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When you think about an unhealthy gut you probably don’t think much about how it affects almost every other aspect of your well being.
Over the last few years there has been loads of new research showing how the gut can be the root cause of major ailments and diseases.
The complexity of the gut microbiome is still being researched and unless you have digestive issues or chronic bloating you probably assume that your gut health is doing just fine and you don‘t have much to worry about.
However some gut issues could manifest as issues seemingly unrelated to the digestive system such as, joint pain, brain fog and even bad breath.
On top of the many different ways the health of our gut can affect our overall health, it can also lead to food sensitivities and poor immunity.
But how does the gut, something we have primarily associated with digestion, cause so many other health issues.
Let’s look a little deeper into what makes a healthy gut.
The Layers Of Protection
The Gut Microbiome
The gut makes up your entire gastrointestinal tract. That’s everything from your mouth to your anus. The system in your body commonly known for digestion.
The guts over all health relies on a few layers of protection that consists of a couple different factors. One is the microbiome.
The microbiome is a collection of the genetic material of trillions of microorganisms that live in your gut. Those microorganisms include – bacteria, fungi and viruses.
Some of these microorganisms are helpful and others are harmful, even pathogenic.
The goal is to have a healthy balance of both as they are symbotic. They live off of us and each other, and we benefit from them too. They provide us with assistance in digestion by digesting what we can’t and even help fight off infection.
When our microbiome is out of balance, it will begin to cause poor gut health. The imbalance of microorganisms is called dysbiosis
In a milder situation, when you experience an upset stomach, it can very likely be due to dysbiosis. However, it’s usually temporary and settles on its own.
A more serious form of dysbiosis is when the microorganisms are imbalanced for a much longer time.
Usually caused by diet, chronic stress, prescription medication or some kind of virus.
The Mucosal Lining
Along with the balance of our microbiome, it’s important to have a healthy gut barrier.
Also called the mucosal lining, a single layer of cells that form a barrier between the bloodstream and intestinal wall.
This barrier ensures that toxins and food particles stay in, while also having the ability to allow water and nutrients out.
It’s essentially selectively permeable.
When we don’t have a healthy microbiome our mucosal lining is compromised, which affects its ability to protect and nourish us.
Ensuring a healthy gut will keep this barrier entact, allowing the protection from harmful microorganisms and toxins that could make their way into our bloodstream.
This compromise in our gut barrier is called leaky gut.
What’s a leaky gut? It sounds a bit silly, but it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s when our mucosal lining fails to protect us from all the things it works hard to keep out of our bloodstream. This happens when the gut becomes inflamed or overactive with harmful yeast or bacteria.
Understanding the role of the microbiome and mucosal lining help give some perspective on how much work our bodies do to keep up healthy.
Without much thought we have a whole team of organisms and cells working in harmony to keep harmful substances away from entering our bloodstream which can cause an onslaught of symptoms and illnesses.
Dysbiosis and leaky gut go hand in hand so it’s important to avoid an inviting environment to ensure a healthy gut function.
However living a standard American lifestyle; consuming processed foods, taking unnecessary prescription medication and working long stressful hours, we are bound to come across gut issues at some point or another.
So it’s important to be aware and notice how our bodies are telling us there’s a problem.
Here are a few signs you could potentially have an unhealthy gut environment.
Signs Of An Unhealthy Gut
- Upset stomach
- Unintentional Weight Loss or Gain
- Joint Pain
- Bad Breath
- Mental Health Issues
- Poor Sleep Quality
- Autoimmune Conditions
- Brain Fog
- Rectal or Vaginal Itching
- Food Intolerances
- Skin Irritations
As you can see there are so many symptoms that point to an unhealthy gut. Some overlap with many other illnesses so it can be quite difficult to know for sure if these symptoms are in fact pointing to poor gut health.
Below are 7 main causes of poor gut health.
If you happen to be doing any of the below and have even a few of the symptoms listed above, you could more than likely have hidden gut issues
7 Main Causes Of Poor Gut Health
#1 Eating An Poor Diet
It’s no mystery that what we put into our bodies affects our overall health.
However, even with knowing this most people don’t make the changes in their eating habits needed to support that.
Whether that’s because they can’t break the habit or sadly don’t have the finances to support making the healthy lifestyle changes.
Healthy eating can be a huge challenge for most.
When speaking of gut health the main harmful foods are wheat, sugar and processed foods. All foods we can’t seem to escape.
When you go to a local supermarket most of the store is made up of processed foods.
Sugar and wheat make their way into almost every boxed, jarred or canned item in the store. When you look at the ingredients in most foods, you will see just how much.
The only way to be fully in control of your diet is to avoid buying processed foods and cook your own meals.
Luckily the importance of good quality, whole foods have grown in demand and it’s a bit easier to find packaged products with little additives, zero sugar, and healthy ingredients.
On top of a poor diet, lack of fermented foods in the daily diet also inhibits the level of good bacteria in the microbiome.
So eating foods like, kimchi, yogurt and sauerkraut contain high amounts of probiotics which help balance the microbiome.
#2 Taking Antibiotics
Known as probably the most over prescribed medication, antibiotics are absolutely terrible for gut health. While amazing for serious infections, they clear the gut of any overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria or fungi. And in doing so, they clear away all the good, helpful bacteria as well.
When possible it’s best to avoid taking antibiotics, or even better, use preventive measures with natural medicine and healthy eating to assist the body to heal itself.
It can take over 6 months for some to rebuild the gut microbiome after taking a round of antibiotics. That’s 6 months of possibly dealing with the symptoms of dysbiosis, and potentially risking the onset of leaky gut.
#4 Alcohol & Smoking Cigarettes
We’re already aware of the harmful effects long term cigarette and alcohol intake has on the liver & lungs. However it’s less known how smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the gut, while also damaging the good bacteria.
The dysbiosis can lead to inflammation, and then leaky gut.
Alcohol also damages the mucosal lining, weakens your stomach acids, and even prevents nutrients from being absorbed in your small intestine.
Oddly enough a 2019 study shows that red wine, in moderation, has positive effects on the gut microbiome. Researchers found that people who drank red wine had healthier levels of bacteria in their gut than those who drank other forms of alcohol.
Either way, if you think you might have an unhealthy gut, it’s best to avoid all alcohol until you rebuild and rebalance.
As far as cigarette smoke, there have been studies showing that the microbiome has profound effects on the lung via the gut-lung axis.
So If the environment of our gut affects our lungs via this access, it’s safe to say the environment of our lungs affects our guts.
Along with that cigarette smoke has a direct impact to our oral microbiome which we will get more into down below.
#5 Lack Of Exercise
I bet you didn’t plan to see this on the list. But yes, exercise benefits gut health!
This 2008 study explains how exercise alters the microbiome by promoting the growth of butyrate.
A short chain fatty acid that fuels the gut lining, reduces inflammation, reverses leaky gut and even protects the brain.
Along with aiding in butyrate production, exercise is known to decrease inflammation, which gives the gut a more relaxed and regulated environment to be in. With inflammation levels down it lessens the possibility of leaky gut.
#6 Chronic Stress
Stress might seem like it’s mostly a concern for your mental health, however it’s known to affect various areas in the body with the gut being a major one.
Chronic stress not only leads to inflammation which we are already aware of the dangers of. Being under prolonged stress causes the body to go into fight or flight mode, which causes disruption in the gut-brain axis that could trigger pain, bloating and discomfort in the gut but more importantly it restricts blood flow to the digestive system.
This restriction creates an unlivable environment starving the trillions of microorganisms that we need to keep alive to avoid an unhealthy gut.
#7 Poor Oral Health
While this one might seem a bit far fetched at first, when you take a moment to think of it, it eventually makes way too much sense.
As I mentioned above, the digestive tract begins at the mouth, and as a part of the digestive system, the mouth has its own crew of microorganisms, called the oral microbiome.
So it’s pretty clear that if the beginning of your digestive tract is unbalanced with bad bacteria thriving, it will eventually make its way down to your gut,
Believe it or not, it’s as simple as traveling via saliva.
And while our stomach acids help destroy some of that bacteria, there are some that are resilient, staying alive and thriving, causing dysbiosis.
What Can You Do To Heal An Unhealthy Gut
Now that you are aware of 7 common factors causing an unhealthy gut, you might have a better idea whether or not you could potentially be dealing with some form of poor gut health.
Chances are if you’ve read this far, you are certain something is up and are ready to take action.
Along with avoiding the above 7 major causes of poor gut health, you can start with applying these 7 supplements.
7 Supplements To Beat Poor Gut Health:
As we already covered, probiotics provide a healthy balance of gut bacteria. They promote a healthy gut and can help get things back on track if you recently have taken an antibiotic or even ingested high amounts of sugar or alcohol.
Probiotics are also great for maintenance, ensuring overall health.
This probiotic by Organic Olivia, is highly rated and made by a fellow herbalist. Though a bit on the pricey side, It’s well worth it.
Olivia puts her all in her products and is such a caring human. I love that I can support a small business while also knowing I’m getting that good stuff.
Before finding Organic Olivia, I used this probiotic.
*Probiotics are not a one size fits all, actually no supplements is. What works for me might not work for you. So ultimately you should speak to your doctor to make sure it’s okay to add a new supplement to your daily regimen.
#2 Grass Fed Collagen
That’s right, collagen. Sorry vegans 🙁
Mostly known for its hair, skin and nail benefits, collagen is actually an amazing protein that consist of amino acids that work to combat inflammation, aiding in a healthy gut barrier and promoting a healthy digestion.
I used this collagen below to heal my gut two years ago and I loved it so much I continued to use it in smoothies and even my morning cup of coffee.
There are so many great brands out there, you just want to be sure it’s grass fed.
Take a look at my suggestion, but also look around for what resonates with you.
#3 Marshmallow Root
Not to be confused with the fluffy sugary treat in s’mores or hot cocoa, Marshmallow Root is a plant native to Africa that has been used as an herbal treatment for centuries.
Today it’s used for many ailments and one being healing the gut by soothing an inflamed mucous membrane with its thick protective coating.
It can also heal leaky gut, aid with bloating, and other digestive issues.
You can find marshmallow root in many forms, but my favorite way to ingest is in a tea form. I love the mild sweet taste and also use it for sore throats and coughs as its also know to soothe the throat.
Getting bulk herbs at a local health food store is best. However this company above is well known and trusted, and I buy other herbal capsules from them. So check them out, read the reviews and decide for youself!
#4 Pau D’arco
Derived from the inner bark of the Tabebuia tree, Pau D’arco has many benefits from fighting infection to reducing inflammation.
One of its more popular benefits is its ability to treat antibiotic resistant fungal infections like candida.
Candida is a form dysbiosis, an overgrowth of fungi, that causes many issues in the gut and can even spread to other areas of the body.
Pau D’arco also heals ulcers and assist the body in detoxification by having mild laxative effects aiding in regular digestion.
As with most herbs I love to ingest Pau D’arco as a tea.
It’s best to take Pau A’arco for six weeks then taking a break for four week before starting again.
#5 L- Glutamine
An amino acid mostly found in protein rich foods, L-Glutamine fuels white blood cells helping build and repair the gut lining.
And while like most supplements you can just get them from food, you actually want to ensure a boost in this amino acid when you are in the healing stages of any ailment to speed up the healing process.
Which is why a good supplement is recommended, to ensure you’re getting a high amount at once.
L-Glutamine mends the broken junctions in the gut barrier limiting the amounts of toxins into your bloodstream.
#6 Vitamin D
Vitamin D! The super vitamin of 2020!
This year a lot of us learned of the importance of having Vitamin D daily. Whether from the sun or via supplement, Vitamin D has amazing benefits for your immune system.
But in regards to gut health Vitamin D is actually supports the entrance of the digestive tract, the mouth.
We spoke about how the health of our oral microbiome plays a huge role in our gut health so along with brushing twice a day and flossing, we can consume Vitamin D to simulate the production of antimicrobial peptides in the oral cavity.
Vitamin D is also known to restore good bacteria in the gut and enhances the intercellular junctions that control the mucosal permeability.
#7 Cod Liver Oil
Another supplement used for centuries to enhance immunity, cod liver oil is high in Vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory.
Omega-3 can change the gut microbiome positively by specifically increasing the bacteria that contain the anti-inflammatory properties.
Below is the cod liver oil I’ve taken for years and swear by.
An unhealthy gut can be the underlying issue to a lot of common symptoms and diseases. So it’s important to maintain a healthy balanced gut by avoiding that which harms our microbiome and take supplements that help speed up recovery and bring down inflammation.
Do you think you have an unhealthy gut? What symptoms do you have and what action will you take to heal your gut?