Health experts believe that good health starts in the gut, as it shields your immune system. At the same time, your gut is connected directly to your brain and its health is directly linked to your mood and hormones as well as your overall weight and health.
A compromised gut makes you more vulnerable to digestive issues (bloating, gas, diarrhea), food allergies or sensitivities, anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, skin problems (eczema, rosacea), diabetes, autoimmune diseases, frequent infections and also poor memory and concentration, attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Many things can affect your gut health, destroy beneficial gut flora and damage the intestinal barrier. Dietary imbalances, excess medication use, mineral deficiencies and even stress can change the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract.
Keeping your gut healthy is not a difficult task. It starts with some basic dietary and lifestyle changes. For gut health, you need to follow the four R’s policy, which means:
- Remove the bad things that negatively affect the environment of the gut.
- Replace the bad with good things.
- Reinoculate, which means restoring beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good bacteria.
- Repair, which means providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself.
Here are the top 10 ways to heal your gut naturally.
1. Consume Probiotics
For improving gut health, including probiotics in your diet is an essential step.
Probiotics can help increase the levels of healthy bacteria in your gut, while also improving digestion and nutrient absorption. They also aid in diminishing bad bacteria levels in the body, which in turn supports the elimination of toxins.
A 2013 study published in Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology reports that probiotics work as preventive and therapeutic measures, in order to restore the healthy composition and functioning of the gut microbiome.
When it comes to probiotics, choose gluten-free options for optimal results. Some good sources are sauerkraut, miso, pickles, tempeh and kombucha. In addition, you can take a digestive enzyme with your probiotics to further aid digestion.
You can also take probiotic supplements, but only after consulting your doctor.
2. Drink Enough Water
People who don’t drink enough water often suffer from digestive issues.
Water is essential for the digestive system to work properly. Water makes up about 60 percent of our bodies, and it aids in moving things along in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract and removing toxins through your urine and feces.
Water and other fluids help break down food, so that your body can absorb the nutrients. It also softens stools and helps maintain the body’s pH balance.
As you lose vital fluids through sweating and urinating, it is important to supply your body with clean and safe water throughout the day.
If the taste of water is too bland and boring, you can add a little lemon juice or try different flavored waters.
Note: The amount of water you need each day depends upon many factors, including your health status. Consult your doctor regarding how much water you should drink in a day.
3. Eat Whole Foods
Whole foods are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and water content, and should be high on your list of foods to eat to improve and maintain your gut health.
Eating fiber-rich foods can help remove toxins and keeps things moving through your system. This in turn protects your digestive tract from inflammation, injury and disease.
However, if you have digestive issues, eating too much fiber can hurt your digestive system and lead to bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine.
Aim to eat at least one vegetable with each meal. Some vegetables that are easy to digest are spinach, zucchini, squash, carrots, asparagus, celery, artichokes and kale.
Another important aspect of a healthy diet is to eat healthy fats that digest easily. Some good examples are coconut and coconut oil, fish or fish oil, olives, flaxseed and hemp seed.
Do not eat processed or fast foods, which are typically high in refined salt, sugar and processed oils.
4. Avoid Inflammatory Foods
When the gut is inflamed, it does not absorb nutrients and foods properly, and you feel fatigued and tired. Moreover, inflammation affects the digestion process, which definitely affects your gut health.
To curb overall inflammation, it is important to avoid inflammatory foods. Frequently consuming inflammatory foods can damage the cells in your gut tissue, called epithelial tissue, and promote intestinal permeability.
Some highly inflammatory foods that you need to avoid are corn, soy, highly processed vegetable oils, refined sugar, additives and preservatives (typically found in processed foods). Dairy, wheat and gluten can also contribute to inflammation in some people.
By eliminating these major inflammation-causing foods from your diet and replacing them with healthier alternatives, the inflammation in your GI tract will reduce gradually.
5. Reduce Your Stress Level
Food isn’t the only source of inflammation in the body. A high stress level can impair your body’s ability to regulate the inflammatory response, causing inflammation in the body including in the GI tract. In short, stress and inflammation affects your gut health.
Ongoing stress can negatively affect the healthy bacteria in your gut, and poor gut health can have a depressing effect on your entire system.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology highlights the link between stress and gut health.
To manage stress, activities like meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, walking, listening to music and getting proper sleep can help a lot.
6. Drink Wheatgrass Juice before Meals
Being rich in potent phytonutrients and an alkalizing property, wheatgrass helps your body heal and nourish your gut in a natural way.
Due to its phenolic content and biologically active enzymes, as well as vitamin C, chlorophyll and phytochemicals, wheatgrass promotes detoxification and prevents the growth of harmful pathogens in the stomach.
Wheatgrass also helps restore alkalinity in the blood, which is important for the body’s detoxification process. Moreover, wheatgrass restores and revitalizes your liver.
Alkalizing foods like wheatgrass help improve overall health and support well-being.
If you have access to wheatgrass, make fresh juice from it. Dilute 1 to 2 ounces of the juice in a glass of water or some fruit or vegetable juice and drink it 30 minutes before your meal. Do it twice daily. You can start with 1 ounce of the juice once or twice a day and gradually increase to 2 ounces twice a day.
If you don’t have access to fresh wheatgrass, you can opt to take a quality supplement instead. Always consult your doctor before beginning any new supplements.
7. Switch to Ginger or Green Tea
If you are in the habit of drinking too much coffee in a day, it’s time to mend this mistake. Coffee as well as other sources of caffeine can irritate the digestive system.
For a healthier gut, choose to have green tea or ginger tea instead.
Green tea is very good for your gut health. It contains wonderful micronutrients called polyphenols that help increase the good bacteria in your gut, as well as decreasing the bad. It also aids in fighting overall inflammation in the body.
It’s well-known that ginger is good for digestive health. It relaxes the smooth muscles of the intestines, thereby relieving symptoms of gas and cramping. It also stimulates digestion by speeding up the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine. Plus, ginger stimulates saliva, bile and gastric enzymes to aid in digesting food.
Always drink decaffeinated green tea or ginger tea, two or three times a day.
8. Be Good to Your Liver
You can heal your digestive system by helping your liver work efficiently and effectively.
For liver health, nothing is more important than limiting your alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol heightens susceptibility for intestinal permeability, which can lead to leaky gut syndrome.
Alcohol contributes to a buildup of toxins in the body, which in turn can inhibit hormones in the gut that control inflammation. Also, the toxins prevent proper absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream.
A 2008 study published in Alcohol reports that excess alcohol intake can lead to an increase in intestinal permeability, due to endotoxin and subsequent injury to the liver and other organs.
As alcohol consumption clearly has the potential to jeopardize your gut health, it is best to avoid it completely or at least drink it only in moderation.
9. Get Enough Sleep
One of the most important factors for overcoming digestive problems is improving your quality of sleep. In fact, you may have noticed that when you don’t get enough sleep, your digestion system also suffers.
The intestinal microbiome produces and releases many of the hormones that help regulate your mood and also promote quality sleep. In addition, hormones that affect digestion are influenced by how much sleep you are getting each day. Such hormones include cortisol, leptin, insulin, serotonin and melatonin.
For instance, melatonin is essential for a healthy sleep-wake cycle and also contributes to maintaining gut health. A deficiency in melatonin is linked to increased permeability of the gut.
Aim to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. However, it is best to listen to your body and decide how much sleep is best for you.
To help you sleep, meditation, listening to soft music, a glass of warm milk before bedtime, a warm bath or even reading a book can help.
10. Do Some Form of Exercise
To heal your gut naturally, you need to get your body moving on a daily basis. Remember, your gut is a muscle that needs exercise to function properly.
A 2016 study published in Immunology and Cell Biology reports that exercise in your early years will create an environment with better balance between the microorganisms that live in your intestines. This is because shortly after being born, bacteria begin to colonize the intestinal tract.
Another 2016 study published in PLOS ONE suggests that exercise has a strong influence on gut integrity and host microbiome. This puts more emphasis on studies on the interactions between specific bacteria in the gut and its host.
For gut health, low-stress exercises like yoga, walking, light jogging and jumping on a rebounder are the best. Aim for at least 30 to 45 minutes of exercise each day.
You can also do intense exercise, but within limits as it can increase your cortisol levels too high or cause excessive stress on the body.
- Good digestion starts in the mouth, hence you need to chew your food well.
- Eat little and often, instead of having two or three large meals in a day.
- Never take any medications without asking your doctor.
- A gentle detox on a regular basis can be a great way to reset your entire digestive system.
- Wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove all impurities and pesticide residue from the produce.
- Opt for organic produce.
- Eat plenty of fermentable fibers, such as sweet potatoes, yams and yucca.
- Treat any intestinal pathogens, such as parasites, that may be impairing your gut health.