11 Signs You Have an Unhealthy Gut and 4 Steps to Heal It
Let’s talk about the gut!
It’s still a hot topic in the health and wellness world.
It’s our second brain - it has an incredible intelligence that we don’t always pay attention to and it works around the clock for us, day in, day out.
It’s truly a remarkable system that we often overlook in our life as a place to find answers and create healing and true life-long transformation.
For a moment, just think about how connected we are to our digestion. Our language in our life even reflects how we feel about digestion. Have you ever caught yourself saying any of these phrases…
“My gut instinct tells me…”
“It makes me sick to my stomach…”
“I bit off more than I can chew…”
“I gotta digest that a little bit…”
We are SO connected to our digestion from the food we eat, to the way we digest life.
So why do we all-too-often ignore this miraculous part of our bodies?
Well sometimes we simply don’t know what we don’t know, and it can be difficult to know where to start along the healing journey. That’s why we created a checklist for you on how to heal your gut & keep it happy. This checklist provides 16 things to do to help heal your gut and keep it happy over time. It’s a guideline to help you identify quick and easy ways to take simple steps to heal your gut, plus how to look after it in the long term and keep it supported. But first things first, you have to identify the problem - do you need to give your gut some TLC?
STEP 1: Remove the Irritants
We all are unique in the types of foods that irritate our gut and we all have unique food intolerances. However, there are some common foods that many people find they cannot tolerate. Perhaps some of these items don’t have an immediate negative impact, but they may disguise themselves in how they show up in our lives and affect us.
Common Irritants That Cause Gut Issues for Many People:
- Wheat & Gluten
- Refined Sugar
- Conventional Meat
- Conventional Dairy
- Alcohol & Caffeine
- Conventional Eggs
STEP 2: Replace with Healing Foods
Fermented & Probiotic Foods:
- Fermented Vegetables
- Coconut Kefir
- Organic Yogurt
- Pickles (lacto-fermented)
- Collard Greens & Swiss Chard
- Cooked Kale
- Made from Organic & Grass-Fed Animal Bones
- Coconut Oil
- Coconut Kefir
- Raw Coconut Meat
- Brussels Sprouts
- Cabbage (preferably cooked)
- Organic Cheeses
- Grass-Fed Organic Butter
*Note: If you are in a place that you have access to raw or unpasteurized dairy, this can be helpful as it still has living ‘gut-friendly’ bacteria.
STEP 3: Repair with Supplements
Many of us are lacking in healthy bacteria and enzymes in the gut which are crucial for proper digestion of food. Ideally, you get these probiotics and enzymes from the food you eat, but when healing the gut, it's often helpful to give the digestive system a little boost.
Adding in a daily super green drink can do wonders for your health and support gut health. Many super greens are created with spirulina, algae, wheatgrass, kelp, and other nutrient-dense ingredients. These dark green ingredients are full of antioxidants to help fight free radical damage, protein to help repair any damage to your gut, and are alkalizing to reduce inflammation. Start with 1 glass a day and you’ll likely feel a difference.
Vitamin B; B1, B3, B6, B12
These vitamins help your body form red blood cells and absorb and use the nutrients and energy from the food that you eat. Without these helpful vitamins, we can’t properly use the food we consume.
Some people find that magnesium can help to relax stomach cramping. Just be careful, as the correct dosage is key here! Too much can cause loose bowel movements and interfere with the absorption of other major minerals. Start slowly and try not to use as a long-term supplement.
Psyllium husk helps to bulk and soften food waste as it passes through your digestive system. Just consume it several hours before or after taking any other medications or supplements, as it can otherwise interfere with absorption.
Slippery Elm Powder
Just as the name suggests, this powder will help to make the passage of stools ‘slippery’ and comfortable. It’s a great curative for constipation! Just start with a small amount and work your way up to the recommended dose slowly.
Many people with digestive issues (and in particular, fructose malabsorption) often experience inefficient zinc absorption. Consider taking a round of zinc supplementation to give your body a ‘top up’.
STEP 4: Create New Gut-Healthy Habits
Cut Back on Alcohol & Caffeine
Although these things can be big “feel goods” in our lives, they are directly working against our gut health. Caffeine is a stimulant which can irritate the nerves in our gut and trigger the release of stress hormones. This impacts the transition of food through our bowels and can interfere with the absorption of nutrients. On the opposite end of the spectrum, alcohol is a depressant and is metabolized very quickly into acetaldehyde - a toxic chemical which the liver has to clear from our system. Many types of alcohol are also high in sugar, which feeds bad bacteria in our gut and can cause other complications like candida or leaky gut. We aren’t saying you have to get rid of it all, but be conscious of your consumption, and the more you can move away from these two things, the happier your gut will be.
This can be a tough one for many people because it’s a lot easier said than done. “Just remove stress!” But think about how you react to the “happenings” of life. You can choose whether to take it on as something really stressful or see it as something that just happens. Your internal reaction to these life events impacts your digestion. Your digestion not only digests your food, but it also digests your life. So the more your gut has to digest life and its stress & overwhelm (and the hormones that are released due to these feelings), the harder it has to work to digest food. This often leaves the gut with fewer resources to call on to digest your food as they are being used to absorb the stress hormones that are being released.
Commit To Daily Movement
We aren’t saying you have to go to the gym for an hour, but simple movement, breath work, and increased heart rate will aid in your digestion. A simple 10 minutes of movement a day will help oxygenate your cells and digestive organs, allowing the body to heal and rejuvenate. Doing deep breathing exercises is another great way to stimulate the body and bring in added oxygen. Keep an eye on things. Yes, we mean to have a look at how things are going in the poop department. The gut will tell you whether it’s happy or needs more TLC by the texture, color, and amount it’s excreting. If you see abnormalities, like really loose stools, or really hard stools, or you aren’t excreting much in a day, then it’s time to go back to Step 1 and 2 of this checklist. We’d also suggest getting it checked out by a health professional if problems persist.
Chew Your Food
Your teeth are an important step of the beginning of the digestive cycle. When you chew your food slowly and consciously, you allow for important digestive enzymes to be released from your mouth and mixed with your food. You also break down your food into smaller pieces of food, making it much easier for the next step of the cycle to assimilate and digest even further.
Drink More Water
Many people are not properly hydrated. Water helps digestion to keep things moving. Drink a minimum of 2 liters of water a day. It’s also highly suggested to drink a glass of water first thing when you wake up (warm lemon water is a bonus). This helps to lubricate the digestive system, which has been working through the night on different digestive processes, and sends a message to it saying, “Time to wake up and get ready for more food”. This message often sends the next signal to get rid of yesterday’s waste, thus often people have to do a #2 first thing in the morning. This is a really good thing, and drinking water first thing will help it get moving.
This checklist is very comprehensive. Don’t be overwhelmed with all the suggestions and knowledge. Health & healing is a journey, not a destination - so take one step at a time. And if you need to take baby steps, that's okay! Even if you started with just one of these items on this checklist, you’d be helping your gut, and most importantly, helping yourself.
For your ease, we’ve shortened the checklist into a single page PDF which you can download here. Print this out, and post it somewhere that you can be reminded of good healthy habits to continue to incorporate into your life. This way you truly can continue to take baby steps. Check things off as you start to incorporate them into your life!
**Note: These can be helpful in aiding in gut repair. However, we strongly advise checking with your health practitioner first. These are general supplement suggestions which are known for their positive impact on the gut, however, you need to confirm they do not have any negative interactions with your current medications or supplements.