- The importance of a healthy gut in the digestive process and your overall health
- What happens when your gut biome becomes unbalanced
- Ways to balance your gut microbiome
- How to do a healthy gut cleanse
Learn how to balance your intestinal microbiome in a healthy, effective way
Gut health is an often overlooked but integral part of our natural health. We spend a lot of time thinking about which foods are good for us and which aren’t, but many people aren’t aware of the impact different foods have on the health of our digestive system.
There are a number of ways to optimize our digestive systems to make sure we can access the nutrients in our food, digest food properly, and release the toxins and waste that can build up. Learning how, when, and why to cleanse your gut is one of the best ways to ensure our overall health.
The Importance Of A Healthy Gut In The Digestive Process And Your Overall Health
There are a lot of myths out there: that spicy food is good for the gut or that certain types of milk, like soy or almond, are bad. With so much information to unpack, it’s no wonder that people are unaware of the role that their gut bacteria play in keeping their bodies healthy. Before we go into how you can cleanse your gut of harmful bacteria and other toxins, let’s take a look at the microscopic ecosystem that’s flourishing inside of you.
There’s a nearly infinite amount (trillions, to be more accurate) of microbes that live in your digestive tract. In fact, many people don’t realize there are more bacteria in the body than there are cells. They help you break down food with enzymes and bacteria. A typical human digestive system contains 300-500 types of bacteria known collectively as your microbiome.
The balance of bacteria is unique to each person, sort of like a snowflake, even though the individual types of bacteria common to humans are similar. But not all of these microbes are good for you. Some of them are known as bad bacteria and can actually harm your gut health.
The food you eat, the digestive enzymes that help you break down food, and the good bacteria that help you absorb nutrients all contribute to digestion as well as your immune health. When you are able to break down food and absorb the nutrients you need, you are also better able to fend off bad bacteria and infections and fight disease, among other digestive functions.
What happens if I have an unbalanced gut biome?
With so much information out there, it’s easy to get lost. Let’s try to cut through the misinformation and take a look at the signs and symptoms of an unhealthy balance in your gut microbiome.
There are a number of medical conditions that can be caused by an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut, such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and ulcerative colitis.
If you have too much “bad” bacteria in your microbiome, it can produce a chemical called trimethylamine-N-oxide, or TMAO. This chemical can raise your cholesterol to an unhealthy level. TMAO can also damage your kidneys, leading to chronic kidney disease.
Other symptoms, such as fatigue, headache, weight gain, and low energy, are evidence that it may be time to take steps to build a healthy gut biome.
What are some ways to balance your gut biome?
Like any other health condition, rumors and misinformation are plentiful. However, there are some reliable ways to help your body find balance again.
Diet. Eating a healthful, whole-food diet will help bring balance to your body. Choose nutrient-rich foods that naturally contain digestive enzymes and prebiotic fiber, and that will promote the growth of good bacteria. This includes fruits and vegetables like papaya, pineapple, and ginger. Also, select foods that help good bacteria such as fermented foods like nato, kimchi, and miso.
Supplements. Taking high-quality, plant-based supplements that are formulated to help you balance and maintain a healthy body and boost digestion can help you find balance. Algae supplements, such as spirulina and chlorella, are nutrient-rich, helping you strengthen and support your body. Probiotics and prebiotics can help support your microbiome and promote the presence of good bacteria. Finally, taking digestive enzymes can help your body breakdown foods so you can access the nutrients you need and keep your body in balance.
Gut Cleanse. Cleansing your gut of bad bacteria can also be important. However, if you don’t do it the right way, you can end up hurting yourself. Many people will try a cleanse, but end up clearing away the good with the bad, meaning they get rid of the toxins and bad bacteria at the expense of the good bacteria we need so badly. Your digestive tract, like other body systems, is sensitive to the way you treat yourself. When you cleanse in a healthy way, you are clearing the bad stuff so the good elements of a healthy body can thrive.
Healthy ways to cleanse your gut
We’ve all heard of the numerous claims by proponents of juice cleanses or the fad diets that promise immediate results. While it’s tempting to want a miracle cure, the best way to cleanse your gut of bad bacteria is a well-researched diet using proven gut cleansing foods while supporting your cleanse with carefully selected supplements.
One popular form of colon cleanse, which its efficacy and safety are often debated, is known as an enema. There’s currently no research showing that an enema can help reset and balance your gut microbiome. However, they are extremely popular, touting benefits such as relief from bloating and constipation, an increase in energy, and even as a way to expel cancer tumor waste.
By eating a healthy, well-balanced diet of gut cleansing foods, you can help manage the balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria in your microbiome. When you add the right supplements to the process, you help support the exact processes you want to manage, such as digestion, nutrition, and nutrient absorption.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the goal isn’t to get rid of the “bad” bacteria – it’s to promote the “good” bacteria and eliminate toxins in order to achieve equilibrium. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective and powerful ways to help your body reach that equilibrium naturally.
- Don’t skimp out on fruits and vegetables
Your mom was right when she told you to eat your fruits and veggies. A staggering number of Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables – a number upwards of 90% receive less than the recommended daily amount.
Some of the vitamins and nutrients that we need from vegetables are vitamins A, C, E, B6, and K, copper, magnesium, iron, manganese, potassium fiber, thiamin, and more. Dark, leafy greens, like kale or spinach, provide vitamin K, while beans provide fiber. Fruits, like bananas, provide potassium and B6. Fresh fruits and veggies are the best, as they contain the highest concentration of nutrients, but frozen is okay too if you have limited options.
Most importantly, avoid processed foods as much as possible.
You might also consider taking digestive enzyme supplements to help your body break down these foods and access all available nutrients.
- Put down the bottle
It’s pretty common for people to unwind with a glass of wine and a good book, or to share an ice-cold beer with friends. While alcohol can have health, social, and entertainment benefits, it can wreak havoc on your gut microbiome.
In fact, alcohol is one of the primary contributors to an unhealthy gut balance. Not only is alcohol itself bad for your biome, but it can also lower your inhibition, making you more likely to impulse-eat something that’s bad for your gut.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
It’s no secret that water is essential for life. There’s nothing more important for your health, including your gut health than drinking water. And Americans aren’t getting nearly enough of it. In fact, 10% of cases of fatigue can be linked to dehydration or not getting enough water daily.
This statistic doesn’t mean that you need to chug multiple bottles of water all at once. Besides water-heavy beverages like tea, eating foods high in soluble water content can also help keep your gut hydrated and healthy.
Vegetables like cucumbers, celery, carrots, zucchini, iceberg lettuce, spinach, and cauliflower are all high in water content, as well as nutrients and vitamins. Eating these veggies cooked is okay, but raw foods will have the most available nutrients.
- Count those sheep
People underestimate the role that a healthy sleep schedule has in keeping our bodies running smoothly. The amount of hours you sleep each night affects everything, from gut health to mental health.
Epinephrine, a hormone produced by excess stress, can cause “bad” bacteria to fuse to your gut wall along with fecal matter, causing inflammation.
Try to stick to 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night, around the same time.
Melatonin is a supplement that can help regulate your sleep cycle. Try limiting the amount of time you spend in your bed doing non-sleeping activities. For example, if you want to watch TV or read before bed, stick to your couch. Your bed should (mostly) be used for sleeping.
- Probiotics are your friend
Probiotics are helpful bacteria that can promote healthy gut flora as well as cleanse your gut of “bad” bacteria. Most people who are familiar with probiotics understand these little helpers aren’t limited to dairy-based foods like yogurt – you can also get them in foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and tempeh.
Foods that are high in fiber that can feed probiotics, which will help keep your gut cleansed and regulated. Try to include more foods like bananas and oats in your diet.
You might also consider probiotic and prebiotic supplements to ensure you get enough to truly have an impact on your system as you try to achieve balance with maximum nutrient absorption.
- Avoid detox fads
here are a number of fad diets all over the internet, promising a quick, speedy rebalancing of your gut microbiome. They say it’s as easy as eating only one particular food for a week or ingesting nothing but hot water with lemon and cayenne.
While it’s tempting to want an easy way to reset your gut health, these fad diets and cleanses are not healthy. Multiple studies provide evidence that a detox diet not only won’t work but that it can lead to rapid weight gain once a normal diet is resumed. These diets are often deficient in carbohydrates, which leads to a loss of fluid, tricking the dieter into thinking they’ve lost fat when they’ve only lost water weight.
In reality, these diets don’t have enough essential nutrients like fatty acids or protein. They can cause dehydration, loss of electrolytes, and other dangerous side effects. Colonic cleansing can also lead to adverse effects like these and can actually disrupt your gut health leading to an imbalance of intestinal flora.
When you choose a cleanse, be careful to choose something that doesn’t just push fluids and foods through your system faster, but that takes into account your ongoing nutritional needs. It’s best to always consult with your doctor before starting any cleanse, particularly if you have pre-existing health challenges or are taking any medications.
When it comes to finding balance and cleansing your system, the natural approach is the best. Choose the right foods, supplement with high-quality formulas to optimize your efforts, and stay away from the fads. In just a few weeks, you’ll enjoy better digestion, more energy, and better overall health.