Believe it or not, our gut is one of the most important organs in our body. Our immune system develops in our gut throughout childhood, and continues to grow throughout the body over the course of our lifetime. When our gut is unhealthy, or not working properly, so many issues can arise. I’m going to touch on a few of these issues and educate you on how to heal the gut. Healing our body from the inside out is the most important part of your health!
– Digestion –
The obvious one! Ideally, when our gut is healthy, we should be seeing about 2-3 bowel movements in a day [after each big meal]. These bowel movements should be fully formed, with no discomfort and brown in color. Check out the Bristol Stool Chart below. A “normal” bowel movement would ideally be a Type 4. If you are only having one bowel movement a day, or none at all – this is an issue! We need to get you regular again. Cleaning out the bowels regularly helps clear out the gut from any bad bacteria or inflammation that could be happening. When we get backed up, it creates an environment that can result in a cluster of bad bacteria. It also causes your body to reabsorb some toxins into your bloodstream that have not been eliminated. On the other end of the spectrum, if your bowels are sticky, loose, or watery this is also not good! This means there is something off, and your body isn’t producing the proper enzymes to help your food digest and absorb properly. You might be suffering from a leaky gut, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or some sort of allergy/food sensitivity that you are unaware of. A leaky gut can lead to so many other conditions, from hormonal imbalance, poor immune function, to arthritis and many others.
– Skin –
Struggling with acne, eczema, psoriasis, or just dry skin? The culprit may be your gut! When the gut is not functioning optimally, the nutrients from the food we’re consuming, or from the supplements we are taking, are not being absorbed properly. When our bowels aren’t clearing out properly, all of the bad stuff gets sucked back into our body and causes toxicity leading to many skin issues. We need to have healthy gut bacteria and proper digestion to allow our skin to glow! It is common to see break outs when we are trying to detox our liver as the toxins are trying to escape and the skin is often the first route!
– Diet –
Diet is a big one, and when I say diet I don’t mean some fad diet that is out there, it just means what you are putting into your body! Food sensitivities, allergies and intolerances can have detrimental effects on our gut. If you are sensitive to dairy, for example, and continue to consume it everyday it is actually causing inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation never leads to good outcomes. So working with a Naturopathic Doctor or Registered Dietician is important when it comes to understanding what is being put into your body. Remember, we are what we eat! Putting all the good stuff into our body is super important to living that healthy lifestyle you desire. Naturopathic Doctors aren’t there to tell you to stop eating all your favourite foods, we are there to guide you through how to understand your body and how food might be effecting it.
There are so many other systems that can be effected by poor gut health, but these are just some of them. If you feel you suffer from any of these above symptoms, diving into your gut health might be the right step for you.
How do we Heal the Gut?
The first step to healing out gut is understanding our symptoms and what our body is telling us. Are there certain foods you’re eating that result in looser stools or constipation? Are you constantly gassy and have trouble eliminating that bloat? Do you feel like food just goes right through you or your appetite is thrown off? The first step is to start tracking your gut health. Keeping a diet diary for 1-2 weeks is important when it comes to this. This usually includes your 3 meals plus snacks, water consumption, caffeine consumption. Also included in our typical diet diary is your bowel movements (color, shape, consistency), energy levels, mood, and any other symptoms. This is an easy way to start understanding your body and learning where symptoms might be stemming from.
Once you have a pretty good idea of what you’re eating, what symptoms you’re experiencing and maybe even what foods might be causing issues, we can start the next step which often involves eliminating certain foods for 2-4 weeks. Then reintroducing. The purpose of said Elimination diet is to give your body a break from foods that might be causing inflammation in your gut. It is common to eliminate foods for 2-4 weeks, and on reintroduction not having any symptoms, your body just needed a break.
Along with learning about your diet and how we can adjust it to eliminate inflammation, we often will supplement with probiotics and maybe an L-glutamine supplement. Probiotics help repopulate the gut with all the good bacteria. L-Glutamine is an amino acid that basically creates a protective layer in our small and large bowel so we can decrease inflammation and improve absorption.
SO, this was a lot of information, and maybe I lost you along the way, which I totally understand. If you feel like you resonate with something that you read here, I’d say booking an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor is the right next step for you! We are here to understand your body as a whole and treat from within.