take them, eat plenty of pre and probiotic foods to repopulate your gut with good bacteria.
Pain killers like Aspirin and Ibuprofen are stomach irritants. Long term use of these pain killers, known as NSAIDs, can lead to inflammation, leaky gut and potentially stomach ulcers.
Other pain killers, like paracetamol, can damage your liver. It is your liver’s job to detoxify chemicals and metabolise drugs. Frequent drug use puts huge pressure on the liver and can damage liver cells. Paracetamol overdose is one of the leading causes of liver failure and accounts for 20% of patients on liver transplant waiting lists.
Before reaching for the painkillers, try finding the root cause of your pain and treating it holistically; through diet, lifestyle and herbal remedies*.
*Disclaimer: please don’t ignore the advice of your medical professional and obviously sometimes modern medicine is necessary.
We all know smoking is terrible for your health. But did you know it is also terrible for your gut health? Smoking changes the composition of your gut bacteria and increases your risk of IBD. Seek support to QUIT NOW.