Did you know that trillions of microscopic bacteria live in your gut? Sounds kind of creepy right? Don’t worry. Most of these bacteria are friendly and are here to help. Unfortunately, there are other bacteria in your gut that are not so friendly as well.

As with all things, there must be a balance. Because of this, there is an ongoing battle between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in your gut.

In Western society, the bad guys have gained a foothold. Digestive issues are the most common health problem in America. Millions of Americans are needlessly suffering all sorts of ailments and diseases that can be easily avoided. Most of these people don’t even realize it. You are most likely one of them.

If you were born between 1950 and 2015, you were most likely fed a combination of meat, a starch and a vegetable with every dinner. You also grew up with T.V. dinners, fast food and pizza delivery. It’s just the way things were.

Processed food is everywhere. Evidence of its negative effects on our society for the last 65 years is everywhere as well. The Western diet is full of sugar, bleached flour, chemicals, preservatives, additives and harmful fats. All of these things feed the bad bacteria in your gut.

A lot of people have gut issues and don’t even know it. This is because they have always had these issues and don’t know any different. They think it is normal because it’s the way it’s always been.

Fortunately, there has been a recent shifting away from this lifestyle. People are beginning to realize that what they eat directly impacts their overall health. There is truth in the old adage “you are what you eat”.

The gut is where health starts. When you have problems in your gut, your body starts to shut down. Literally everything that ails people is somehow connected to gut health.

80% of the immune system is located in the digestive system. If this system is hindered or failing, it directly affects how all of the body’s other systems react. It’s a domino effect.

It begins with intestinal inflammation. This presents as excessive gas, diarrhea, bloating, acid reflux and constipation. Then leaky gut, nutrient malabsorption, immune response and food intolerances begin.

Gastrointestinal issues will then begin to present as various auto immune diseases. It has been shown that 80% – 90% of people with an auto immune disease also have problems in their digestive system!

Some of the ailments linked to digestive issues include thyroid problems, skin problems, sinus issues, joint pain and even mental disorders! The list goes on with diabetes, Ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and even Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis. This is serious stuff!

Carbohydrates present a major challenge to the guts’ digestive juices. The body produces different enzymes to breakdown each food type. Food types are categorized as protein, fiber and carbohydrate.

It is easier on the system if they are not mixed. Especially carbs with proteins. Digestive juices can breakdown protein and fiber together fairly well. If you put all three types together, it makes the digestive system work overtime. This can cause problems.

If your system is particularly compromised, there is still hope. The good news is that these problems can be minimized and even reversed by rebuilding the intestinal microbiome. Your body was designed to heal itself. The right food will support this healing process.

Bone broth fasting for three days will reboot your system. The collagen in the broth will soothe and heal the intestinal lining.

Fermented foods and beverages are significant for repopulating the gut with good bacteria. Our ancestors consumed fermented foods all the time. They did not have refrigeration or chemical preservatives. Many foods used to be fermented but are now sterilized. Some of these items are kombucha, vinegar, sauerkraut, ketchup and sourdough bread. Fermented foods and beverages are easy to make yourself and are worth the effort!

Getting Started on the Path to Better Health

First things first. You must change the way you think about food. How often do you eat out? Do you prepare meals at home? Or do you get the majority of your meals from the drive-thru? When you buy groceries, how much of what you buy comes from the produce section? How much comes in a box?

If you get your meals from a drive-thru more than once a month, stop. Even once per month is too much. The so-called “food” at fast food restaurants will do nothing but increase your problems.

Occasionally eating out at a sit-down restaurant is fine as long as what you eat is not fried or full of bad fats, sodium and sugar. Preparing meals at home is really the best way to take a proactive approach to improving your gut health.

This is where some people will argue that “healthy food is too expensive” or that they “don’t have the time to cook”. These ideas are both false. Eating healthy foods, prepared at home is less expensive than going out.

If you prioritize your time, you’ll find that there is plenty of time to prepare healthy meals at home. The harsh reality is that if you don’t pay for it now, you will pay for it later.

There are tons of healthy and quick recipes out there. Most of the foods you should eat from now on are raw or minimally cooked. Once you start down this path, you will immediately begin to feel better.

How to Know if You Have Food Intolerances

  • Lower abdominal bloating
  • Loose stool or diarrhea
  • Excessive belching after meals
  • Headaches within one hour of eating meals
  • Excessive appetite
  • Poor appetite or feeling worse after you eat
  • Craving certain foods
  • Abdominal pain and cramps

If you experience 2 or more of these symptoms after eating, you likely have some kind of intolerance to the foods you are consuming. This is what your body is telling you. Listen to your body. The best way to narrow down what is causing these symptoms is to try the elimination diet.

The best place to start with an elimination diet is to remove the most common problem causing foods. These include gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, conventional pork, beef and chicken, beans/lentils, caffeine, citrus fruits, nuts, and nightshade vegetables.

After 6 weeks of not consuming these foods and being symptom free, begin to reintroduce them into your diet one at a time. When symptoms start again, you will have your culprit.

It is important to avoid food and drug items that inhibit a response in your nervous system. Such items include gluten, dairy, GMO foods (Genetically Modified Organisms), dyes, sugar, preservatives, flavor enhancers (like MSG), salicylates, amines, sulfites (found in wine), NSAIDS (such as Aleve), aspirin and Ibuprofen. All of these things will wreak havoc on your system over time.

70% – 75% of all people have an intolerance to wheat gluten and dairy. Almost every processed food item has wheat and/or dairy in its ingredients.

Most people’s bodies don’t produce the enzyme required to breakdown lactose. This causes inflammation in the gut.  Today’s wheat is a genetically modified, high yield, pest resistant, dwarf hybrid. It is a mere shadow of the wheat our ancestors ate.

Essential oils are a great addition to your daily routine! They have been used for thousands of years for a myriad of things. They aid in digestion, stress relief and the healing process. The best essential oils for gut health are peppermint oil and ginger oil. Both of these oils soothe and relax the intestines.

Other essential oils that are helpful to the gut are fennel, coriander, cumin, lemon, frankincense and turmeric.

Be sure to use high quality oils from a trusted source. Some oils cannot be taken internally, so do your homework before using them.

Quick Tips to Get Your Gut Working

  • Start your day with warm lemon water

Lemon water is acidic. Starting your day with warm lemon water gives your stomach acids a jump start. Mix the juice from half of a fresh squeezed lemon with 8 ounces of warm water and drink 20 minutes before breakfast.

  • Breathing exercises

Deep, controlled, intentional breathing puts more oxygen into the body’s cells. This helps them to work more efficiently.

  • Avoid gluten

Today’s wheat is not what it used to be. Most people are gluten intolerant nowadays. It is best to avoid it altogether in order to prevent an immune response.

  • Avoid processed foods

Processed foods are devoid of nutrition and full of toxins and empty calories. You would be better off not eating at all.

  • Avoid stress

I know. This one is nearly impossible these days, but stress is directly linked to digestive issues. Take time for yourself. Even if it’s only 10 minutes per day. This is imperative to maintaining good emotional health.

Good ways to de-stress are to read, meditate, stretch or garden. Even just sitting quietly for a few minutes in a space you enjoy will help lower stress.

  • Incorporate probiotics into your daily routine

Probiotics are the good bacteria. Consuming probiotics repopulates the gut and keeps it in balance. Fermented foods are the best source of probiotics. Probiotics can be found in supplement form as well.

  • Eat pre-biotics

By consuming pre-biotics, you are feeding the good bacteria in the gut and keeping them healthy so they can return the favor. Pre-biotics include onions, garlic, radish, asparagus, legumes and nuts.

  • Chew more

Chewing more creates more surface area for bacteria to break down food. This also better coats the food with saliva. Saliva has enzymes in it that assist in the breakdown of food.

  • Incorporate broth into your daily routine

Chicken broth and bone broth is chocked full of amazing stuff such as collagen and B vitamins.

  • Incorporate herbs into your diet

Many herbs aid in digestion. Peppermint and ginger are the best. Both can be added to dishes raw and made into teas. Enjoy a cup after a meal!

  • Incorporate essential oils into your daily routine

Essential oils have many benefits. They can be inhaled, applied topically or taken internally. They stimulate, soothe and assist in maintaining balance of the digestive system.

  • Know your fecal transit time

Feces should not stay inside the body for more than 30 hours or less than 12 hours. More than 30 hours will start to make you sick due to putrification. Less than 12 hours indicates that your body is not properly absorbing nutrients from food. You should have 1-3 bowel movements per day.

  • Exercise!

This is a given. Exercise is mandatory. Our bodies were designed to move! If you stop moving, you will ultimately stop moving… Take a walk after each meal to get your gut moving.

  • Drink more water!

The human body is 60% water! It is the lubrication of life. Without water, your gut will seize up and all of the body’s functions will cease to work properly.

Helpful Things to Consume to KEEP Your Gut Working

Once you have found balance and everything if functioning properly, it is important to maintain it. There are some helpful items to assist you in retaining your gut health.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

The enzymes in apple cider vinegar help to promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. It is also helpful in relieving gas and bloating as well as heartburn. Mix one tablespoon with a cup of water. Drink daily.

  • Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is nutrient dense and increases collagen production. It is a mild laxative and helps to prevent ulcers. Use the raw form or find a good long-chain supplement form.

  • L-glutamine

L-glutamine boosts immune cell activity in the gut. This helps to prevent infections and inflammation. It can be found in powder form at any health food store. Add 1 teaspoon to a protein shake or smoothie.

  • Digestive Enzymes

These can be found in supplement form. They help the digestive tract break down food that may be difficult to digest.

In Conclusion

Optimum health is the ultimate goal. We should eat to live, not live to eat. Decrease the quantity of what you eat. Increase the quality. Don’t eat garbage. Rebuilding your gut health will decrease aches and pains, increase energy, vitality and make all of the body’s other systems work correctly. It’s time we get back to our roots. It’s time we retake control of our health.

Best of Health,
Daniel Lonquist, DC, CCST, CCWP, CFMP

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