Have you made healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle, but still aren’t seeing improvements in your gut health? Maybe you’re taking a good probiotic or even L-glutamine, because you read somewhere they can help heal leaky gut.
As a functional medicine coach who helps people heal their gut naturally, I understand how frustrating and debilitating conditions like leaky gut can be. When you look at all the different components affecting your gut, you start to understand why taking a probiotic simply isn’t enough.
Most conventional medicine doctors approach gut issues from a symptom-only lens, treating the problem with a pill for the ill. In functional medicine, we try to dig out the root cause of what’s driving these symptoms instead.
Because so many symptoms are related to gut health, finding natural ways to heal and improve the gut is key to seeing improvements. Luckily there are things you can start doing right now to start rebuilding your gut health!
Step One: Remove Food Sensitivities
The very first thing you should work on to improve your gut is addressing food sensitivities. Good nutrition is key to digestion, and nothing disrupts digestion more than eating foods your body can’t digest.
Eliminating gluten and dairy is a great place to start because they both contain proteins that create inflammation in the gut.
This is especially true for people struggling with autoimmune issues. Conditions like chronic urticaria, Hashimoto’s, and rheumatoid arthritis are a sign that your immune system is activated for some reason. Typically, this activation occurs in response to undigested food particles making their way through the intestinal lining, otherwise known as leaky gut. This puts your immune system on high alert as it mistakes these undigested food particles for invaders.
If you’re unsure of your specific food sensitivities, you can start with a food elimination plan. I always recommend removing foods that are high on the allergen list- gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, nuts, shellfish, beef, and pork.
That may seem like a lot, but if you’re experiencing symptoms like headaches, brain fog, chronic fatigue, depression, joint pain, weight gain, and digestive issues, it’s likely your gut is inflamed from one or many of these foods.
While many practitioners turn to food testing as a solution, they aren’t 100% reliable especially if you’re on an elimination diet. After all, only the foods you’re eating will show up on a food sensitivity test. If you’ve had a leaky gut for a while, your body will react to all kinds of foods making their way through the gut barrier, even if those foods are healthy.
Working with a coach who can take you through a food elimination plan safely and effectively is key to getting results.
Step Two: Reduce Your Toxic Load
The second thing you can do to heal your gut naturally is to reduce the amount of toxins your body is exposed to. It’s no secret that our environment is loaded with toxic products, chemicals, and drugs. Avoiding them completely may be impossible, but there are things you can do to significantly reduce your exposure.
Some of the most common to watch for are:
- Heavy metals
- Food additives
- Endogenous chemicals
The first step to avoiding these chemicals is learning where they live in your environment. They can be found in home and beauty products, cookware, conventionally raised meat and produce, processed food, over-the-counter medications, supplements, and even in municipal water sources.
While it may be impossible to avoid all these things, read your labels and make sure you aren’t using these products in your everyday life. Choose organic products instead, and use a water filter in your home.
Reducing the toxic burden in your body will open your natural pathways for detoxification and elimination, improving gut health and digestion.
Step Three: Address Chronic Stress
The third thing you can do to help heal your gut is reduce your stress levels. Stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system, taking the body out of the “rest and digest” state, and into “fight or flight” mode. When you’re in fight or flight mode, your blood sugar spikes to provide a boost of energy to help you deal with the perceived danger. Over time, chronic stress can disrupt blood sugar, increase cortisol levels, create insomnia, and lead to hormone imbalance.
No matter where you’re at in life, you’re going to be confronted with stress. It can be emotional stress such as a job you dislike, or a disruptive relationship, or physical stress like a chronic infection or debilitating health issues. Rather than trying to avoid stress altogether, find coping mechanisms that work for you.
Step Four: Optimize Your Digestion
Once you’ve removed the things harming your gut, it’s time to optimize your digestion. You can be eating the healthiest diet in the world, but if you’re unable to absorb the nutrients from your food, it won’t do you any good.
Let’s break down the digestive process to learn how you can improve your gut health.
Many people don’t realize this, but digestion actually begins in the brain. The moment you start thinking about food, your body starts to secrete salivary enzymes that help break down carbohydrates.
The next step to digestion is chewing. In our rush to enjoy our food, many of us forget to chew. Aim for at least 50 chews per bite so that when your food arrives in your stomach, it doesn’t have such a hard time breaking down.
The next phase occurs in the stomach. If you have low stomach acid, the undigested food gets sent to your small intestine where it will start to ferment. This fermentation is what causes the typical symptoms we associate with the gut– bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, gut dysbiosis, and gas.
Since the small intestine is where we absorb most of the nutrients from our food, it’s important to make sure our stomach acid levels are within the optimal range. I work with my clients to help bring balance to this area, so they can heal their digestive symptoms, and open the pathways of elimination.
Step Five: Give Your Body What It Needs
The final step to healing your gut is to give your body what it needs to thrive.
The reality is, our soil no longer contains the same nutritional value it once had. This has a huge impact on the nutrient profile of our food. An apple 50 years ago was much more nutritious than it is today.
This means that eating a salad a day isn’t enough to reverse or heal a damaged gut. We need to be eating multiple portions of fruits and veggies to give our body the micronutrients it needs to repair and heal itself. Smoothies are a great way to do this, as you can pack a ton of nutrient-dense foods into one meal.
You also want to make sure your body is receiving key vitamins and minerals such as B12, iron, and zinc. Be sure to eat a wide variety of plant foods, up your fiber intake, and drink plenty of filtered water. Look for ways you can replace processed and convenient foods with organic fruits and vegetables.
When it comes to healing your gut, there are a number of steps you can take to help restore balance in the body. Start by removing the foods, products, and stressors that are harming the gut, optimize your digestion, and then give your body what it needs to thrive.
If you’ve been trying to heal your gut for a while, but haven’t seen results, it’s time to find support. Having someone to guide you in the right direction is key to reversing your symptoms so you can reclaim your health.
My Heal Your Gut Program is designed to give you the education and guidance you need to repair your gut right. When you sign up, you’ll receive 3 1:1 personalized sessions with me, as well as access to my 30-Day Reboot program to set you up for success. Learn more about the Heal Your Gut program HERE.