Why is a healthy gut essential?
Gut health is crucial to optimal health but is often overlooked in health circles. Unhealthy gut can be a significant contributor to inflammatory conditions such as chronic pain and immune issues. It can slow down energy and hamper mental focus. Approximately 80% of the immune system is actually located in the gut. The gut acts as an engine to power and sustain the rest of the body. Similar to a car that needs regular oil changes to run efficiently or it will malfunction or stop running altogether, the gut needs healthy food and lots of clean water, along with regular “cleaning” in order to function optimally.
Constipation is a result of undigested food and waste build-up in the body that is not eliminated, rots and gets stored in the gut. Over time, this toxic build-up gets reabsorbed by the body, which contributes to inflammation and is an underlying cause of chronic pain and illness. On the other hand, diarrhea does not allow the body to absorb needed nutrients and minerals from food and water and can leave you malnourished and dehydrated.
Key contributors to toxic build-up in the gut can include:
- Heavy metal & toxic chemical exposure
- Unhealthy diet - high sugar, carbohydrates, pesticides/GMOs in food, excessive meat
- Wheat, dairy, soy, corn
- Birth control pills
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Chlorine, fluoride & toxins in water
Maintaining proper balance of healthy gut flora is crucial yet widely misunderstood. Although antibiotics can be used to help critical health issues, excessive & inappropriate use of antibiotics can cause harmful changes in gut microflora. This can result in destroying BAD bacteria and GOOD bacteria. “Reseeding” the good bacteria after using antibiotics can take some time.
How do you know if your gut is healthy? Do you regularly wrestle with the following?
- Strain during bowel movement
- Hard stools
- Incomplete evacuation
- No daily bowel movement
Ideally, the body was designed to eliminate after each meal. However, due to increasingly stressful lives, most of us do not undergo this frequency of elimination. Optimally, you do want to have a minimum of 1 to 3 healthy bowel movements a day.
The formation of your bowel movements including the frequency, transit time & appearance of bowel is a reflection of bowel health. Optimally, healthy stools are sausage shaped, corn cob size in diameter, light brown in color, defecated with minimal exertion, sinkers with no stench & require only one wipe with toilet paper.
Unhealthy stools look thin like ribbons
Foul smelling stools indicate an overgrowth of bad bugs
Hard stools indicate dehydration
Floating stools indicate fat digestion problems
What steps can you take to improve your gut health and “reseed” the good bacteria?
Incorporate natural anti-bacterials into your diet:
- Coconut Oil
- Cranberry Juice
- Vitamin D
Remove bad bugs, junk food, allergenic foods, mercury fillings, toxic chemicals
Replace improve digestive process by taking digestive enzymes at each meal
Restore friendly bacteria in bowel with:
- Fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, pickles, raw yogurt
- Fish oil
- Increase hydration with daily water intake
- Increase vitamin and mineral absorption by drinking fresh, green juice
As your gut health improves, inflammation decreases, and you may find that chronic pain and illnesses start to improve. It is also likely that your energy, sleep and mental focus will improve!
Julianne O'Dwyer is a health coach at National Integrated Health Associates. Her own journey to wellness taught her how to regain control of health. As part of the Health Essentials Coaching and Wellness Program, she teaches clients to support their body with proper nutrition, detoxification and lifestyle changes that have a positive impact on health.