Gut health problems and digestive issues are rampant these days. Leaky gut, IBS and issues like bloating and constipation are all on the rise - and other problems like poor sleep, skin rashes and even autoimmune conditions can often be attributed to issues with our digestion. So it’s no surprise that good health literally starts with our gut.
Having a balanced gut microbiome and proper digestive function is vital for efficient nutrient absorption, immune system support, and even mental health. Over recent years, medicine has started to recognize this pivotal role the gut and digestive system plays in our health. In fact many integrative medicine doctors now consider the gut to be like a second brain.
But let’s back it up a bit and get the lowdown on our gut and digestive system, because many of us don’t realize just how amazing our gut is. For starters it's the largest surface area in the body, and is essentially a long continuous tube about 9 meters in length that is completely separate from the rest of our body. The gut, also known as our gastrointestinal tract, is a complex system responsible for the digestion and absorption of nutrients from the food we consume. It is home to trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiota - and this microbial community influences various aspects of our health, including metabolism, immunity, and mood.
The good (and not-so-good) gut
A healthy gut microbiome will have a diverse array of beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other microbes. But when this microbial balance is disrupted, or when toxigenic species become overgrown it can lead to an imbalance known as dysbiosis and can cause chronic digestive disorders such as IBS, SIBO, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other diseases that require a continuous immune response as our bodies fight against the imbalances and the problems they cause.
For example, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) can occur in the top part of the small intestine. This is where most of the food molecules get broken down, so not a lot of bacteria should be there as they will compete with your body for that nutrition. When bacteria or yeast build up in this area problems can occur because the bacteria or yeast can ferment the carbohydrates to produce excessive gas and bloating. They can also break down proteins which produce ‘vasoactive amines’ which cause the constriction and relaxation of blood vessels by acting on the smooth muscle that surrounds these vessels.
When this happens in the gut it can cause gut permeability - the digestive system becomes aggravated and inflamed causing the intestinal wall to become more porous and dysfunctional. This can mean undigested proteins, fat, wastes, bacteria, fungi and parasites that are normally not absorbed can make their way across the gut wall and into the bloodstream - causing the immune system to go into alert mode and placing our systems under extra pressure to fight and detoxify these unwanted materials from our system.
The good news is there are a lot of things we can do to address our gut health.
1. We are what we eat!
It all starts with what we ingest. A diet rich in fiber, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods promotes a diverse and healthy gut microbiome. There are a number of key aspects to this:
- Eating a wide variety of plants instead of the same ones over and over will help increase the diversity of the bacteria and fungi.
- Eating healthy fats, avocado, fish, nuts, and olive oil. These healthy fats produce short chain fatty acids which help protect the gut lining from inflammation
- Include the Brassicacea family - broccoli, cabbage,kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, collards - which contain an organic chemical compound that helps maintain gut flora.
- Eat pre and probiotic foods as they contain special forms of starch, fructo-oligosaccharides and inulin that beneficial bacteria thrive on. Prebiotic foods are artichokes, garlic, leeks, onion, asparagus, banana, beetroot, green peas, grapefruit and legumes. Probiotic foods include kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and other fermented foods.
- Eating collagen rich foods - or which I like to call ‘Fascia Foods’ - is another great way to help make the gut wall strong. For example, drinking bone broth will help build the wall of the gut due to its amino acid structure and high gelatine content which makes it soothing and healing to the gut and reduces inflammation. This is especially true for glutamate, which is one of the amino acids in bone broth as it aids in digestion and protects the lining of the gastro-intestinal tract. For vegetarian and vegans out there seaweed is a great option to include in your veggie broth as it also contains glutamate and and is a great source of collagen proteins which have been found to be very similar to the human collagen molecular structure so easy for our body to incorporate and use.
- Take a multi strain probiotic to populate your gut with the ‘good guys’ (The ‘Intelligence of Nature’ products by Dr Zac Bush are a personal fave - and for members of the Aligned Life Studio you can get a discount on their products through the Aligned Life Insiders)
Don’t forget to chew properly - this will break down the food to smaller pieces and helps to bring on the digestive juices in your stomach to break down the food.
And of course reduce sugar, alcohol, coffee, dairy, refined carbohydrates, processed foods and other triggering foods (like very spicy foods) as they irritate the gut wall.
Note: My Fascia Foods webapp is packed with over a hundred recipes and meal plans all designed to boost collagen and get your fascia healthy - both of which will have massive benefits for your gut health.
2. Hydrate Your State
Being well hydrated and drinking enough water is another key to supporting proper digestion and it also helps maintain regular bowel movements. Aim for at least 8 cups (64 ounces) of water per day - and of course adjust this for individual needs and activity levels.
3. Get Better at Metabolizing Stress
Chronic stress can disrupt the gut-brain axis, impacting digestive function. And let’s face it, many of us are living in an almost permanent state of fight or flight these days. Engaging in stress-reducing activities like meditation, exercise, and deep breathing exercises can positively impact gut health.
4. Movement Medicine
Physical activity stimulates intestinal contractions, aiding in regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Obviously I’ve got you covered inside theAligned Life Studio - but if you are not a member, I’ve got a great offer for you below.
5. Belly Flushing
Try some self belly massage with my signature Body Sphere, ormy favorite belly flushing breathe techniqueor slather yourself with the Body Elixir for a sensual and self loving belly treatment.
6. Sleep Hygiene
Poor sleep quality or lack of sleep can have an adverse effect on gut health and exacerbate digestive problems. Strive for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to support overall well-being. Many of the tips above like engaging in healthy movement, meditating and eating a healthy diet will help with sleep. I’m also a big fan of taking a magnesium supplement to support good sleep.
7. Belly Laughs
Humor and laughter have long been found to be remedies for a number of ailments and issues. To me laughter is truly medicine and a good belly laugh is actually the best core workout. Laughter can give you a health boost. It enhances oxygen intake to stimulate the heart, lungs and muscles. It increases endorphins released to the brain. It eases pain and decreases the body's stress response. It strengthens the immune system and even improves mood. So go ahead and let loose and have a good chuckle to add some lightness to your life.
So try to incorporate these 7 things into your life - and please don’t beat yourself up if you’re not perfect in doing this. I’m a true believer in the 80:20 rule. So if you can do these things, 80% of the time, that is great (just don’t beat yourself up about the other 20%). Believe me, your gut will thank you for it!
If you’re interested in how to get your gut and digestive system into great shape then why not try out the Aligned Life Studio?
It’s jam-packed with fascia flows, rebounding routines, 100+ recipes, meditations, astrology, yoga and more.
And right now I am offering you the opportunity to try the Studio and join my month of gut and digestive health education and movement medicine for 30 days absolutely FREE.
This offer only lasts until the 1st of the month, so please come along and join me!
Sign up here