Improve your overall health and prevent disease
“All disease begins in the gut” – Hippocrates
A healthy gut is fundamental for good health.
If your gastrointestinal system isn’t functioning efficiently or there is an imbalance in your microbiome (the microbes that live in the gut), disease processes an occur.
Learn why gut health is vital to stay healthy, factors that affects gut health and how to heal your gut through diet, lifestyle and herbal medicine.
Why is gut health important?
Gut health affects the entire body – the immune system, brain, mood, heart, cardiovascular system, digestion – so your gut must be working optimally to maintain good health.
The gut houses around 70% of the cells that make up the immune system and these cells have a close relationship with healthy bacteria that reside in the gut. 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract by gut bacteria.
There are an estimated 500 to 1000 bacterial species in the human gut weighing between 2 and 6 lb. Gut bacteria differ from person to person, depending on the food they eat, environmental factors, if they take medication or have any health imbalances such an inflammatory conditions, allergies or skin issues.
The microbiome is responsible for aiding food digestion, producing vitamins, supporting the immune system and helping the body to fight infections and diseases.
An imbalance in gut bacteria (termed dysbiosis) can lead to a range of health complaints such as bloating, constipation, acne and brain fog. Long-term issues include weakened immune function, autoimmune conditions, arthritis, depression/ mood disorders and inflammatory bowel disorders.
Dietary and lifestyle factors that affect gut health
- A highly processed diet that is high in sugar and damaged fats
- Eating too much meat and soya
- Low fibre intake (not eating enough vegetables, legumes, pulses, whole grains)
- Overeating and snacking
- Medications especially antibiotics and paracetamol
- Environmental toxins – plastics, cosmetics, cleaning products, detergents, personal care products (shampoo, shower gel, lotions etc), perfumes/sprays
- Smoking, alcohol, coffee
- Stress – unsolved problems in life or at work
- Insomnia and lack of sleep
- Lack of exercise
Gut healing: why it’s essential
Modern-day living and unhealthy dietary habits can compromise gut function and result in an inflamed, porous gastrointestinal system. When the intestinal wall becomes porous, toxins and bacteria can permeate through which can trigger widespread inflammation and immune reactions.
Cleansing and healing the gut is the most important aspect in maintaining health and vitality. Over-eating and consuming too many processed foods/ junk foods can cause faeces to accumulate in the intestines and attach to the intestinal wall. Over time, this builds up and creates an ideal environment for candida (yeast overgrowth), parasites and a proliferation of undesirable bacteria. It also prevents nutrients from being absorbed properly.
When you cleanse and heal the gut, you can boost the immune system, balance hormones, protect the brain and support healthy metabolism and weight maintenance.
Ways to heal your gut naturally
Clean up your diet and cut out foods that aggravate and damage the gut including sugar and sugary drinks (fruit juice, fizzy drinks, cordials), refined grains and gluten (bread, pasta, pizza, cereals, pastries, crackers), damaged oils (vegetables oils, margarine, fried foods), junk food and processed/ packaged foods. Be mindful of hidden sugars and gluten which are lurking in most processed foods such as condiments, sauces, snack bars and pre-prepared meals. Sugar is incredibly detrimental to the beneficial bacteria in your gut and contributes to dysbiosis.
Eat an organic, fibre-rich diet (vegetables, sprouts, lentils, beans, whole grains such as buckwheat, millet, brown rice) as fibre promotes healthy gut function.
Include prebiotic and probiotic foods in your diet. Probiotic foods produce live beneficial bacteria for your gut – these include fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and cultured yoghurt. Prebiotics are foods that feed the beneficial bacteria to help them grow and proliferate – artichoke, onion, raw garlic, asparagus and dandelion greens.
Regularly cleanse the bowel to eliminate toxin build-up. This can be done using herbs like Dandelion root, Burdock and Cascara sagrada. Psyllium husk (a type of fibre from the Plantago plant) is also beneficial as it acts like a brush in the intestines and absorbs excess water, making it easier to pass stools. Learn how to detox with herbs safely.
Eat bitter foods to improve digestion and stimulate the liver. The liver is another important detoxification organ to eliminate toxins from the body. Include dandelion root, radishes, artichokes, rocket, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. Learn how to improve liver health naturally.
Heal and repair the gut lining with the herbs such as Slippery elm, Marshmallow root and Aloe vera. These herbs soothe and coat the mucous membranes (lining) of the digestive tract to reduce irritation and prevent further damage by creating a protective barrier. Glutamine (an amino acid/ protein building block) is also effective for gut healing, especially with leaky gut, as it exerts an anti-inflammatory effect and can boost immune cell activity in the gut and protect mucous membranes. Slipper elm, marshmallow root and glutamine are best taken in powder form and mixed with water. Aloe should be taken as a liquid, preferably from the fresh herb. Consult with a qualified herbalist regarding the most appropriate dose for you.
Drink sufficient fluids to stay hydrated and enable your body to efficiently clear toxins. When you’re dehydrated, your cells don’t work well and stools can become harder to pass, potentially allowing toxins to fester in the digestive tract. Herbal teas also add to fluid intake and provide additional health benefits.
Try intermittent fasting as it’s a great way to reduce your toxic load and give your digestive system as well-earned rest. Fasting can also improve digestive function and nutrient absorption, improve blood sugar regulation and increase energy and mental clarity. Learn how to do intermittent fasting.
Daily exercise and movement are key for gut health as exercise has shown to promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and enrich microbiome diversity (the range of bacterial species in the gut). Gut bacteria produce a type of fatty acid called butyrate which can help reduce inflammation and repair the gut lining.
Heal the gut naturally
Maintaining optimal gut health is the foundation of good health. An unhealthy gut can cause a multitude of health issues such as skin disorders, autoimmune conditions, depression and poor immune function. Cleanse and heal your gut by increasing your intake of fibre-rich and probiotic-promoting foods, eliminating dietary and environmental toxins and using herbs like aloe vera and slippery elm.