You probably didn’t spend much time when you were younger thinking about gut health. Like zero, right? Same for me. But as I’ve aged and started taking my health seriously, I’ve learned how important gut health really is. In this article, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about aging better by improving my gut health.
- What is gut health?
- 9 ways to improve your gut health
- 1 – Eating and drinking to improve gut health
- 2 – Thinking about about fiber and gut health
- 3 – Talking about what no one wants to talk about – bowel movements
- 4 – Eating prebiotic foods to improve your gut health
- 5 – Cleaning your colon for better gut health
- 6 – Helping your digestion
- 7 – Creating a healthy gut with fermented foods
- 8 – Improving gut health with probiotics
- 9 – Explaining what in the heck a Candida cleanse is
- This is something you don’t want to know
- Wrapping up gut health
- My “Better Aging” Journey Series:
What is gut health?
Gut health refers to the overall well-being and optimal functioning of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, particularly the stomach and intestines. It involves maintaining a balance of beneficial microorganisms, a strong intestinal barrier, and proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.
The GI tract is home to trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiota or gut flora. These microorganisms play a crucial role in digestion, immune function, metabolism, and even mental health. The composition and diversity of the gut microbiota are influenced by various factors, including diet, lifestyle, medications, and stress.
9 ways to improve your gut health
1 – Eating and drinking to improve gut health
First, I’m drinking more water. Everyone knows you should drink more water, right? Increasing water intake is great for all stages of digestion and is less taxing on your liver and kidneys than the chemical-laden diet drinks I used to consume daily. I’m so glad I finally made the switch!
Next, thanks to my healthy keto diet, I’m eating more fruits and vegetables, which gives me more fiber.
2 – Thinking about about fiber and gut health
There are five categories of fiber, depending on whether they dissolve in water and get digested by gut bacteria or thicken like a gel in the body. Rather than go into detail on all five, the main differences are soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and keeps you full longer because it attracts water and turns to gel, slowing digestion and softening stools for regular bowel movements. It also helps regulate cholesterol, lipids, and blood sugar.
Some foods high in soluble fiber are black beans, lima beans, brussel sprouts, avocados, sweet potatoes, broccoli, turnips, pears, apples, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and psyllium.
Insoluble fiber doesn’t digest well. It attracts water in the stool, softening it, and moving your system along, thereby thoroughly cleaning out the digestive tract. It also allows the good bacteria in your gut to flourish, keeping it healthy. Good bacteria in the large intestine eat this insoluble fiber as their main food source; they digest (aka fermenting it) for us, keeping us healthy in return! Dr. Eric Berg explains how the byproducts made from fermentation have numerous benefits. Check out his video: (27) The 10 Benefits of Fiber – YouTube
Some foods high in insoluble fiber are nuts, beans, potatoes, green beans, cauliflower, dark leafy greens, quinoa, apples with skin, wheat bran, and bananas.
Tips: Try a breakfast parfait with fruit. I reluctantly did this at the suggestion of my Naturopath, and now I love it!
Try juicing as another technique. I started juicing solely to increase my fiber. It definitely isn’t as bad as I imagined- the colder, the better… Cheers!
3 – Talking about what no one wants to talk about – bowel movements
Another way I take care of my gut is to make sure I have regular bowel movements. Thankfully I rarely suffer from constipation, so this one isn’t difficult for me (my issue is more of digestion sensitivities). But I know my “elimination” routine, and if my system gets off, I usually know it immediately. You should pay attention to yours, too.
In case you didn’t know this- whatever you do… don’t get constipated. My mom always taught us that. Our bodies are healthier when the toxins and wastes are eliminated- frequently and regularly. Mom says sometimes cold sores will pop up (yuck), or you’ll just feel terrible, which might mean your system is out of sorts. I trust my mom to know these things (I’m 1 of 5 kids); that’s probably a good idea, right?
I’ve learned some natural ways to encourage bowel movements, like exercising, getting proper sleep (this affects our circadian rhythms), eating more fibrous foods, getting morning sunshine, and even eating a healthy breakfast to jump-start your system.
As I mentioned previously, Increasing your fiber definitely helps. Soluble and insoluble fiber can promote bowel movements indirectly. But the only fiber type for getting direct relief comes from a fiber that is “non-viscous and poorly fermented”; in other words, it has high amounts of cellulose. If all that sounds confusing, just remember fermented=digested, and I’ll teach you about viscous fiber later. This type will bulk up the stools and move them quickly.
Some foods high in cellulose are broccoli, brussels sprouts, avocados, celery, potatoes, whole foods with skin and seeds intact, brazil nuts, and flaxseeds.
4 – Eating prebiotic foods to improve your gut health
Next, don’t forget to eat prebiotic fiber to feed your good gut bacteria. When your gut microbiome doesn’t have enough of its food, it produces “cravings” for SUGAR! And you know that too much sugar is a bad thing. So, the “better” you feed your gut, the happier it is and the happier you will be, too.
Some prebiotic foods are bananas, onions, leeks, raw garlic, tomatoes, raw asparagus, radishes, raw dandelion greens, and even apples with skin.
5 – Cleaning your colon for better gut health
Performing a colon “cleanse” a few times a year will not only loosen and clean out your bowels, but experts also say it’s crucial to keeping your gut healthy. I’m doing a six-day cleanse right now just to better my health.
6 – Helping your digestion
Conversely, if you are experiencing a lot of loose stools or gassiness after eating, you may need help with digestion. This is where my main struggle lies. I need to take quality digestive enzymes when I eat high-fiber foods, dairy, and heavy meals (although I’m not sure yet if it’s the amount of food or maybe just too much meat).
You, too, may need a digestive enzyme for proteins, fats, and carbs, including fiber and sugars, dairy for lactose intolerance, or if you have a poor tolerance to GOS- galacto-oligosaccharides (trouble digesting beans, cruciferous vegetables, and some grains). You can buy one broader spectrum digestive enzyme if you have all of these issues or individual ones for whichever need you have.
I am trying to learn which foods to eat together and which to eat separately. Improperly timing the consumption of specific foods often manifests various symptoms I occasionally experience. If I learn to incorporate this method, I’ll have to write more about that.
7 – Creating a healthy gut with fermented foods
Eating fermented foods is another natural way to create a healthy gut. Even one portion can help a lot because of the nature of fermented ingredients. The makeup of your gut microbiome can change quickly- the lifespan of a microbe is roughly 20 minutes- so you should consider making it a priority to include fermented foods as a regular part of your diet. For optimal gut health, consume something fermented 1-3 times daily.
Some types of fermented foods and drinks are kimchi, kombucha tea, kefir, sauerkraut, and pickled veggies.
8 – Improving gut health with probiotics
Probiotics provide strains of good bacteria as live cultures for the intestines and are another way to improve gut health. A quality version is necessary, as not all probiotics are the same. Look for one with some prebiotics in it and several strains, with a large number of them.
Formerly, the only good Probiotics were the ones that came refrigerated- because they’re living organisms. However, now there is one other option. Dr. David Perlmutter makes both available on Amazon. One ships cold, and you must keep it refrigerated, but now he also has one that is shelf stable, thanks to some new bottle-making technology. This variety is convenient because, for me, if something is out of sight- it’s out of mind.
His Garden of Life brand offers many varieties with specific bacteria strains geared toward the needs of Men, Women, Kids, Prenatal, Mood, Skin, and Urinary Tract. Dennis (my husband) swears by his Men’s version, Prostrate+, and has even written an article singing its praises; it has 15 strains and 50 billion CFUs. Dr. Perlmutter has written many excellent books on gut health and the connection between the gut and the brain.
Another brand to consider is Essential Stacks. Their probiotic has 50 billion CFUs of 11 freeze-dried strains encapsulated for delayed release.
9 – Explaining what in the heck a Candida cleanse is
Another healthy gut technique I’ve done was a Candida cleanse. Candida is a yeast overgrowth. It’s a fungus found naturally in small amounts on our bodies in areas like the mouth, skin, and internally but given the right environment, it can overgrow and cause issues. It’s the most common cause of fungal infections in the world. Ladies, I’m sure you’ve heard of yeast infections. And everyone’s heard of thrush and diaper rashes.
Candida overgrowth can also cause fatigue, headaches, and poor memory. It can worsen Colitis and Crohn’s disease. If you think you have it, you should read more about it and consider doing a candida cleanse. You must remove foods like sugar, yeast, white flour, and even cheese since these foods can cause candida overgrowth. Typically, a healthy gut will keep Candida under control, so fresh foods help keep the potential for overgrowth down.
This is something you don’t want to know
Intestinal parasites are another possible cause of gut and health issues. These parasites are specific types of worms that can live in the human body. Symptoms are diarrhea, cramps, weight loss, and fatigue. There is plenty of information available. Dr. Ken Berry says you can buy natural ingredients to eliminate parasites, saving you hundreds of dollars from getting a prescription for anti-parasitics. Search Youtube for Dr. Ken Berry and Dr. Janine Bowring (mentioned earlier), who both have great videos on this topic.
FYI- Here is a little extra information about Dr. Berry. I love his book, Lies My Doctor Told Me.
Things to Remember:
- As you kill off parasites or Candida and eliminate harmful bacteria, rebuild your healthy microbiome with the techniques mentioned here.
- Some antibiotics that kill harmful bacteria in the body also kill good ones. Be sure to plan on taking or eating probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods during and after a round of antibiotics.
Wrapping up gut health
Getting your gut microbiome healthy again will take some concerted effort- possibly for a few months- but it is well worth it. Our digestion system and gut health affect how well we feel, function, and even our immunity, so this is a crucial area to dissect. Making small changes, one day at a time will really add up in the long run. Trust me here and …
DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to make your GUT HEALTHY
*If you get discouraged because your symptoms never clear up, please visit your naturopath or doctor since something more serious may need medical attention.*
I hope you have learned a few tips to help you begin some supplements and start taking control of your gut health, too! Have a great day!
1 – What is gut health?
Gut health refers to the overall well-being and optimal functioning of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, particularly the stomach and intestines.
2 – How can eating and drinking habits improve gut health?
Increasing water intake and consuming a healthy diet with more fruits, vegetables, and fiber can improve gut health.
3 – What should you know about fiber and gut health?
There are two main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, which have different effects on digestion and overall gut health. Soluble fiber helps regulate cholesterol, lipids, blood sugar, and promotes regular bowel movements. Insoluble fiber aids in cleaning out the digestive tract and supports the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
4 – How can you maintain regular bowel movements for good gut health?
Paying attention to your bowel movements, getting enough exercise and sleep, consuming fibrous foods, and considering a diet rich in cellulose can help promote regular bowel movements.
5 – What role do prebiotic foods play in improving gut health?
Consuming prebiotic fiber-rich foods helps nourish the good bacteria in your gut and supports a healthy gut microbiome.
6 – Is colon cleansing beneficial for gut health?
Performing a colon cleanse a few times a year can help loosen and clean out the bowels, contributing to better gut health.
7 – How can you support digestion for improved gut health?
If you experience digestive issues like loose stools or gassiness, taking quality digestive enzymes can aid in digestion. It’s also important to consider proper food combining techniques and timing of meals.
8 – What are the benefits of eating fermented foods for gut health?
Including fermented foods in your diet can help create a healthy gut by introducing beneficial bacteria to your gut microbiome.
9 – How can probiotics contribute to better gut health?
Probiotics provide beneficial strains of live bacteria that support gut health. It’s important to choose a high-quality probiotic with multiple strains and consider options that are refrigerated or shelf-stable.
10 – What is a Candida cleanse, and how does it relate to gut health?
A Candida cleanse is a technique to address yeast overgrowth in the body, which can negatively impact gut health. By eliminating certain foods that promote Candida growth and focusing on fresh, healthy foods, you can support a healthier gut.
Bonus – Are there any other important considerations for gut health?
It’s worth noting that intestinal parasites can also affect gut health, and addressing them may involve natural remedies or consulting with a healthcare professional. Additionally, when taking antibiotics, it’s important to replenish the gut with probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria.
My “Better Aging” Journey Series:
- My “Better Aging” Journey (Part 1) – Introduction
- How to Eat Healthy & Hydrate – My “Better Aging” Journey (Part 2)
- Healthy Cooking & Stretching – My “Better Aging” Journey (Part 3)
- Taking Good Supplements – My “Better Aging” Journey (Part 4)
- Better Gut Health – My “Better Aging” Journey (Part 5)
- Getting Better Sleep – My “Better Aging” Journey (Part 6)
Disclaimer: The information provided on the site is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.