Written by: Dan Drynan, BHSc, RRT
If you read Part 1: 7 Signs your Gut Bacteria Might Be Out of Whack!, or are unfortunate to be have digestive tract issues, then you will understand the importance of optimizing your gut health. The following 4 steps are quick and easy ways to kick start your gut health:
Step 1. Avoid Toxins
If you wanted to put out a fire, adding gasoline would be worst thing you could do! Unfortunately, that’s exactly what a lot of people with unhealthy guts are doing. They’re continuing to eat and live in a way that kills good bacteria, encourages bad bacteria to grow, and breaks down the integrity of their gut lining. Most of them don’t even realize they’re doing it.
The first step to reversing this trend is to avoid toxic foods. These include:
• Conventional Grain Fed Dairy
• Unhealthy oils
If you’re already following a Paleo lifestyle, you’ve pretty much taken care of this step. Stick to a diet focused on meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and NO SUGAR, and you’ll create a gut environment that’s friendly for good bacteria and unfriendly for bad bacteria.
It’s also a good idea to avoid other modern toxins. Watch out for:
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil and Ibuprofen
• Antibiotics (as much as possible)
Step 2. Eat Fermented Foods
Avoiding toxic foods and environmental toxins is a great start, but not quite enough for optimal health. It’s time to get proactive about encouraging good gut bacteria to flourish. One of the best ways is to eat more fermented foods. These foods, commonplace in our ancestors’ diets, are full of good gut bacteria.
Great fermented foods include:
· Lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables
· Non-pasteurized yogurt, cheese, and kefir
Going from eating no sauerkraut to say… two or three bowls a day might sound like a good idea. But resist the temptation! Adding too many fermented foods too quickly can create some nasty side effects. Start small—a teaspoon or two a day and work your way up to give your gut time to adjust.
Step 3. Take Probiotic Supplements
In addition to eating fermented foods (a great natural source of good gut bacteria), you can restore your gut health faster by taking a daily probiotic supplement. Our ancestors were a lot less concerned with hygiene than we are. This actually helped them pick up plenty of good gut bacteria along with the soil and other dirty things they encountered. No eating dirt needed!
There’s a wide range of probiotic supplements available.
And just like with gut bacteria, some are better than others. Dr. Tim Gerstmar laid down some excellent guidelines on which supplements to focus on:
· Stay away from “bargain bin” prices. You get what you pay for. Two reputable brands are Jarrow and Klaire Labs. Make sure they’re potent. Dr. Gerstmar recommends at least 8 billion/dose. Look for supplements that contain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Our recommended probiotic: VSL 3
Step 4. Manage Your Stress
One of the most powerful things you can do to improve your gut health (besides changing your diet) is to make “stress management” a priority. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all method to do this. The key is to pick something you enjoy and stick with it. Making time to manage your stress — whether you feel stressed or not — will reduce inflammation, lower cortisol levels, and improve your gut health.
And make sure to get enough sleep! A sleep deficit raises cortisol levels (and harms the gut) just like any other type of stress. Shoot for at least 7 hours a night.
Change Your Gut, Change Your Life
More science is emerging every day connecting issues with the gut to issues throughout the body and mind. That’s good news for you! With knowledge and smart action, you can quite literally heal yourself from the inside out. The recipe for a healthy gut is simple. Avoid toxic foods and substances, add in some fermented foods and probiotics, and make managing your stress a priority. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. Changing your gut just might be the first step to changing your life.