5 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
Gut health is an extremely popular subject lately, and rightfully so. Most people think of the soul purpose of the gut is to digest food for energy. This is only partially correct. The gut also serves very important functions for your endocrine (hormone), nervous system, and your immune system (70-80% of your immune system is found in your gut) and even your skin!
I define the gut to my patients as a hollow tube that starts at your mouth and ends at the anus. The moment you smell or think about food (even before you put it in your mouth), your body produces enzymes to help digest the food and protect your body from possible pathogens in that food.
Chewing your food mechanically breaks it down and ads digestive enzymes to prepare whatever you are eating for the acidic environment of your stomach. The high acid environment of your stomach breaks down proteins into amino acids and helps kill unwanted pathogens.
From the stomach, your food enters into the small intestine where 90% of digestion happens. The majority of digestion in the small intestine is accomplished via digestive enzymes, bile, and through a selective filter via the intestinal microvilli. This is where most of the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are digested and absorbed.
The remaining food then enters the colon and (in a healthy individual) is met with over 700 species of mostly anaerobic bacteria. This bacteria aids in the digestion of the remaining fiber, polysaccharides, electrolytes, vitamins, and water.
In healthy individuals.
Most diseases of the intestine are due to an imbalance of the microorganisms that inhabit the gut. The most common disruption is the unfriendly aerobic microbes replacing the friendly anaerobic microbes. This is often referred to as dysbiosis.
Our first exposure to microorganisms happens during natural childbirth. Babies born naturally have a higher microbe count in their gut compared to those that are born via C section. This means that they are introduced to friendly bacteria in the birth canal.
The oligosaccharides (a form of carbohydrate) in breast milk serves as a nutrient source for Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, two of the most important anaerobic bacteria in your gut. Natural childbirth and breastfeeding is the best case scenario for optimal gut function for the child.
Even if you got a head start via natural birth and breast feeding, life seems to be set up to attack the bacteria in your gut, even at an early age. Antibiotics, inflammation, stress, poor diet, chemical exposure, pesticide use, etc. can all be devastated to your gut bacteria. When they are killed off, they are replaced by aerobic bacteria and disorder and disease can and will persist.
Modern medicine is ill equipped to help with this. Taking care of your gut (and health) is 100% your responsibility. The term for this is biohacking.
Here are 5 easy(ish) steps you can take to support healthy gut microorganisms. Those steps are to 1- clean up your diet, 2- move your body, 3- meditate, 4- take a quality probiotic, 5- Drink Hydrogen rich water.
Step 1: Clean up your diet. It is true that not one diet is a perfect fit for every body. BUT the Standard American Diet is full of sugar, refined grains, and chemicals. Sugar feeds aerobic bacteria and can lead to yeast overgrowth. Refined grains (and non-organic whole grains for that matter) are loaded with glyphosate (Round-Up) that is toxic to friendly anaerobic gut bacteria, and the chemicals that are “safe for human consumption” have far reaching and poorly understood effects. For example, food coloring binds to proteins and changes the chemical structure just enough that the immune system goes berserk. Don’t believe me? Ask the parent of a child with developmental disorders.
So, what should we eat? A whole food, fiber heavy diet of meats, fruits, and vegetables. Fiber and healthy fats are essential to create an environment that is friendly to good gut bacteria. Avoiding refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed food is also paramount.
Need more help? Check out my wife and I’s YouTube page, Kim and Brady’s Mostly Paleo Kitchen.*
Step 2: Exercise! Get out there and move your body! It was sad to me that during the recent pandemic that gyms were closed, and fast food restaurants were not. This is backwards thinking. The inflammatory junk that comes in a bag suppresses your immune system and consistent exercise supports it. In fact, people who exercise regularly have been shown to have healthier gut microorganisms!*
Step 3: Meditation. Find a meditation program that works for you and roll with it! Your brain and your gun are inseparably connected. In the literature, it is often referred to as your gut-brain axis. Your brain consumes about 20% of the energy digested by the gut. So, when the gut gets disrupted, brain function gets disrupted. (I am a firm believer that Alzheimer’s disease starts in the gut) When we are under stress and experience anxiety, the stress hormones disrupt our gut microbes. It is a terribly vicious cycle.
One way to break that cycle is to practice meditation. Meditation helps us to learn how to control our thoughts and manage our stress, thus helping us maintain control of our gut microorganisms.
Step 4: Take a quality probiotic and prebiotic. Probiotics are healthy microorganisms that can be taken as a capsule to reinoculated your gut. There are thousands of varieties and brands. As a general rule of thumb, do not buy them from a grocery store or pharmacy. Most commercial brands lack living microorganisms and are full of other chemicals. The brand I prefer is Master Supplements and the type will depend on the individual patient. A good general probiotic is Theralac, but for my autoimmune patients, I lean toward Trubifido (both from Master Supplements).
A prebiotic is something you can take to actually feed your anaerobic microbes, which is fiber. The one I recommend is TruFiber from Master Supplements. Feeding the friendly anaerobic bacteria allows them to out compete the unfriendly aerobic bacteria.
To shop for these products, follow this link to create an account.
Step 5: drink hydrogen rich water from an Echo H2 system. Research has shown that the friendly anaerobic bacteria thrive at an electrical potential (or oxidation-reduction potential) range of
-300 mV to -400 mV. The electrolyzed water produced by the Echo H2 provides the appropriate electrical potential (-400 mV) to produce a friendly environment for the friendly bacteria to thrive!
To learn more about the Echo H2 Machine, click here.
There you have it. 5 ways to bio-hack your gut and live a healthier, happier life! Below you will find links to a couple of research articles I used to write this article.
Hope you enjoyed,
*Losing weight is also a great way to support your gut. Both steps 1 and 2 are no brainers on how to make this happen.
**I would also add to the list changing all household cleaning products no natural products that do not disrupt gut function.