- How to Restore Gut Flora After Taking Antibiotics
- How antibiotics impact gut health
- Take probiotics to restore gut flora
- Cut sugar while you’re on antibiotics, and after
- Sip bone broth or take hydrolyzed collagen
- Eat a lot of veggies
- Resistant starch
- Join over 1 million fans
- Holistic Primary Care
- Dose, Timing Determine Impact
- How to Restore the Flora
- Rebuilding the Glycocalyx
- A Comprehensive Approach
- 11 ways to restore healthy gut bacteria
- Final thoughts
- Restoring Gut Flora: Here’s How to Do It (And Why You Need to)
- Restoring Gut Flora
- 5 Things Hurting Your Gut
- Why You Need to Fix Your Gut ASAP (6 Big Reasons)
- How to Bulletproof Your Gut Health (Do These 5 Things)
- Good Gut Flora, Good Health
- 7 Tips for Restoring Your Digestive Health
- Add Fiber
- Add Probiotics & Fermented Foods
- Cut out Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners
- Reduce Stress
- Get Enough Sleep
- Stay Hydrated
- What’s an Unhealthy Gut? How Gut Health Affects You
- How to Fix Your Gut: 7 Steps to Intestinal Health
How to Restore Gut Flora After Taking Antibiotics
- Sometimes, you have to take a course of antibiotics, and you want to restore gut health as quickly as possible.
- Antibiotics sweep through all the bacteria in their path, even the friendly ones that help you digest your food and protect your intestinal membranes.
- There are things you can do while you’re taking antibiotics and after, like cutting sugar, drinking bone broth, taking collagen, taking specific strains of probiotics, and more.
- Read on to find out how to bounce back from antibiotics as soon as possible.
There was no way around it. For one reason or another, you had to take a course of antibiotics, and now you’re worried about the aftermath of the attack on your gut flora.
Back in the day, doctors used to think that a healthy body is a sterile body, and that our immune systems are constantly fighting the microbes you come into contact with.
Now, the medical community understands that there’s a whole separate world of living organisms within your intestines, and keeping them balanced keeps you healthy. Colonies of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract help you digest and absorb your food, they fight off germs that make you sick, and they even make a large portion of your serotonin, which helps keep your moods level.
How antibiotics impact gut health
Antibiotics kill off the bacteria responsible for the infection you’re targeting, as well as the friendly gut bacteria you’d rather leave alone. Best case, you have gas and diarrhea for a few days. Or, it can get so bad that the balance of your microbiome shifts, and you can end up with problems like:
- Acid reflux
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Brain fog
- Autoimmune diseases
- Candida (yeast) overgrowth and more
You don’t have to sit around and wait for your body to readjust. Read on to find out how to restore your gut flora and bounce back from antibiotics as quickly as possible.
Take probiotics to restore gut flora
Beneficial bacteria balance out microbes that slow you down. Every dose of antibiotics wipes out a large portion of bacteria in your entire system, including the good guys. After that, the good microbes and the unfriendly ones slowly rebuild, and if all goes well, they come back into balance. But, it takes time, and they don’t always colonize in balance. Sometimes, one or a few harmful strains takes over.
Supplement with probiotics: To keep the bad gut flora from winning, take probiotics while you’re taking antibiotics. Friendly bacteria don’t have to colonize in the gut to help you through a course of antibiotics. If you time it right, bacteria that are just passing through will keep the bad bugs in check. Even though the next dose will wipe out a lot of them, some will survive, and if the good guys hold their own, you’ll be in better shape when they build back up.
Timing and type are crucial: Make sure to take your probiotics at least two hours away from antibiotic doses in either direction. Also, watch for histamine-producing strains, like Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, if you’re sensitive. Instead, opt for Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifdocaterium lactis, and Bifidobacterium longum. These strains lower histamine levels, reduce inflammation, and improve digestion. More on the best types of probiotics here.
Use s. Boulardii during antibiotics: S. Boulardii is a beneficial yeast, not a bacteria, so antibiotics can’t touch it. In several studies, researchers found that s. Boulardii prevented antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) when they administered it with antibiotics.
Cut sugar while you’re on antibiotics, and after
Without bacteria to keep them at bay, fungi have the opportunity to get busy during a course of antibiotics. You can attribute a lot of the problems that you experience after antibiotics — diarrhea, infections down there — to fungal overgrowth, particularly yeast. One problematic strain of fungus is candida albicans, which is especially prone to going haywire after antibiotics.
Candida thrive on sugar and simple carbohydrates (like bread and pasta) that your body quickly turns into sugar. Candida will flourish if bacteria aren’t there to fight back, and it will get sugar from the food you eat. To keep it from taking over, keep your sugar and carb intake to a minimum. They won’t get very far if they don’t have a substantial food source. Staying away from sugar is always good advice, but it’s especially crucial when you’re taking antibiotics.
Sip bone broth or take hydrolyzed collagen
The bacteria that line your digestive tract protect the membranes that keep intestinal contents on the inside where they belong. As they wear away, fungi have the chance to colonize in their place. When fungi grow, they shoot out hyphae, thin filament-like roots that dig into the intestinal walls. Essentially, they poke holes in your intestines which allows partially digested food particles to seep outside of the digestive tract and cause problems.
Giving your membranes what they need to stay strong won’t completely prevent fungi from shooting their roots into your intestinal walls, but it will make them more resistant to damage and more resilient when the antibiotics are done and it’s time to heal.
Collagen is the protein that holds your membranes together, and taking hydrolyzed collagen will give your cells all of the amino acids they need when it’s time to patch up. You can’t make collagen without vitamin C, even if you ingest collagen protein, so it’s a good idea to boost your vitamin C intake along with it.
Eat a lot of veggies
When a large portion of bacteria gets wiped out, they rebuild slowly. As with any population competing for resources, it’s a bit of a race to repopulate. While this is happening, you want to feed the good guys and starve the bad guys.
Cutting sugar will only take you so far. While you’re closing down the bar on the yeast party, why not serve the welcome guests?
The gut microbes that help you digest and absorb your food love vegetables. Makes sense, because they eat the portion of the veggies that humans do not break down, and convert those portions into nutrients that you wouldn’t otherwise get.
Pile your plate with the foods that friendly microbes eat, and more of the good guys will colonize your gut.
Resistant starch gets its name because it is resistant to digestion. It ferments in your gut and feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Well-fed friendly bacteria populate the gut lining, and keep unfriendly strains from taking over. This helps restore and maintain the integrity of your gut lining.
Sources of resistant starch include:
- Unroasted cashews
- Raw green bananas
- Raw plantain flour
- Raw potato starch
If you have IBS or Crohn’s Disease, resistant starch may cause digestive distress. Start slow, and build up to a few tablespoons. If you run into trouble along the way, it’s simple enough to stop taking it.
People who pop over-the counter and prescription pills for every minor thing are doing it wrong. With all the havoc they cause in the gut, you and your medical professionals need to be judicious about using them. There’s certainly a time and a place for antibiotics. For aggressive infections, surgery, and other instances, you have to have them, and as a society, we’re lucky to have access to medicine. For those times, it’s best to have a few preventive measures in your back pocket to keep your gut strong while you’re taking them and help it balance back faster when you’re finished.
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Holistic Primary Care
Antibiotics eradicate pathogenic infections and save lives — but in doing so, they also disrupt the integrity of the intestinal microbiome. While many physicians recognize the need for restoring a patient’s microbial balance following a course of antibiotic therapy, far fewer understand how to do this effectively.
According to Amie Skilton, ND, restoration of gut flora is both art and science. Done well, it can make a world of difference for patients. In some cases, it can even help patients overcome the illnesses for which the antibiotics were initially prescribed.
But it takes more than just recommending an off-the-shelf probiotic and hoping for the best.
The Centers for Disease Control reported last Spring that of the 154 million prescriptions for antibiotics written in doctor’s offices and emergency departments each year, 30 percent are unnecessary. Most of the extraneous prescriptions, the CDC found, were doled out for respiratory conditions caused by viruses like common colds, viral sore throats, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections, which do not respond to antibiotics. Use of these drugs “put patients at needless risk for allergic reactions or the sometimes deadly diarrhea, Clostridium difficile.”
Further complicating the picture is the reality that antibiotics aren’t only dispersed from doctor’s offices; they’re also fed liberally to livestock and sprayed extensively on produce, leaving minute but biologically active traces in the foods that humans then consume.
Dose, Timing Determine Impact
As antibiotics kill off infection-causing microorganisms, they also non-selectively destroy communities of beneficial gut bacteria, weakening the stability of the intestinal microbiome. This wholesale destruction can be massive; experimental data collected from a study using qPCR indicate up to a 10-fold reduction in bacterial isolates immediately after treatment with antibiotics (Panda, S. et al. PLoS One. 2014; 9(4): e95476).
“It’s truly a decimating effect,” says Dr. Skilton, a naturopathic physician and herbalist at the Elysium Clinic of Natural Medicine, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
In a webinar sponsored by Holistic Primary Care and Bioceuticals, she outlined the myriad impacts of antibiotics on the human microbiome, noting that not all antibiotics are equally destructive to gut bacteria.
The degree to which these drugs damage intestinal microbiota depends on drug type, treatment duration, and frequency of use, Skilton said. Certain antibiotics, for instance, trigger a greater release of endotoxins and cytokines than others. Higher daily doses are more impactful. Prolonged use of high-dose antibiotics can cause extreme damage to the microbiome that may take years of restorative therapy to reverse, if it can be reversed at all.
And contrary to common belief, intravenous antibiotics can have the same negative impact on gut flora as oral drugs. “For a long time it was thought that IV drugs would bypass the gut and not have the same impact. We now know this is not true.”
The timing of antibiotic delivery also makes a difference. Individuals who frequently use antibiotics early in life are more vulnerable to many types of illness as they age. In a paper published earlier this year, researchers demonstrated an association between antibiotic use during infancy and subsequent poor neurocognitive outcomes, suggesting that antibiotic consumption in a patient’s first year of life was associated with small but statistically significant differences in cognitive, behavioral, and mood measures during childhood (Slykerman, R. et al. Acta Paediatr. 2017; 106(1): 87–94).
Others have linked fetal and early childhood antibiotic exposure to the subsequent development of asthma later in life (Örtqvist, A. et al. Brit Med J. 2014; 349. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g6979). Antibiotics have also been associated with obesity and weight gain in children as well adults (Million, M. et al. Clin Microbiol & Infec. 2013; 19(4): 305–313). Researchers attribute these changes to the altered gut microbial composition.
Antibiotics can trigger the release of toxic lipopolysaccharides (LPS), large molecules found in the outer membranes of pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria. Some suggest that antibiotic-induced LPS release may contribute to the development of septic shock in patients treated for severe infections caused by Gram-negative bacteria. Others have demonstrated that LPS triggers an immune response by releasing inflammatory cytokines, a problem that worsens after antibiotic treatment, noted Skilton in her webinar (Wu, T. et al. Toxicol Lett. 2009; 191(2-3): 195-202).
From a pathogen’s point of view, production of LPS is a survival strategy. These molecules interact on cell surfaces to form a barrier, preventing the antibiotics and other hydrophobic compounds from entering and allowing Gram-negative bacteria to live even in harsh environments (Zhang, G. et al. Curr Opin Microbiol. 2013; 16(6): 779–785).
How to Restore the Flora
Probiotics are one aspect in a comprehensive strategy to restore gut flora following antibiotics. Given the microbial diversity of a healthy gut ecosystem, Skilton recommends using products that contain many different species of beneficial microbes rather than “monocropping” with one or two single strains.
As a general rule, she advises one month of probiotic treatment for every week that a patient was on antibiotics. Those who have been on prolonged continuous antibiotic regimens, will likewise need long-term restoration. She stressed that for most people, there are no health risks associated with extended probiotic supplementation.
Patients receiving IV antibiotics should also take commensal probiotics. Some clinicians who are aware of this issue will start the probiotics as early as four hours after a dose of IV antibiotics.
Rebuilding the Glycocalyx
People who have been on long-term or multiple courses of antibiotics typically show a severe erosion of the glycocalyx that normally coats the intestinal microvilli. This is usually accompanied by a loss of brush borders and a marked reduction in secretory IgA production.
In some cases, these changes are caused by the effects of antibiotics themselves. In others, they reflect the impact of the infection for which the antibiotics were prescribed. Either way, the effect is the same: establishment of a microenvironment that is hospitable to opportunistic pathogens like Candida, but increasingly difficult for normal commensal bacteria.
Fungal infections are almost always accompanied by insufficient IgA production, as Candida consumes both glycocalyx and sIgA as fuels. It becomes a vicious cycle: low IgA begets Candida which further depletes IgA. Chronic urinary tract infections, and mucosal infections like thrush are red flags for low sIgA production, Skilton pointed out.
Without a healthy glycocalyx, organisms like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacilli have great difficulty establishing themselves. In this context, supplementation with ordinary probiotics will usually fail.
“Even if you recommend the best probiotics in the world, theres’ no way for them to stick and colonize if the glycocalyx is eroded,” Dr. Skilton explained. “You can actually exaggerate the GI symtoms by giving probiotics, if the there’s loss of ability to produce glycocalyx.”
To restore a healthier microenvironment in these cases, you need to leverage the unique characteristics of Saccharomyces boulardii, an antibiotic-resistant, probiotic yeast originally isolated from lychee fruit in Indochina. Though not a true commensal organism, S. boulardii is a potent inducer of glycocalyx production and IgA secretion. It also stimulates brush border enzymes, and promotes polyamine production, which feeds the intestinal microvilli and can be helpful for healing ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.
S. boulardii is able to work in the context of highly pathogenic antibiotic-resistant bacteria like Clostridium difficile and has actually been used as a preventive therapy against C. difficile–associated diarrhea (Goldstein, E. et al. Clin Infect Dis. 2015; 60 (suppl_2): S148-S158). S. boulardii may reduce some of the toxic effects of enterotoxin A by inhibiting toxin A-receptor binding and preventing the formation of enterotoxin B.
But the most remarkable thing is it’s ability to quickly colonize the damaged endothelium and displace pathogenic yeasts while simutaneously creating a healthier microenvironment for commensal bacteria. “S. boulardii actually forces a physical evacuation of the Candida,” said Dr. Skilton noting that it is specifically active against 7 out of the 8 most common pathogenic Candida species. The one exception is C. tropicalis.
“Think of the situation like the aftermath of a hurricane hitting a village. The antibiotics are the hurricane. S. boulardii is like the contractor that comes in and repairs the damage to the village. You can then repopulate the village with commensals.”
BioCeuticals, an Australian practitioner-only nutraceutical company, recently introduced a product called SB Floractiv, providing 250 mg S. boulardii (also called S. cereviciae) per capsule.
For patients who’ve been on long-term antibiotics, begin slowly with one capsule (250 mg) per day for 3-4 days, then increase to two per day for another 3-4 days, and then increase in a similar step-wise pattern up to four per day (1000 mg) that should be continued for the remainder of a 4 week period.
S. boulardii is very safe, and the only true contraindication is in patients with true IgE-mediated reactions to yeasts, manifesting as anaphylaxis or hives. That said, it is important to be aware that in the first few days of taking S. boulardii, some patients may experience a noticeable “bowel flush” as the probiotic yeast displaces the Candida species. Candidal die-off can also make people feel ill. It is best to advise patients of these possibilities beforehand, so they’re not surprised if they occur.
According to Dr. Skelton, in 9 out of 10 patients, four weeks of intensive S. boulardii supplementation is siffucient to restore a healthy glycocalyx layer and induce adequate IgA secretion. This then sets the stage for a much more effective round of restoration with a multi-strain probiotic.
Bioceuticals has designed a product specifically for use after antibiotics. Called BioFloractiv 500, it contains 500 billion CFUs, 12 species, and 14 strains of beneficial bacteria. Dr. Skilton recommends a maximum of 14 days, though one week of daily therapy is sufficient for most, according to Skilton.
Patients with irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease, however, may need longer-term support to rebuild a healthy microbiome after taking antibiotics.
A Comprehensive Approach
Probiotics are just one part of the picture. And if a patient cannot tolerate any type of probiotic, its a red flag that a patient’s immune system is not functioning properly.
“You first need to address any aspects of the nervous system, especially sympathetic dominance, that may be affecting the digestive tract,” said Dr. Skilton. She has found fish oil, zinc, vitamin A, and colostrum to be of value in many cases. The latter, “is really good for restoring sIgA. Do this for a week or so before even trying probiotics.” Slippery Elm and glutamine supplements can also be helpful in some cases.
Plant-based medicnes like oregano oil, tea tree oil, or pau d’arco extract may be helfpul in ridding the GI tract of pathogenic yeast. But Dr. Skilton stressed that these will do nothing to stimulate sIgA production, and chronic yeast infections are almost always associated with low IgA. These natural yeast-busters should never be used at the same time as S. boulardii; this “friendly” yeast is just as vulnerable to things like oregano and tea tree as the pathogenic yeasts.
A number of probiotic and prebiotic foods can aid the process of gut restoration. Tom O’Bryan, DC, founder of the Gluten Summit and the Certified Gluten Practitioner training program, recommends several foods to eat — and several to avoid — when rebuilding the gut after antibiotic treatment.
“When your gut has been compromised, you don’t want to tax your gut,” O’Bryan says. “Taxing” foods include wheat, dairy, sugar, unhealthy fats, and fried items. These foods, he notes, “throw gasoline on the fire” of a recovering intestinal system.
On the other hand, one should eat plenty of foods that promote the growth of healthy commensal organisms. O’Bryan recommends organic stewed apples, cooked until soft and shimmery, as one good option. Cooking apples, he explains, releases pectin — a soluble fiber that provides fuel for beneficial bacteria.
The pectin present in stewed apples can also help to heal a damaged intestinal lining and seal off the tears in a leaky gut, preventing large food molecules from slipping through.
Similarly, collagen helps to seal a leaky gut. O’Bryan also encourages patients recovering from antibiotic treatment to eat chicken bone broth, a good source of collagen, which also acts as a natural prebiotic, feeding the healthy bacteria in the gut.
Butyrate — a natural substance made in the intestine — is another important player in gut bacteria restoration. O’Bryan explains that the cells lining the inside of the gut reproduce rapidly and that butyrate fuels the rebuilding of new cells. Insufficient butyrate production and a slow turnover of intestinal cells make the body more vulnerable to the development of cancer cells, resulting in a higher risk of colon cancer.
An array of prebiotic fruits and vegetables, including foods bananas, sweet potatoes and other tubers help to rebuild the gut microbiome, providing insoluble fiber that feeds good — but not harmful — bacteria.
Fermented, unpasteurized vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented beets, are another excellent source of natural probiotics. Every vegetable produces different families of beneficial bacteria during fermentation, O’Bryan notes, encouraging patients to eat one forkful of fermented vegetables twice a day. “The key to health in your gut is the diversity of your microbiome,” he argues, pointing out that thousands of different families of bacteria live and interplay in the gut with wide-ranging impacts on our health.
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Ahh, the microbiome.
That mystery world of gut bacteria that helps us do everything from digest food, to regulate mood.
We’ve all read about its importance, and some of us have even had the DNA of the little critters colonizing our guts sequenced with services like uBiome.
However, we’re just scratching the surface of the myriad different ways gut health impacts overall health.
But, this much we know: diet and lifestyle can cause the balance of our intestinal flora to go out of whack, which can lead to nasty conditions like IBS.
This is why our healthy gut bacteria and probiotics are so important, they keep the system in balance. Species of bacteria like Lactobacillus Acidophilus (notice the word acid in the name) play a role in regulating the PH of our stomach, preventing the spread of bad guys like Candida.
But, probiotics aren’t the only way to rebuild healthy gut bacteria after a course of antibiotics, or a few months of bad food choices.
Below, I’ve listed some unconventional strategies for rebuilding a healthy gut.
11 ways to restore healthy gut bacteria
#1 – Go for a run
Studies have shown that aerobic exercise actually increases our microbial diversity, meaning going for a 20 minute jog every morning can actually go a long way to helping the good bacteria in your gut take back the wheel. For example, this study found that higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness (measured by max VO2 levels) were associated with greater microbial diversity.
It appears that getting in good shape with some cardio training allows the body to better metabolize fatty acids. To quote the study:
The microbial profiles of fit individuals favor the production of butyrate.
Hmm, so the technical explanation of how running rebuilds the gut is that being in better cardiovascular shape increases our levels of butyrate, a short chain fatty acid that is associated with improved gut health. Butyrate is made when we eat fiber rich food that ferments in the gut. It appears running, and other forms of cardiovascular training, aid in this process, helping to create more butyrate, which in turn protects the gut lining from conditions like leaky gut.
#2 – Get your hands dirty
Some of you may have heard of Prescript Assist, a “soil based” probiotic that is now out of business that was all the rage in the functional medicine world. However, we may not need a soil based probiotic if we can get our hands dirty in the backyard. Sometimes health conversations become so focused on supplements that we forget about common sense. Go outside and work in your garden. Getting your hands dirty will expose your system to new, healthy bacteria. There is some controversy around soil based probiotic supplements, but one strain of bacteria commonly found in the dirt, Mycobacterium vaccae, has been linked with improved mood and stress response in some studies.
Getting out in the sunshine and regularly getting your hands dirty is an easy way to get exposure to soil based bacteria without the need for a mega dose probiotic supplement that could be dangerous for some people, especially those with immune system issues.
#3 – Get a dog
Dogs? Yes, dogs.
File this under the same category as getting your hands dirty in the garden. Dogs, like humans, have their own microbiome, and studies show that when we live with our pups, some of that good bacteria rubs off.
Of course, restoring gut health shouldn’t be the primary reason for getting a dog, as the current owner of an 8 week old puppy, believe me, it’s a lot of work. But there is research that shows that dogs can be beneficial to our health in many ways, one of which is improved gut health.
Note for you parents out there: the impact seems to be especially beneficial for children.1
For more, check out this NY Times piece: Are Pets the New Probiotic?
#4 – Limit traditional soap and shampoo
Wait, what? Did this crazy guy say to stop using soap and shampoo? Well, not altogether, I still use soap to wash my hands. But for the last few weeks, I’ve been moving away from soap and towards a product called Mother Dirt. I met the founder at a conference in Brooklyn last summer and was impressed. She created a line of skin care products that help us keep clean without stripping our skin of the natural bacteria it is supposed to have. No affiliate links to Mother Dirt anywhere in this post or site, I just think it’s an interesting concept, even if the science is still somewhat new.2
#5 – Eat fermented food and fermentable food
This one probably isn’t new to most of you. Fermented food, like sauerkraut for example, contains living strains of bacteria that can populate your gut. In some cases, these strains are said to be histamine producing, like L. casei for example, and may need to be avoided if you have histamine issues, but in many people fermented foods can be beneficial.
Point is, as we often mention here at Gene Food, to watch your individual reaction to food and supplements rather than relying on the wisdom of the internet, your body will tell you if sauerkraut or kimchi sits well.
If you’re looking for genetic markers that could clue you in on histamine sensitivity, take a peek at the AOC1 gene.
Now on to fermentable food. This one is controversial, because not all people can digest this stuff. You may have heard of the low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols, basically a group of carbs that are tough to digest and absorb.
Some people thrive on a low FODMAP diet which excludes things like potatoes, apples, garlic, onions, bananas, beets, asparagus and more. However, here is the rub: as I pointed out in the butyrate discussion above, our colon needs some fermentable food to feed and grow the “good” gut bacteria. A diet with very little fiber will make it harder to rebuild the gut over the long term. The key is to understand what types of fiber your body can handle. And please do not interpret this as discounting the need to for many to go low carb to heal (see #6, below). I fully appreciate that some people need to significantly limit certain types of carbohydrates to beat back conditions like Candida. My point is only that zero carb, zero fiber is not sustainable, or healthy, for most people over the long term.3
#6 Limit carbs / no sugar
Wait, I thought you just said we needed fiber to produce the good gut bacteria. Well, that’s true. However, some of the carbohydrates we eat don’t just fuel the good guys, they also feed the bad guys. For example, it is well documented that carbs are essentially “Candida gasoline.” Eating large amounts of bread, rice, potatoes, etc will make an overgrowth worse. It is important to point out that the same effect from eating carbs was not observed in healthy people, presumably with non-pathogenic Candida.
The same “carbs are fuel” theory is true for small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which as I wrote in my Candida post, might as well just be lumped into a larger category known as gut dysbiosis since it’s very difficult to diagnose this condition reliably.
Nevertheless, people suffering from gut issues do respond well to restricting carbs and FODMAPS, with this study showing a significant decline in bacteria in the small intestine on a low FODMAP diet. The problem is that butyrate levels also declined, meaning the good guys declined alongside the bad, which is why I am advocating for a balanced approach to carbs, with a more strict approach to sugar.4
#7 – Consider digestive enzymes
I’ve written before about the Urea cycle and how not everyone is born with the same ability to break down protein due in part to variants in the CPS1 genes.
The same principle applies when it comes to hydrochloric acid, the acid our bodies use to digest food, especially protein. As we age, our levels of stomach acid decline, which can result in poor digestion, and ultimately, a compromised gut and poor mineral absorption.5 The blood test diet has largely been debunked, however its one redeeming argument is that there does appear to be a link to blood type and stomach acid levels. Not everyone has the same ability to digest food, bottom line.
Enter digestive enzymes, a supplement long known to the bodybuilding community, that can help you break down and absorb more of the food you eat. Taken before a meal, enzymes like protease help to digest protein, while amylase breaks down starches, like bread. For our purposes here, the idea with digestive enzymes is they give an extra push to a weakened gut that isn’t doing a great job accessing nutrients from food.
#8 – Ditch the dishwasher
This study of over 1,000 children aged 7-8 years old in Sweden, found that children who lived in a household where dishes were washed by hand, as opposed to run through a dishwasher, had a lower rate of eczema as well as fewer allergies. The authors of the study hypothesized that the difference was based on exposure to greater microbial diversity in the families where dishes are washed by hand. So, I guess the lesson is we want our dishes clean, but maybe not too clean?
Get this, the risk was reduced further when the children were served fermented food and local food from farms. Of course, you already knew that from #5 on the list.
#9 – Glutamine
Glutamine has shown promise in helping to maintain the “epithelial” wall of the gut, and is one of the better supplements for treating leaky gut.6
But be careful.
In my article titled the MSG in your supplements, I talk about the role of glutamic acid in various supplement formulas, a problem because glutamic acid is a precursor to glutamate, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter. Now, glutamine is actually a different amino acid than glutamic acid, and it’s glutamine that shows promise in repairing gut health,6 but there are supplements marketed for their glutamine content that actually contain high levels of glutamic acid, and therefore could have an adverse effect on people with “mutations” in genes like GAD1, and GRIA3.
When it is in balance with GABA, glutamate is helpful, in fact our bodies need it to think and function. However, elevated glutamate levels have been linked to a wide range of diseases ranging in severity from simple anxiety to neurodegenerative disease. Our bodies can recycle glutamate into GABA, however, the common genetic variants listed above can disrupt these pathways, causing glutamate to take a harder toll on some people, and a very hard toll on others.
For an article on glutamate in food and the problems it can cause, see this excellent blog post by the team at Mission Heirloom.
The bottom line here is to make sure that you’re getting glutamine and not glutamic acid.
#10 – Collagen
This is a sensitive one as collagen is high in both histamine and glutamate, so not everyone will respond favorably. That, and I couldn’t find a good study on collagen repairing gut health. There are lots of anecdotal stories of collagen’s benefits, but not a direct study looking at healing leaky gut. If you have a good one, please share in the comments.
Having said that, I have on occasion used Bulletproof collagen protein and have noticed improvement in joint health when I have. In addition, stress reduces collagen levels, and since stress and gut issues are tied together, perhaps collagen does have a role to ply here.7
For a different take on collagen, see our recent podcast episode discussing dissenting opinions on popular supplements.
#11 – Zinc
Zinc is essential to the proper functioning of the immune system so it makes sense that this important mineral would play a role in maintaining gut health as well.8
For more, see my post: Zinc has many health benefits, but don’t overdo it
Well, there you have it, 11 actionable ideas for rebuilding a healthy gut that don’t include probiotics. Of course, high quality probiotics, used under the right circumstances, can be beneficial in healing the microbiome. My point with this post is that it may be necessary to think more comprehensively if you want the best results.
Restoring Gut Flora: Here’s How to Do It (And Why You Need to)
by: Yuri Elkaim
Is your gut making you feel sad, tired, or fat – without you even knowing it?
It very well might be. There are hundreds of millions of tiny microorganisms living inside it, and they exert tremendous control over your health.
The good news is, you can control them – and how you feel – by changing what you eat, how you sleep, and how much you move.
Restoring Gut Flora
If it seems like you’ve tried everything to manage your chronic conditions – insomnia, mood swings, skin issues, joint problems, and more – and you just can’t seem to get ahead of them, there’s a good chance you could be looking in the wrong place.
Instead of treating the symptoms, start at the root: your gut flora.
Which begs the obvious questions: what exactly is your gut flora, and how does it affect your health?
Inside your body, 100 trillion microorganisms line your intestinal tract, regulating everything from digestion to mental health.
This microscopic community is known as your gut microbiome, and it’s made up of intestinal bacteria – both good and bad.
The gut microbiome, also known as gut flora, is comprised up of both beneficial bacteria that help your body function, as well as some not-so-great disease-causing pathogenic bacteria.
Some of the most well-known strains of good bacteria include Lactobacilli, Caulobacter, and Bifidobacterium. These healthy strains can help minimize the amount of pathogenic bacteria in our bodies, like Salmonella and E. coli.
In this post, you’re going to learn:
- The 5 Factors Negatively Impacting Your Gut
- Why You Need to Fix Your Gut ASAP (6 Reasons)
- How to Bulletproof Your Gut Health (Do These 5 Things)
Let’s get started by covering the basics of what influences our gut bacteria.
5 Things Hurting Your Gut
From what you put into your body to what’s going on outside of you, numerous factors affect your gut.
1. Antibiotic Use
Doctors often prescribe antibiotics to kill off pathogenic bacteria inside our bodies.
Unfortunately, antibiotics can’t tell the difference between the good and bad bacteria and often end up wiping out lots of beneficial gut bacteria in the process.
If you do need to take an antibiotic, it can be helpful to take a probiotic along with it to build up your good bacteria and keep the antibiotic from depleting your microbiome.
2. Lifestyle and Environmental Factors
Another biggie: smoking. If you smoke you have fewer kinds of microbes, leading to a reduction in “genetic richness,” which can put a damper on gut health (1).
3. Exposure to Pesticides
Your gut bacteria are actually able to metabolize environmental chemicals, like pesticides.
Which sounds like a good thing, but there’s studies show that exposure to pesticides can alter bacterial colonization in the intestines, which has a negative effect on the composition of the gut microbiome (2).
Related: 6 Foods You Should Always Buy Organic
Too much stress can slow the movement of food through the your digestive tract, increase the permeability of the intestines (known as leaky gut). That allows undigested food particles to escape the digestive tract, which cuts back on the amount of good bacteria in your gut (3).
Not surprisingly, diet can also have a big impact on your gut.
What you eat can enhance the good bacteria in your GI tract, allowing more types to grow, or feed the existing bacteria to promote growth.
Keep reading to see exactly what you should be eating to foster good gut health, plus why healthy bacteria matters in the first place.
Why You Need to Fix Your Gut ASAP (6 Big Reasons)
From keeping your waistline trim to warding off sickness, restoring intestinal flora is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Here are a few of the most important ways that a healthy gut microbiome is connected to your overall wellbeing:
1. Getting Enough Sleep Affects Your Gut
If you find yourself waking up in the morning still exhausted, your gut bacteria might not be the first thing you think of.
But research has shown that the health of your gut has a major impact on getting a good night’s sleep – and vice versa.
Undergoing any type of stress can disrupt the bacteria in your GI tract. When you don’t get enough shut eye at night, it can trigger a stress response in the your body, which ends up altering your gut microbiome (4).
The result is insomnia, chronic fatigue, and a constant groggy feeling, even if you think you’re getting enough sleep.
The process is cyclical. You need to make sure you’re clocking in at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night to keep your gut healthy – and you need to feed your good bacteria so you can get a better night’s sleep.
- 10 Ways to Sleep Better Tonight (No Sleeping Pills Required)
- 10 Powerful Adaptogenic Herbs That Will Lower Your Stress
- Feeling Stressed and Overwhelmed? Here Is How to Beat It
2. The Gut-Brain Axis Is Linked to Your Mental Health
The health of your gut is related to the health of just about every other part of you, including your brain.
Your good bacteria also play a crucial role in the enteric nervous system. This is a division of the nervous system made up of neurons that control the function of the gastrointestinal system, including the esophagus, stomach, intestines, and rectum.
The enteric nervous system is also known as “the gut’s brain,” and it’s a big reason why the health of your gut bacteria has such a widespread effect on your overall health.
One of the major impacts of your gut-brain axis is on serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood regulation. A deficiency can lead to depression and anxiety.
Besides the central nervous system, serotonin is also found in the enteric nervous system and on the walls of the intestines. In fact, the vast majority of all serotonin synthesis occurs right in the GI tract (5).
Gut bacteria are responsible for producing 95 percent of the body’s serotonin, so keeping a healthy, functioning gut microbiome is crucial to proven and treat disorders like depression and anxiety (6).
Researchers also believe that diseases like Parkinson’s disease could be linked to the gut-brain axis. Some evidence is showing that Parkinson’s could start in the gut and spread to the central nervous system (7).
Others theorize that the gut microbiome could even determine the severity of Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by tremors and uncontrollable movements. Researchers noted that intestinal bacteria could aggravate the motor deficits of the disease (8).
3. Your Intestinal Bacteria Could Affect Your Weight
Did you know that your gut bacteria can play a role in appetite and how much food you eat?
It makes sense. Good gut bacteria are found on the lining of your intestinal tract, so it seems only fitting that they should have a major influence on your weight.
So how does it work?
Gut flora has a direct effect on both fat metabolism and storage.
If you’re obese, the gut bacteria are conditioned to extract energy from food more efficiently and increase absorption of glucose in the intestines and liver (9).
Increased absorption and efficiency might sound like a good thing, but it’s actually not.
See, even if we eat something that has 100 calories and 10 grams of sugar, not all of that will actually be absorbed by the body.
But when you’re obese, the gut bacteria have been trained to take more of the calories from food and store more of the glucose in the intestines and liver instead of using it for energy.
This process alters the production of fat in the liver, leading to an increase in fat storage.
Several studies have shown that weight is directly associated to intestinal bacteria.
Some case studies have even shown that losing weight can cause a positive shift in gut bacteria, proving that restoring your gut flora is a very worthwhile investment for your health (10).
Related: How an Unhealthy Gut Is Sabotaging Your Weight Loss
4. Better Gut Health = Stronger Immune System
When we start talking about the immune system, most people don’t necessarily think of their intestinal tract.
But did you know that your intestines contain more immune cells than anywhere else in the your body? (11)
These cells engage in a type of “crosstalk” with the gut bacteria, allowing the gut bacteria to communicate and stimulate the immune system as needed to target and fight off foreign invaders.
Overuse of antibiotics coupled with a poor diet and lifestyle habits can spell trouble for your gut bacteria – and your immune system – as these factors can all can deplete your good gut bacteria and lead to an overgrowth of the bad bacteria.
When your gut flora gets thrown out of whack, the communication between the gut and the immune cells isn’t able to work as effectively. This means that your good gut bacteria can’t tell the immune system that there are invaders to fight, leading to a weakened immune response.
5. Restore Gut Flora for Glowing Skin
You’ve probably heard the saying that real beauty starts from within. Believe it or not, it’s true – good gut bacteria can help clear acne and treat psoriasis.
Inflammation plays a big role in most skin conditions, including both acne and psoriasis.
When you get stressed out, it can disrupt your intestinal bacteria, in turn promoting inflammation. Unfortunately, when this inflammation manifests on your skin, it can often be pretty noticeable (12).
The best way to get clear skin is to start from within. Start working towards fostering a healthier microbiome and the results will show, right on your skin.
- How to Get Clear Skin: A Simple 1-Day Drink Menu
- How to Achieve Flawless Skin? Start with These 3 Super Nutrients
6. Your Gut Health Can Affect Cancer Risk
As if improved sleep, fat metabolism, and brain health weren’t enough, emerging research is suggesting that the bacteria in your intestines could even be linked to cancer.
Antibiotics, smoking, and diet are just a few factors that can disrupt your intestinal microbiome – and are also common culprits in spurring the development of cancer.
Not only that, but several of the substances produced by intestinal bacteria can have a direct effect on the development of tumors and have the power to either promote or suppress their growth (13).
Some studies have even found that the composition of the gut microbiome can be used as a screening tool to predict the likelihood of developing cancer (14).
Though the connection isn’t totally concrete yet, it’s safe to say that restoring your gut flora can definitely be beneficial when it comes to cancer.
How to Bulletproof Your Gut Health (Do These 5 Things)
So by now you probably get the idea: your gut flora is pretty important for almost all aspects of health.
But how do you go about keeping it healthy or restoring gut flora after antibiotics?
The easiest way is by making a few modifications to your diet. Put the focus on including foods that contain probiotics, which are beneficial strains of bacteria that promote the health of your digestive system. Basically, probiotics are an easy way to increase the amount of good bacteria in your GI tract.
A Simple Homemade Kimchi Recipe
Some of the best foods for restoring gut flora are fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut; these foods all contain healthy probiotics that can support strong gut health.
Fermented foods are foods that have been exposed to bacteria and yeast, breaking down the glucose and often resulting in a product rich in probiotics, or good bacteria.
These are easy to incorporate into your diet through gut-friendly smoothies.
- 17 Recipes Full of Probiotic-Rich Foods You Need to Start Making
- The Healthy Gut Smoothie (Carrot Cake)
Another option you might want to consider is probiotic supplementation. Readily available at pharmacies and drug stores, probiotic capsules offer a concentrated dose of probiotics to encourage gut health.
Look for a type that offers several different strains of bacteria to get the most diversity and make sure you take it with food or about 30 minutes before eating to improve survival and absorption of the probiotic. (15).
Prebiotics (not to be confused with probiotics) can also be beneficial in restoring gut flora. This is a special type of indigestible fiber that moves through the GI tract and helps promote the growth of the good gut bacteria.
Prebiotics can be found in fiber-rich plant foods and healthy starches. Asparagus, onions, garlic, green bananas, and artichokes are all excellent sources of prebiotics.
- Why Your Gut Badly Needs These 4 Healthy Super Starches
- 17 Simple Recipes to Get More Resistant Starch Into Your Diet
L-glutamine is an amino acid that your body uses to produce proteins. Studies show that supplementation can enhance the microbiome and strengthen the gut barrier (16, 17).
11 Cabbage Casserole Recipes That Are So Easy to Make
Of course, supplementing is the easiest way to increase your intake, but you can also get L-glutamine through your diet. Meat and poultry, seafood, cabbage, beans, legumes, and nuts are all great options to up your intake.
- DIY Chicken Burrito Bowl (Paleo)
- 17 Easy Garbanzo Bean Salad Recipes When You Need to Eat Fast
4. Vitamin D
Research shows that vitamin D deficiency can harm your gut microbiome and promote inflammation.
Supplementing with vitamin D can maintain the intestinal mucosal barrier, reduce inflammation, support a stronger immune system, and increase vitamin production in the intestines (18, 19).
The recommended dosage for vitamin D is 600 IU per day. If you’re planning to start supplementing, go for vitamin D3 instead of vitamin D2, as this form is the most effective and easily absorbed by your body (20).
You can also increase your intake of foods rich in vitamin D. Fatty fish, eggs, sardines, and mushrooms are good sources if you’re looking for an alternative to supplementing.
5. Stress Reduction
Reducing your stress can help to strength your digestive system and boost good bacteria. Keeping stress to a minimum is key, as an overload of stress can affect both your gut bacteria and your intestinal integrity.
Taking just 10 minutes out of your day to practice yoga, meditation or an exercise in gratitude is one of the best ways to slash stress.
- The Simple 5-Minute Morning Yoga Routine You Desperately Need
- 5 Easy and Practical Meditation Techniques for Beginners
- Happiness Habits: 10 Simple Things Happy People Do Before Bed
These methods work by lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone responsible for the fight-or-flight response, to keep you stress-free while simultaneously enhancing your GI health (21).
Creating a regular sleep cycle is also key, as sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in cortisol levels and an increase in stress (22).
And, of course, a healthy diet is crucial for keeping stress levels to a minimum. Cutting out inflammatory foods and processed junk can cut stress by easing inflammation and keeping our GI tract chugging along. Include inflammation-fighting foods along with more whole, unprocessed foods into your diet to really make a difference in your gut health.
Good Gut Flora, Good Health
Remember that antibiotics, smoking, stress, pesticides, and diet can all have a major effect on the health of your gut.
Improving the health of your gut comes with big benefits, like improvements in sleep, mental health, weight loss, immunity, and skin health, plus a decreased risk of cancer.
Restoring gut flora is easy, and it can have a lasting impact on so many aspects of your health. To get started:
- Increase your intake of probiotics, prebiotics, vitamin D, and L-glutamine – either through the diet or through supplementation
- Cut down on stress through yoga, meditation, setting a sleep routine, and following a healthy diet
With a healthier, happier gut microbiome, there’s no doubt that you’ll be able to feel the difference – and maybe even see the difference in your skin and waistline – in no time.
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Good Health Starts in the Gut
Did you know that the bacteria in your gut – your microbiome – can weigh as much as your brain? Your microbiome could even be considered an organ in its own right, and plays an important role in your health and happiness.
From immune function to brain activity, nutrient synthesis to elimination of toxins, the bacterial balance in your gut affects almost all aspects of your health. That’s why it’s essential to maintain a diverse microbiome for good all-round health, and to support healthy bacterial balance.*
Unfavorable Gut Bacteria
There are more bacteria in the intestines than there are cells in the body. In fact, on the basis of cell numbers alone, we are 10% human and 90% bacteria!
Every person’s gut flora is unique, but most of us have at least 700 species of bacteria living in our intestines at any one time. Around 85% of normal gut flora is made up of beneficial bacteria, i.e., species we want to have around because they perform useful actions like synthesizing vitamins or breaking down our food to release energy. The other 15%, however, is made up of potentially unfavorable pathogenic bacteria, i.e., those that can undermine health if they get out of hand.
When this 85:15 ratio is maintained, we call that a state of eubiosis. When the unfavorable bacteria increase in number, this can cause dysbiosis, which can have unpleasant effects on health. The shifting balance of gut bacteria can have a major impact on immune system health, for example, as well as affecting hormone balance, inflammation, and even cognitive function.
Signs of an Unhappy Gut
When your microbiome is upset by stress, antibiotic use, illness, infection, or a diet high in refined sugar, tummy troubles can quickly put a cramp in your style. An imbalance in gut bacteria has been associated with a wide variety of digestive issues and other problems, including:
- Brain fog
- Frequent antibiotic use
If you’re struggling with any of the symptoms above, you’ll want to know how to support healthy bacterial balance. One way to replenish and restore a healthy microbiome is to increase your intake of prebiotic and probiotic foods.*
Gut-Friendly Foods (Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods)
Prebiotic foods, including fresh fruit, vegetables, and legumes, are a great way to support your intestinal microflora. These foods contain a type of fiber that we cannot digest, but that good bacteria love! Check out our blog How to Maintain a Probiotic-Freindly Diet for more tips.*
Many fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir are a source of probiotics and prebiotics, as is cultured yogurt. Many store-bought versions of fermented foods are pasteurized, however, and do not contain any live bacteria, so be sure to check the label or make your own fermented foods at home.*
How Probiotics Support Good Health
Probiotic foods and supplements can help restore, replenish, and maintain a beneficial balance of bacteria in the gut. These good bacteria outcompete bad bacteria and can help stop undesirable organisms sticking to the walls of the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts.
The two main types of probiotics in the human gut are lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, found predominantly in the small and large intestines, respectively. Every probiotic species and strain has a unique range of effects on our health.*
Probiotics work together to:
- Provide maximum support for acute digestive health needs*
- Restore and maintain healthy, balanced intestinal flora*
- Help reduce antibiotic-associated digestive diarrhea and discomfort *
- Support gastrointestinal integrity and support healthy inflammatory responses*
- Stimulate phagocytes, dendritic cells, and other immune system cells to promote immune health*
- Support the gut-brain axis and a calm, relaxed state of mind*
A multi-strain formula, such as Natural Factors Ultimate Probiotic 12/12 Formula, helps maintain a healthy bacterial balance, while supporting digestive function.* If digestive upset does strike, a high-quality probiotic supplement can also help get you back on track by restoring intestinal balance.*
Some probiotic supplements, such as ReliefBiotic™ IB, are specially formulated to meet specific needs associated with urgent bowel discomfort, while others such as TravelBiotic® are helpful in cases of acute dysbiosis, when experiencing traveler’s diarrhea. Meanwhile, CalmBiotic™ contains strains clinically shown to support the gut-brain axis, helping to moderate feelings of occasional anxiety and promote a healthy mood balance.*
Many health professionals now recommend regular consumption of probiotics to maintain healthy gut microflora, as well as the use of probiotics when taking antibiotics, to restore gastrointestinal health and support immune function.*
The benefits of healthy gut flora extend far beyond the intestines, and are increasingly recognized as a key component of general health maintenance. Topping up your good bacteria can help keep your microbiome balanced, helping you maintain good overall health.*
We really can’t overstate the importance of gut health. An upset microbiome is no small thing! If you have any concerns about gut health, consult your health professional.
Del Piano M, Carmagnola S, Anderloni A, et al. The use of probiotics in healthy volunteers with evacuation disorders and hard stools: a double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled study. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2010; 44 Suppl 1:S30-4
Wildt S, Nordgaard I, Hansen U, et al. J Crohns Colitis. 2011; 5(2):115-21.
Goldenberg JZ, Yap C, Lytvyn L, et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017; 12:CD006095.
Witsell DL, Garrett CG, Yarbrough WG, et al. J Otolaryngol. 1995; 24(4), 230-3.
Matsumoto M, Benno Y. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2016; 70(6):1287-92.
Klein A, Friedrich U, Vogelsang H, et al. Lactobacillus acidophilus 74-2 and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis DGCC 420 modulate unspecific cellular immune response in healthy adults. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018; 62(5):584-93.
Winek K, Dirnagl U, & Meisel A. Eurotherapeutics. 2016; 13(4):762-774.
7 Tips for Restoring Your Digestive Health
Posted on July 11, 2019
Food is a very important component of digestive health. Ever notice that you’re feeling run-down, achy, or bloated after a few days of overindulgence? Too much fat, sugar, salt, or alcohol can make you feel like you’re not quite yourself. If you’re looking for ways to feel better, here are some tips to help you restore your digestive health.
Adding more fiber to your diet can help to jumpstart a sluggish digestive system. Fiber helps keep everything moving, and it’s an important tool to move toxins out of your body. The typical American diet is filled with foods high in sugar, salt, and fat, which are generally devoid of healthy fiber. These processed foods have been shown to decrease the bacteria in your digestive system. Opting for more whole foods will reset a distressed gut.
Add Probiotics & Fermented Foods
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, etc., contain healthy bacteria to naturally boost harmony in your gastrointestinal tract. Yogurt also contains plenty of probiotics to help reset your gut, just watch out for yogurt with lots of sugar. If you find it difficult to eat enough foods that contain probiotics, a probiotic supplement can do wonders to keep you feeling happy and healthy.
Cut out Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners
Excess sugar and artificial sweeteners aren’t good for your body in general, but they’re especially bad for your digestive system. Eating too much sugar can lead to the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in your gut, so try to limit your intake to 25 grams (for women) or 37.5 grams (for men). Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners also alter the gut microbiome, which is why artificial sweeteners are more likely to cause glucose intolerance than natural sugars.
This is usually easier said than done but try to take a few minutes out of your busy day to meditate, do some yoga, or practice mindfulness. It can do wonders for your health. Stress can lead to intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut syndrome), which causes inflammation.
The direct link isn’t clear, but scientists have found a definitive correlation between exercise and gut health. The general belief is that exercise can reduce stress hormones, which affects the makeup of bacteria in your digestive system.
Get Enough Sleep
Your body can’t work at an optimum level if you’re exhausted. It may feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, but if you don’t allow your body enough time to rest and regenerate each night, you won’t feel your best. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep alters the microbial balance in your gut. Make an effort to go to sleep half an hour before you normally do, and keep moving the time back a half an hour at a time until you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Water works very well to speed digestion, and staying hydrated is one of the easiest digestive tips. Fluids work with fiber to move solids through your system, and drinking fluids other than water can have undesirable side effects. Carbonated beverages can cause heartburn, juices have way too much sugar without the fiber of fruit, caffeine in coffee and tea acts as a diuretic, etc. Stick to water for the most health benefits! If you have trouble drinking enough water throughout the day, try flavoring it with citrus or berries.
These are just a few ideas to boost your GI wellbeing, but if you’re having symptoms or experiencing frequent intestinal discomfort, contact our team at Digestive Health Reno today.
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What’s an Unhealthy Gut? How Gut Health Affects You
Many facets of modern life such as high stress levels, too little sleep, eating processed and high-sugar foods, and taking antibiotics can all damage our gut microbiome. This in turn may affect other aspects of our health, such as the brain, heart, immune system, skin, weight, hormone levels, ability to absorb nutrients, and even the development of cancer.
There are a number of ways an unhealthy gut might manifest itself. Here are seven of the most common signs:
1. Upset stomach
Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut. A balanced gut will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste.
2. A high-sugar diet
A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the amount of good bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can cause increased sugar cravings, which can damage your gut still further. High amounts of refined sugars, particularly high-fructose corn syrup, have been linked to increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation can be the precursor to a number of diseases and even cancers.
3. Unintentional weight changes
Gaining or losing weight without making changes to your diet or exercise habits may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat. Weight loss may be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), while weight gain may be caused by insulin resistance or the urge to overeat due to decreased nutrient absorption.
4. Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue
An unhealthy gut may contribute to sleep disturbances such as insomnia or poor sleep, and therefore lead to chronic fatigue. The majority of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut. So gut damage can impair your ability to sleep well. Some sleep disturbances have also been linked to risk for fibromyalgia.
5. Skin irritation
Skin conditions like eczema may be related to a damaged gut. Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet or food allergies may cause increased “leaking” of certain proteins out into the body, which can in turn irritate the skin and cause conditions such as eczema.
6. Autoimmune conditions
Medical researchers are continually finding new evidence of the impact of the gut on the immune system. It’s thought that an unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system. This can lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders.
7. Food intolerances
Food intolerances are the result of difficulty digesting certain foods (this is different than a food allergy, which is caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods). It’s thought that food intolerances may be caused by poor quality of bacteria in the gut. This can lead to difficulty digesting the trigger foods and unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea. There is some evidence that food allergies may also be related to gut health.
How to Fix Your Gut: 7 Steps to Intestinal Health
by: Mark Hyman M.D.
There might be something wrong with your inner tube, and it could be making you sick and overweight. You may not even realize you have a problem…But if you have health concerns of any kind, or you are overweight, your inner tube could be the root cause. Of course, I’m not talking about a beach toy. I mean the inner tube of life — your digestive system.
It is likely that you suffer from (or have suffered from) some type of digestive disorder — irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn or acid reflux, gas, and other things too gross to mention in print. And you are not alone. More than 100 million Americans have digestive problems. Two of the top five selling drugs in America are for digestive problems, and they cost us billions and billions of dollars. There are more than 200 over-the-counter (OTC) remedies for digestive disorders, many of which can create additional digestive problems.
Visits for intestinal disorders are among the most common reasons for trips to primary care physicians. And that’s not even the worst news. Most of us (including most doctors) do not recognize or know that digestive problems wreak havoc in the entire body, leading to allergies, arthritis, autoimmune disease, rashes, acne, chronic fatigue, mood disorders, autism, dementia, cancer, and more.
So, having a healthy gut means more than simply being free of annoyances like bloating or heartburn. It is absolutely central to your health. It is connected to everything that happens in your body.
That’s why I almost always start helping people treat chronic health problems by fixing their gut, which is what I want to help you do today.
Fixing your digestion is the 4th key of the 7 Keys to UltraWellness, or functional medicine, and it is absolutely essential that you heal this critical system in your body if you want to achieve optimum health.
How your gut keeps you healthy or makes you ill
The health of your gut determines what nutrients are absorbed and what toxins, allergens and microbes are kept out. It is directly linked to the health of your whole body. Intestinal health could be defined as the optimal digestion, absorption, and assimilation of food. But that is a big job that depends on many other factors. Let’s look at a few of them …
First, there are bugs in your gut that form a diverse and interdependent ecosystem, like a rain forest. In fact, there are 500 species and three pounds of bacteria in your gut which form a huge chemical factory that helps digest food, regulate hormones, excrete toxins, and produce vitamins and other healing compounds that keep your gut and your body healthy. This ecosystem of friendly bacteria must be in balance for you to be healthy. Too many of the wrong bacteria, like parasites and yeasts, or not enough of the good ones, like Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria, can seriously damage your health.
Second, there is your gut-immune system. Your entire immune system — and the rest of your body — is protected from the toxic environment in your gut by a lining that is only one cell-thick layer. If spread out, this lining would take up a surface area the size of a tennis court, covered entirely by a sewer! If that barrier is damaged, you can become allergic to foods you may normally be able to digest perfectly well, you will get sick, your immune system will become overactive, and it will begin producing inflammation throughout your body. Filtering out the good molecules from the bad molecules and protecting your immune system is yet another important factor in gut health.
Third, there is your second brain — your gut’s nervous system. Did you know your gut actually contains more neurotransmitters than your brain? In fact, the gut has a brain of its own. It is called the “enteric nervous system” and it is a very sophisticated piece of your biology that is wired to your brain in intricate ways. Messages constantly travel back and forth between your gut-brain and your head-brain and, when those messages are interfered with in any way, your health will suffer.
Fourth, your gut also has to get rid of all the toxins produced as byproducts of your metabolism, which your liver dumps into bile. If things get backed up when you are constipated, you will become toxic and your health will suffer.
And, last but not least, your gut must break down all the food you eat into its individual components, separate out the vitamins and minerals, and shuttle everything across the one cell-thick layer mentioned above so it can get into your bloodstream and nourish your body and brain.
Your gut has quite a lot to manage. Even in a perfect world, it is hard to keep all of this in balance. But, in our modern world, there are endless obstacles that can knock our digestive system off-balance, making it that much more difficult to maintain excellent digestive health.
How to know if your gut is out of balance
To fix your digestion, you first need to understand what is sending your gut out-of-balance in the first place. The list is short:
- Our low-fiber, high-sugar, processed, nutrient-poor, high-calorie diet, which causes all the wrong bacteria and yeast to grow in our gut and damages the delicate ecosystem in your intestines
- Overuse of medications that damage the gut or block normal digestive function — things like acid blockers (Prilosec, Nexium, etc.), anti-inflammatory medication (aspirin, Advil, and Aleve), antibiotics, steroids and hormones
- Undetected gluten intolerance, celiac disease or low-grade food allergies to foods such as dairy, eggs, or corn
- Chronic low-grade infections or gut imbalances with overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, yeast overgrowth, parasites or even more serious gut infections
- Toxins like mercury and mold toxins, which damage the gut
- Lack of adequate digestive enzyme function, which can come from acid-blocking medication use or zinc deficiency
- Stress, which can alter the gut nervous system, cause a leaky gut, and change the normal bacteria in the gut
What happens then is obvious: you get sick.
But what’s important to understand is that many diseases that seem to be totally unrelated to the gut — such as eczema or psoriasis or arthritis — are actually caused by gut problems. By focusing on the gut, you can get better.
Seven steps to optimal digestive health
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods. Make sure to include plenty of fiber from foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
- Eliminate food allergies. If you think you have food sensitivities, try an elimination diet. Cut out gluten, dairy, yeast, corn, soy, and eggs for a week or two and see how your gut feels and what happens to your other symptoms.
- Treat any infections or overgrowth of bugs. Parasites, small bowel bacteria, and yeasts can all inhibit proper gut function. You must treat these infections if you want to heal.
- Replenish your digestive enzymes. When you don’t have enough digestive enzymes in your gut, you can’t properly convert the foods you eat into the raw materials necessary to run your body and brain. Take broad-spectrum digestive enzymes with your food to solve the problem.
- Rebuild your rain forest of friendly bacteria. Take probiotic supplements. They will help you rebuild the healthy bacteria so essential to good gut health.
- Get good fat. Take extra omega-3 supplements, which help cool inflammation in the gut.
- Heal your gut lining. Use gut-healing nutrients such as glutamine and zinc to repair the lining in your gut so it can resume its normal function.
Fixing your digestion may take some time, but it can be done. And it is absolutely essential if you want to achieve vibrant health. So work on your inner tube of life using the steps above and watch as your symptoms (and those extra pounds) disappear.