Since I head the Hong Kong Gut Health Centre, I see a lot of people suffering from gut issues that have a huge impact on their health and lives.
When your gut flora is out of balance or your digestive system isn’t working well, your state of gut health can cause several uncomfortable (or even dangerous) symptoms. There are several things you can do to help yourself.
Symptoms Of Poor Gut Health
- Skin problems such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea or facial redness can all have gut function as a root cause.
- Immune function can take a hit when your gut health is poor, resulting in frequent colds and flu.
- Mood issues are coming when you have gut issues, since many of the mood-regulating chemicals used by the brain are manufactured in your gut.
- Digestion is of course impacted by your gut. Issues with loose stools or constipation, gas or reflux can all be addressed by improving your gut health.
- Nutritional status is closely tied to your gut – that’s where the nutrients your organs need to do their job are extracted. If there’s not enough to support your liver, heart, and brain, other areas such as your fingernails, hair, and skin will do without. That’s why improving your gut health can make you look so much more healthy overall.
9 Ways To Improve Gut Health
1 – Eat The Rainbow
Make sure you consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, preferably organic. Wash them well and eat raw when you can. Coloured plant foods contain a wide variety of nutrients that many people’s bodies crave.
2 – Pile On The Slow Carbs
Slow carbs are slow-digesting, high fiber foods with low glycemic index ratings. They are great food for healthy gut bacteria, and also help you feel full so that you avoid snacking on junk. Examples of slow carbs are:
- Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, green beans, etc)
- Green, non-starchy vegetables (asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, celery, spinach, artichokes)
- Steel cut oatmeal
3 – Chew Your Food Well
Digestion starts in your mouth. Make sure you relax at mealtimes and take the time to be consciously present. Enjoy your food and chew it thoroughly to help digestion.
4 – Eat Pickled and Fermented Foods
Foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, miso, kimchi, pickles, and natto all support healthy gut bacteria.
5 – Improve Stomach Acid Production
Drinking a tablespoon of pure lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in a small amount of water a few minutes before a meal is very helpful for some people. Others find that taking digestive enzymes with a meal (especially protein meals) is hugely impactful.
If you have issues with heartburn or reflux, check with an integrative medicine doctor who won’t just reach for a prescription for acid blockers. Acid blockers are a real problem for individuals with already-inadequate stomach acid. In fact, supplementing with hydrochloric acid (HCL) to raise stomach acid usually works better in these cases, as the food is processed faster so that it doesn’t hang around the stomach causing digestive issues. When stomach acid is raised for these people, they get more nutritional benefit from their food, and their painful digestive issues are resolved.
6 – Drink Lots Of Pure Water
It’s hugely important to digestion to stay hydrated, but you don’t want to drink a lot of liquid with your meal, as it may dilute the stomach acid you need for digestion. So drink lots of water… half an hour before your meal, or after it. You can improve your hydration by starting your day with a couple of glasses of water, too!
7 – Eat More Fiber
Both types of fibers, soluble and insoluble, are important for gut health. Explaining in detail will have to wait for another article, but if you’re eating a wide variety of real, non-processed food, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts, you’re probably getting what you need.
8 – Take A Quality Probiotic
There’s a battle going on in your gut between healthy and unhealthy bacteria, and if the “bad guys” win, you can develop SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or other health issues. The steps above will help “feed” the good guys, but it can’t hurt to send in reinforcements as well. A good probiotic taken daily can be very helpful. If you’re not sure what to take, I’d be happy to advise.
9 – Cut The Sugar
Sugar is food for bad bacterial flora in your gut. If you overconsume it, they’ll thrive, and your health will suffer. Cutting sugar can give you more energy, less inflammation, weight loss, and relief from many health issues. Your gut health will improve hugely if you take this one step on its own. If you follow all nine steps to improve your gut health, you’ll see the results within weeks in your skin, hair, nails, energy levels, and general health.