In anatomical terms, your “gut” refers to your gastrointestinal tract or digestive system, from mouth to colon. Your gut is home to literally millions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, collectively known as your microbiome. Your gut is also the gateway to your health.
While a portion of your microbiome may be directly associated with illness and disease, the majority of gut bacteria support your immune system, heart health, body weight and many other aspects of health. Your gut microbiome also controls digestion and nutrient absorption and supports your immune system which originates in your gut.
When your gut is unhealthy, it can cause much more than simple stomach pain, gas, bloating, or diarrhea. Your immune system will be suppressed, and gut imbalances have been linked to hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety and depression, and skin conditions including eczema and rosacea.
Signs of an unhealthy gut include:
- Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn. A recurring upset stomach can also be a sign of an unhealthy gut. Constant gas and bloating are signs that food is fermenting in your gut, suggesting that there is an imbalance of bacteria to break down the food.
- Chronic bad breath or halitosis may be caused by microbes that reside in your teeth and gums. However, halitosis may be an indicator that you have less-than-optimal gut flora to digest food properly, leading to rotting food in your gut.
- Food intolerances, food allergies, and sensitivities may be caused by leaky gut syndrome, “holes” in the intestinal barrier allowing large protein molecules to escape into your bloodstream. Your body then triggers an immune response and attacks these invading protein molecules.
- Rapid, unexplainable weight gain or weight loss.
- Autoimmune conditions. The most significant autoimmune diseases being Type 1 diabetes mellitus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Five steps to improve your gut health:
- Eat more whole, natural unprocessed foods. To support the growth of healthy microbes in your gut, eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods.
- Eliminate inflammatory foods including gluten, dairy products, corn, soy, and sugar. These foods are responsible for the majority of food sensitivities and food allergies.
- Reduce or eliminate intestinal irritants including alcohol, caffeine, or drugs.
- Replenish your digestive enzymes and friendly bacteria. A healthy balance of “good” bacteria is critical to gut health. Take a probiotic supplement that contains beneficial bacteria including bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species.
- Increase your intake of nutrients that promote healing of your gut lining. Start with the amino acid L-glutamine which helps to rejuvenate the gut wall lining. Then add gut-healing nutrients like zinc, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), vitamin A, C, and E, as well as the beneficial herbs slippery elm and aloe vera.
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