5 Keys to Better Gut Health

a close up of woman stomach and her holdong her hands in a fromt of it on a ashame of heart. Caption '5 Keys to better gut health. Improve your immune system, reduce food sensitivities & build overall healthier body'

Improve your immune system, reduce food sensitivities & build an overall healthier body

Do you struggle with immune problems?

I have been on my own health journey for two decades because I used to struggle with so many food sensitivities, allergy and other immune problems.

But one of the most important things I learnt is that the gut is actually the base of great health and wellbeing.
 
These series are where I am sharing Foundations for wellbeing, the number one is Gut Health so here we go. 
 
 
If you struggle with food sensitivity, you have allergies or food intolerance. And if you have a digestive issue such as heartburn or bloating, or immune problems you have to start with your gut. 
 
 
 I’ve tackled depression and gluten intolerance and many more physical issues naturally.
 
 

Why is Gut Health Important?

 
We have 10 times more bacteria on and inside our body than human cells. We are more bacteria than human. For instance, the weight of bacteria in our body is about the same as the weight of our brain. That may not seem much but as we have trillions of bacteria in our body, 10 times more than the number of human cells.
 
Our gut produces 90% of serotonin a neurotransmitter needed and lacking for people with depression.
 
We have 70% of our immune system is in our Gut. Bacteria in our gut contribute to regulating hormones, eliminating toxins, influence obesity and diabetes and as mentioned affects our immune system heavily.
 

Let’s dive in those five steps to start with in order to improve your gut health, immunity and digestion.

a goat with green leafs in its mounth and caption 'Chew your food'
Gut Health. Chew Your Food

1 - Chew your food

This is the easiest, the simplest thing you can do. 
It also is so important thing linked to our digestion, absorption and all that follows.

Do you often get bloated? Or struggle with indigestion? 
Do you eat and seem to feel hungry nevertheless?

Chewing food thoroughly is crucial for good digestion and absorption of nutrients. Try at least 30 times for each bite. Although optimal would be to chew each bite until it is in liquid form.
 
I would argue that chewing well is the best way to get the most out of your food. And definitely the easiest way to increase the quality of your nutrition intake. Absorption of nutrients in people varies from 10% to 90%, that is a huge difference so chew your food!
 
We start digesting carbohydrates in our month. There are three different types of glands releasing saliva plus a digestive enzyme starting to break down carbohydrates, all released while we chew our food. In order for our small bowel to absorb the nutrition from food, the food needs to be broken down into super tiny pieces which will get coated with enzymes. That allows for the small bowel to absorb the nutrition from the food you just ate.
 
If the food pieces are too large, the stomach cannot extract all the goodness from it. That also may cause fermentation of the too-large particles of food, hence bloating.
top down view on table full of fresh vegetables, fruits, fish and nuts with caption 'replace processed foods with whole foods'
Gut Health. Whole Foods

2 - Replace processed foods with whole foods

This one is really two steps squeezed into one. First, reduce processed food, second add more whole foods. 

The best thing to do is to replace processed foods with whole foods. In simple terms, whole foods are foods which you can look at and identify what it is, where it came from, how it grew. For example vegetables such carrots of beans, unprocessed meat such cut of steak or chicken leg, grains, fruits etc.
 
Don’t even get me started on the problems with all the processed food, we would be here forever. But to make it short, processed foods are full of added sugar which is incredibly bad for our health and our gut microbiome. The most common thing associated with sugar is that it overfeeds the yeast (ever heard of candida?) and other harmful bacteria in our gut.  And sugar is such a broad subject, it really needs its own post so I leave it here at that. 
 
Processed foods also have added emulsifiers, preservatives and many other chemicals which are well known to be damaging to our gut lining. As an effect damaged gut lining is the leading cause of leaky gut, allergies and food intolerance.  That can also lead to headaches, depression, anxiety and low energy.

Whole foods and bio-individuality

Go by your gut and try to pick the least processed foods out there, such whole vegetables and fruits. You can never go wrong with a healthy balance of those. 
 
Which whole foods to add is up to you. Meaning that depending on your bio-individuality you may like root vegetables or grains more, or maybe a grass-fed steak.
 
We all are unique and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Because of that, you need to find what works for you in terms of types of foods, meal structure, the best way to serve e.g. raw vs cooked. This is very individual and cannot be mass advised.
photo of sauerkraut, gherkings, beer, bottle of cidre vinegar, an apple and caption 'Add probiotics, prebiotics and fermented foods'
Gut Health. Probiotics and Fermented foods

3 - Add fermented foods, probiotics and prebiotics to your diet

I am sure you have heard about that one already, probiotics and fermented foods are all a buzz word these days. Below I explain briefly each of those and why they are important.
 
We should start with antibiotics (anti-life). And we all know antibiotics, but what many of do not realise is that antibiotics kill all bacteria in our system, good or bad, no exceptions. Also, they are in some specific cases needed, but often heavily overused and that may contribute to long term gut problems. 

If you have been, especially recently, taking rounds of antibiotics, it is advised and usually prescribed by doctors, to take probiotic to rebuild your healthy gut bacteria, since antibiotics will wipe out most of it. You can always ask your doctor about it or request a recommendation of probiotics.
 
Before we go further it is worth mentioning that fermented foods and probiotics are not recommended for some people, for example, people, with extreme gut dysbiosis, SIBO (Small intestine bacteria overgrowth) and IBS and for anyone who is on low-FODMAP diet. Always consult a doctor if in doubt.

Probiotics

Probiotics are pro-life, bringing beneficial bacteria into our gut. They are living organisms we can consume, usually, in billions per capsule, those are the good bacteria and can be easily bought over the counter.


Adding probiotics will strengthen and improve the quality and diversity of your gut microbiome. Making sure our microbiome has a high diversity and population is crucial as bacteria in our guts produce hormones, vitamins, repairs our gut and cleans toxins from our body.


Checking a count of bacteria at the package, as well as if the capsule shell is able to withstand the stomach acid is advised. Additionally, I recommend to research different strains as some will be better for specific conditions or people more than other types. Like with everything else, it is a case of bio-individuality. Finding what works for you is important.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are foods which are fermented naturally by harmless bacteria, for example, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha.
 
Fermenting foods helps to break down the food, and partially broken down by good bacteria making it easier for us to digest. Also fermenting foods also increase the nutrients levels available in for you to absorb.
Studies also have shown that eating fermented foods improve mood, immune system and downregulate inflammation.
 
Raw or unpasteurised fermented foods have a higher diversity of bacteria, meaning there is much more different types and strains of bacteria in fermented foods, although the numbers of them are lower than in probiotics.
 
Personally, I suggest consuming a tablespoon of fermented food, such as kimchi or sauerkraut, before or with each meal.  If feeling unwell lower the dose until you get to the amount which does not upset your digestion. Upset tummy after eating probiotics of fermented foods is quite a common effect especially at the beginning or after a long time without eating this type of products. This is because often the good bacteria coming it causes die-off of the less good bacteria. When that happens to quickly you will experience detox symptoms e.g. upset stomach or headache.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are the food that feeds the good bacteria, such as soluble fibre found in most vegetable and fruits.
Apart from repopulating and looking after your gut microbiome, we need to feed it too, so it can thrive.
Prebiotics feeds your gut bacteria, any type of soluble fibre will do that. Foods with the highest proportion of soluble fibres are raw leeks, onions and garlic, asparagus, chicory root, dandelion greens, banana & kiwi.
Prebiotics are linked to increased calcium & magnesium absorption and improved insulin sensitivity.
 

An interesting fact is also that if you do not feed your microbiome with prebiotics, the gut bacteria which normally helps rebuild your gut lining will start munching on your gut walls as it is starved and needs some food. So it really is good to feed those good guys! This is a perfect example of why good and healthy balance of anything in life is best. 

A fun fact is that your microbiome is as unique to you as your fingerprint! There is no one other out there like yours! 
a large glass pitcher of water and lemon slices with glass full of water and lemon slice next to it. Caption ' Drink adequate amount of water'
Gut Health. Drink enough water

4 - Drink an adequate amount of water

I have a Whole Separate Post on the importance of hydrations, but I decided to briefly mention this here too.

Our bodies cannot digest properly if we do not have enough liquid in our body. The gut itself is using between 7 or 8 litres of fluid in small intestines in order to absorb the nutrients.
 
Water helps the food we eat to be moving alongside our digestive tract which is 30 foot long, that’s about 9 meters.
 
About 1.5 litres of that goes into our large colon were from we lose it when we go to the toilet.
Lack of adequate levels of water in our body will cause constipation. That is not fun.
a happy young smiling family sitting at set table with fresh healthy food and garden in a background. Caption ' 'Manage the environment you are eating in.'
Gut Health. Manage the environment you are eating in.

5) Manage the environment and state you are eating in

Most of us do not think about where we eating and how we feeling as factors affecting our gut health. The digestion itself is heavily affected by perceived stress. Eating on the go also links to the point number one about chewing. As it is hard to be mindful of chewing when we eat quickly while working or rushing.
 
The environment we are eating in affects how our body absorbs and process the food. If you don’t feel relaxed when you eat either because of the place you are sitting to your meal being messy or because it is in the middle of your work, it will have a completely different effect on your digestion then sitting to a meal in the nice and tidy place you love.
 
Stress creates fight and flight response in our body which cuts of the digestion and repairing of the body and focuses our energy on the fight, flight or freeze. It is our biology, it was evolutionarily beneficial for the body to adapt that way, as digesting your meal was not a priority when there is a tiger chasing you. The problem is that we do not see much difference between a tiger and a work deadline these days, and our body reacts to stress still the same way as it did to deadly danger. 
 
The bottom line is that you can either stress OR digest. You cannot do both at the same time.

What you can do

So here is what you can do. Next time when you eat, observe how you feeling, where do you have your meal?
Is the place you are at nice and comfortable? Or is it noisy and dirty?
 
Can you find a more peaceful place to sit down and have your meal?
 
Wherever you are, at least take three slow deep breaths through your nose, down to your stomach, breath out through your mouth.
 
Breathing that way is activating vagal nerve which activates your rests and digest response, the relaxation response.  
This simple breathing exercise is something I recommend to many of my clients and do with them regularly. This is something you can do easily in any stressful situation, and especially before a meal. 
 
Here is link to my YouTube channel and the video on the subject of better Gut Health:

Using those 5 Gut Health Keys will help you to ease indigestion, absorb more nutrients, contribute to lowering food sensitivities and towards improving your immune system.

There are so many things I did not manage to mention, trying to keep it short.

Which of those things you already doing? Or better yet what works for you to help with your digestion?

Love and positive vibes,
Arleta

#GutMicrobiome #DigestiveHealing #ImmuneSystem

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Arleta BW

Arleta BW

Arleta is an IIN Certified Health Coach, UK Qualifi Certified Coach, Theta Healing Certified Practitioner, and Gut Health & Nutrition Specialist. After working with many diverse clients & healing herself, she's realized that everyone’s body & needs are unique and there is no one-size-fits all solution. Arleta is dedicated to sharing her knowledge and skills with others who are struggling with the same issues she has faced so they can tune into their own intuition and find the peace, health, and energy they need to live the life they really want as well.

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