“All disease begins in the gut.” -Hippocrates
Digestive symptoms are shockingly common, and are sadly thought to be normal by many sufferers. These conditions might include bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, pain and more. Needless to say, not fun.
Many digestive symptoms come down to a common syndrome that feels just about as nice as it sounds, leaky gut syndrome. Its more technical term is increased intestinal permeability, and it works by damaging the billions of microscopic villi that line the walls of our intestinal tract. The damage might be rooted in repeated exposure to irritants such as inflammatory foods, a parasitic or bacterial infection, yeast overgrowth, or dysregulated hormones.
While the reasons for digestive problems are complex, there are some things that can be done to relieve symptoms and heal the gut, even if you’re still not exactly sure what is causing your symptoms. If there is an infection of some sort (a parasite or bacteria), or a severe yeast overgrowth, dietary changes might not do the trick by themselves, but they are still a good place so start.
5 Steps To Heal Your Gut And Improve Digestion
Undergo An Elimination Diet
To learn more about the details of how to undergo an elimination diet, view this article. But to recap, an elimination diet entails cutting out irritating, potentially allergenic foods for at least one month, and then slowly reintroducing them one at a time in order to discover hidden food intolerances. The most common food allergens include corn, soy, gluten, dairy, eggs, alcohol, sugar, dairy, alcohol and (in some cases) all grains.
Include Healing Foods
First and foremost, fermented foods such as raw sauerkraut or kimchi, kombucha tea or kefir are excellent for providing the gut with good bacteria (aka, probiotics), which are essential for proper digestion. Other healing foods are nutrient dense steamed vegetables and a homemade vegetable or bone broth.
While fermented foods are great for daily maintenance of healthy gut flora, taking a probiotic supplement is hardly ever a bad idea. Especially if you have a history of antibiotic use and/or a poor diet, chances are that your gut bacteria is in need of a boost. Taking a high quality probiotic supplement will help to reinoculate your gut with the good bacteria it needs, and it will help to boost your immune system and prevent certain diseases.
And remember, while antibiotics can be necessary and extremely valuable in certain circumstances; be sure you are only taking them if absolutely necessary, as they do wreak havoc on our balance of gut bacteria. If you do need to take them, always follow them up with a round of probiotics (1 bottles worth).
Determine If You Have A Parasite
While we often think of parasites are something you might only get if traveling to a foreign country, this is far from the truth. Working with a qualified practitioner who has access to labs that offer thorough testing is key, and then creating a supplementation protocol to kill whatever bugs or bacteria’s are found. Trying to heal the gut without addressing a possible parasitic or bacterial infection simply won’t work.
Take Apple Cider Vinegar Before Meals
As you might have read about in my previous article on stomach acid, although contrary to popular belief, sufferers of acid reflux usually have low stomach acid levels (hydrochloric acid). Drinking one tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar about 20 minutes before meals can help to boost stomach acid production, therefore allowing to better digest our foods, especially protein. Be sure to buy the raw apple cider vinegar (Braggs makes a great version), as this is the only way to reap the benefits. Fresh squeezed lemon juice in a bit of water can serve the same purpose. Be sure the water is room temperature or even warm, but not extremely hot or cold.
There are definitely supplements that can help heal the gut, as well, but working with a trusted practitioner or doctor is best to determine what is right for you. These might include marshmallow root, slippery elm, DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice), L-glutamine, digestive enzymes, or HCL tablets. While probiotics and digestive enzymes can safely be used on your own if you’d like to try them out and see if they help, the others should be approved by a healthcare provider.
Proper digestion is the key to health, because if we are not able to break down and absorb the nutrients from our foods, they really aren’t doing us much good. If you suffer from digestive symptoms, try out these tips and tricks on a regular basis for at least one month, and see what improvements are experienced. If nothing changes, you might have to dig deeper (alongside a doctor or qualified practitioner) to get to the bottom of your symptoms.