10 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
If you’re anything like me, you’re no stranger to stomach troubles. Ever feel food-baby level bloated after a big dinner? Sleepy after lunch time? Mystery stomach aches and pains that don’t seem to be tied to any one specific food? You are so not alone.
Even migraines, inability to lose weight, acne, dandruff, depression, autoimmunity… it all begins with gut health.
Our gut health is crucial to our health as a whole.. especially with autoimmunity!
In the words of Hippocrates, “All disease begins in the gut.” 80-90% of our immune system is located in our digestive system, and the nutrients that keep us healthy are absorbed through our stomach. Autoimmunity like Hashimoto’s and other chronic illnesses stem from problems in the gut.
My own journey with Hashimoto’s never truly improved until I improved my gut health! Improving my gut health has taken me to the point of having no thyroid antibodies, a normal TSH, and it takes my clients from low energy and stomach cramps to feeling alive again.
Whether you’re a fan of resolutions or not, tackling your gut health is an amazing goal to make for the new year to turn around your health.
Here are 5 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health that you can start right now!
First and foremost, working with a doctor is a crucial step for getting to the bottom all of these steps and highly necessary for healing your gut! Always work with a doctor to address health concerns, as I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. Now onto the tips…
1. Chew your food thoroughly and eat in a relaxed state.
When it comes to meal times, it’s hard to just chill. We’re trying to rush out the door at breakfast, lunch is often eaten at a desk, and dinners sometimes eaten in the car between extracurricular activities. Though out society has made it the norm to rush through meal times, we must eat in a relaxed state and take time to chew every bite multiple times to improve our gut health.
For the hormones of digestion to be activated to keep us from having those uncomfortable poor digestion symptoms like bloating, gas, or fatigue after meals, we must be in a relaxed state. These hormones are not secreted if we’re stressed, or if we don’t chew.
The next time you sit down for a meal, take the “Chill Out & Eat Challenge“! Here’s how you play…
- Sit at an actual table… not a desk, not a car, not a couch.
- Turn off the TV and place the electronics away from the table.
- Look at your food, smell your food, and take a quick moment for a prayer, blessing, or just to be grateful.
- Chew each bite at least 30 times.
- Reserve drinking for before or after the meal.
That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Let me know how you do, and I know you’ll begin to notice changes in your digestion!
2. Eat healthy fats at every meal!
Vegetable oils like canola oil, soybean oil, and margarine are anything but natural and are highly inflammatory to our system. These fats are so unnatural, that they impair our digestion of fat in itself.
Our liver and gallbladder work together to digest fats by moving bile to digest the fats. When we eat poor quality fats, or no fats at all, our bile becomes sticky, stagnant, and our digestion and gut health is harmed as a whole. Undigested fats are a huge factor in developing leaky gut as it damages our intestinal lining, and for causing bloating and nausea after meals. Sound familiar? I woke up nauseated every day for months a teen and poor quality fats were to blame.
Ditch the vegetable oils and eat healthy fat at every single meal to build healthy bile and keep it moving. This will help keep your gallbladder and liver that much healthier, and keep you from nasty nausea and bloating!
Be mindful to include coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, high quality animal fat, avocado, soaked nuts (if tolerated), wild caught fish and olive oil! Yum!
3. Improve your gut flora with probiotics and fermented foods.
Science is just scratching the surface on all there is to know about our gut flora. We each have billions of microbes living inside our gut that keep it in balance and protect us from disease and leaky gut. Unfortunately, poor quality food, antibiotics, and birth control can permanently damage our gut flora, leaving our gut health in the balance.
I get a lot of questions about probiotics as a nutritional therapy practitioner, and yes. You should be getting some type of probiotic support. One of my favorite books from Weston A. Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, tells us that all indigenous cultures had some type of fermented food that they ate! It’s traditional, and vital for our gut health.
I start all of my clients on some sort of fermented food. Whether it be sauerkraut, kimchi, or my favorite,easy beet kvass, we need to be having some sort of fermented food to feed our gut flora.For bringing in the big guns, I recommend probiotic supplements as well. The first probiotic I always recommend to my clients is Prescript-Assist which is a natural, soil based probiotic. It doesn’t work for everyone as it’s quite strong and we all have different needs, it’s one that I use myself and trust.
4. Don’t forget the pre-biotics!
Now that you’ve established the gut bugs, you’ve got to feed them!
Our gut bacteria need prebiotic fibers to thrive. That means you can take all of the probiotics you want, but if you don’t eat the right diet, you’re not going to give them a good home.
Some sources of pre-biotic fiber includes…
- Bananas and plantains
5. Supplement with digestive support wisely.
We all could use a helping hand every now and then. To this day, I still take digestive support and it’s the first supplement I recommend to my own clients!
So, what do I recommend? First, I always recommend working with your own doctor or practitioner to find what works best for you in your situation!
However, I also recommend asking your own provider about a digestive enzyme (consider taking a fat digesting enzyme, and carb digesting, as these are very different) and stomach acid support. Yes, stomach acid is good for you in the right amounts, and necessary to stopping reflux and bloating! HCL tablets, and digestive bitters are all great options to explore.
6. Batch cook healthy meals at home.
Restaurants and meals out can be public enemy number one for poor health in general. Restaurant meals are full of vegetable oil, flavorings, coloring, and tons of other poor quality ingredients that harm our gut health.
I hear from people all the time of how they were 90% of the way with a healthy lifestyle, but failed to plan, ate an unhealthy meal at a restaurant and regret it. We’re all busy and have a million valid excuses for not having time to cook, but making time and doing it smart is crucial to maintaining a healthy gut.
Batch cooking meals at home every week is an excellent strategy for staying on track, and avoiding meals out! Start small by just making a big soup, chicken, or pot roast over the weekend with some vegetable sides, and before you know it, it becomes routine to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday making meals ahead of time!
photo by MyDallasObsession.
I have a free guide available for download on batch cooking when you sign up in the box below, and a whole blog post about how to prep meals AIP for the week!
7. Address bad gut health days with bone broth, collagen and apple cider vinegar!
There’s a good reason that chicken soup is considered the perfect sick day food. Traditional chicken soup is made with healing, nutrient dense bone
broth! Bone broth is filled with collagen, amino acids, and gelatin that soothe and heal the gut lining. It’s also packed with nutrients and minerals that
are needed for the body to heal like calcium.
I love bone broth, and suggest having it a few times a week, or even daily if possible if you’re really targeting your gut health. I also recommend always having a few cups frozen in the freezer! Try out my recipe for perfect gut healing bone broth, or beef stew.
If you’re not feeling broth or don’t have any on hand, reach for grass-fed collagen! It’s rich in many of the same healing properties are bone broth and can be used in soups, smoothies, teas, or just in your water. It’s tasteless and dissolves perfectly.
If you have a sore throat and are looking for something cooling, try out my gut healing acai bowl which is packed with antioxidants and collagen!
For apple cider vinegar, dilute about 1 tbsp in a glass of water to tame an upset stomach. This is always a great way to stimulate stomach acid before a meal.
8. Try a healing castor oil pack once a week, or when you’re in a bind and need targeted support.
Though they may be old school and messy, they really, truly work. Castor oil was used by the ancient Egyptians as a powerful healing oil, and when used topically, it helps increase blood flow and detoxification.
What you do is soak flannel cloth in castor oil, then you adhere it to your skin, wrap it in plastic wrap, and apply a heating pad for one hour. Just lay back and let it work! You’ll start to hear and feel things moving around, and they’ve even been known to pop ovarian cysts and do some serious gallbladder work.
If your stomach is cramping, apply it over your stomach. If you’re nauseated, drank a bit too much alcohol, or ate an especially greasy meal, place it over your liver/gallbadder area which is located right around and under your right ribcage. I’ve used a castor oil pack numerous times over my liver/gallbladder in the past to tame nausea and it’s always helped for targeted support.
9. Stress less.
Well, now that you’ve got less cooking on your plate, stress is a breeze now, huh? 😉 Not that easy.
Stress is catabolic to our body, digestion, and gut health. Ever hear the phrase “butterflies in your stomach”? Stress literally harms every part of our body. It upsets our stomach, it depletes our body of vital nutrients needed to create hormones for digestion, and it keeps us from getting in a parasympathetic state for digestion. It’s crucial to find ways to stress less to improve our health as a whole.
Limiting stress isn’t easy, but it’s vital for better health. I tell my clients to target the one piece of low hanging fruit in their life and start there. Maybe that’s starting a car pool to get a break from driving the kids, paying a maid once a month to deep clean the house, or even just making 10 minutes a morning to doing something you actually want to do. Whatever it is, it’s not wasted effort!
10. Eat healing, nutrient dense, gut loving foods every day!
It’s sexy and far more popular to talk about cutting out food like gluten, grains, and dairy to improve your gut health. Though they’re valid in many situations, what you include in your diet is just as important as what you cut out!
Every single day, make an effort to eat something that’s healthy, nourishing and that your gut loves!
Your gut loves foods like fermented food, healing bone broth, wild caught fish, organ meats, and vegetables! Find the things that your gut loves the most, as we’re all different, but make sure you’re getting it daily.