Your Gut: The Key to Your Health

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases – and even weight gain – than we used to think. And we’re not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc.; we’re talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, resistant weight loss, and nutrient deficiencies.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It’s here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body.

Science is just starting to explore the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of “the gut-brain axis”?). Not just our gut but its friendly resident microbes, too. These microbes also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.

So, let’s talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I’ll give you a few tips to how you can improve your gut health naturally.

Your Gut: The Key to Your Health

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier to let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in, and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through the barrier and out to be carried away.

This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can go wrong in so many places.

For one thing, ourguts can “leak.” Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins)to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc. You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it’s not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can “leak.” When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don’t seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!

How do I improve my gut health?

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause of problems, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Cow dairy products, grains, and legumes contain compounds known to irritate some people’s digestive tracks. Sometimes you only need to eliminate these items for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.


By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our digestive systems, and every other body partas well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colorful fruits and veggies, fish, and lean animal proteins.

The second pillar of gut health is the care and feeding of the microbes that tend to our wellness. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in naturally fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

Foods that are naturally fermented are found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. These are “live” foods that have been created by a natural fermentation process, not through the use of vinegar. A jar of sauerkraut, for example, sitting on a middle aisle grocery shelf will probably be made with vinegar and not contain the health promoting good bacteria we’re seeking to populate in our digestive tracks.

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they canbe eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better.

What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.

And don’t forget the super important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and appropriate intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.

The function of your gut is pivotal to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.

The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods – foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.

I’m sharing an easy recipe to make some naturally fermented food at home that can give your gut some love.

Easy Probiotic Fermented Carrots

Serves: 12

You can serve this as a side dish or even a snack.
Ingredients
  • 1 L warm water
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)
Instructions
  1. Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.
  2. Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.
  3. Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don't float (you can use a "fermenting weight").
  4. Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop. Feel free to open and taste.

Carolyn S. Barnes, CHC, LMT

Carolyn is an integrative health coach, speaker, Reiki Master and the author of Return to Ease: Gently Reconnect with Your Body’s Natural Mobility and Joy.

She writes and speaks from a personal place–her own journey of healing from various health issues (including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and obesity) and opening to her inner wisdom. Her mission at Return to Ease is to help women who want to experience natural weight management and reconnect with their personal power and true essence. This integrative process of reconnection allows her clients to align their hearts, minds, and bodies while creating a more sacred life filled with health, ease, and joy.

Carolyn received her coaching training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she learned about more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. She specializes in helping women who struggle with emotional/stress eating gain control and experience ease with food and their lives. As a result, her clients experience a newfound appreciation of their bodies, no longer obsess over food, and witness an amazing transformation of more ease and joy in their lives.

To learn more about Carolyn, apply to be a coaching client, order a copy of her book, or book Reiki session, please visit her website.


References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health
http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

Leave a Reply

Rate this recipe: