Your Gut Bacteria - All About Balance
Balancing your gut bacteria.
In my last post I covered how do you determine if there is something wrong or out of balance with your gut bacteria. I covered several issues and their related symptoms. If any of the symptoms and warning signs resonated with you, there are some action steps you can take to begin to rebalance your gut bacteria and improve the health of your digestive tract. These steps will prevent new medical conditions from arising and often reverse conditions that have burdened you for long periods of time.
1. Avoid Toxins
Adding gasoline to a fire will only fuel the flames further. Unfortunately, this analogy is true for many of you who are trying to deal with a compromised digestive tract. The way you are continuing to eat and live in continuing to kill and limit the growth of your good gut bacteria whilst encouraging the bad bacteria to thrive. These diet and lifestyle choices further break down the integrity of the gut lining. The tough part is that you are largely unaware of the deleterious effects of these choices.
The first step to reversing this trend is to avoid toxic foods. These include grains, sugars, dairy, ‘vegetable oils’ and processed food products. If you already follow a whole foods based lifestyle, this step is probably taken care of. Focus food choices around vegetables (those that grow both above and below ground), animal protein, naturally occurring fats and a few fruits. This is how you create a gut environment that proves friendly for the growth and diversity of good gut bacteria, yet at the same time is not an encouraging space for bad bacteria. If you already follow a whole foods based lifestyle, this step is probably taken care of. If not, you can review this in more detail in my book – ‘Ten Step Guide to Ultimate Wellness’.
Avoiding other modern toxins and chemicals is a further way to ensure you are stimulating the good bacterial colonies in the gut. These include
· Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil and Ibuprofen.
· Antibiotics (wherever possible, especially in the choices of animal protein which may have been inoculated with large doses).
· Pesticides, best avoided through the purchase of organic fresh produce.
· Cosmetics which often prove to be a dumping ground for many chemicals and additives.
· Household cleaners and detergents which often contain harsh, toxic substances that we absorb through the lungs or the skin.
· Food additives.
2. Eat Fermented Foods
The best, and strongest start to optimal health is avoiding, as much as possible, the many toxins present in our food supply and environment. It is imperative to follow this up with being more proactive when it comes to encouraging good gut bacteria to flourish. Eating naturally fermented foods is one of the best, easiest and quickest ways to accomplish this. These foods, commonplace most ancestral diets, contain very large amounts of live, good gut bacteria. If you have never eaten these foods before, they may take some getting used to, an acquired taste so to speak, but the results will be evident. Naturally fermented foods include:
· Raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut
· Lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables
· Kefir (all types)
· Kombucha (unsweetened)
There is a temptation to go from consuming no fermented foods to incorporating large amounts into the diet suddenly. Resist the temptation! Adding too many fermented foods too fast can create some unwanted and unpleasant side effects. Begin with a teaspoon or two a day and slowly work your way up to your desired portion to give your digestive tract the time to adjust.
3. Take Probiotic Supplements
The great natural source of good gut bacteria found in naturally fermented foods can be further complimented with the addition of a pro-biotic supplement. Digestive health can be restored faster with daily pro-biotic consumption.
In the past, there was less concern with personal hygiene. This actually supported your ancestors in picking up many good gut bacteria along with the soil, animals, plants and other things they encountered. Using a pro-biotic supplement helps the body to ‘make up’ for this loss of environmental good bacteria. No need to make dirt pancakes!
As with all supplements, there is a wide range available, and, as with your gut bacteria, some are better and more effective than others. Some solid guidelines regarding which to focus on and which to stay away from include:
· Products that contain strains of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
· A minimum of 8 billion/dose.
· Stick with reputable brands and avoid ‘bargain bin’ pricing. Quality is definitely reflected in price when choosing a pro-biotic supplement.
4. Manage Your Stress
Prioritizing your stress management is one of the most powerful tools you can implement to both restore and retain good digestive tract health. There is no one-size-fits-all method to accomplish this. Pick an option that resonates with you and that you enjoy. Commit to stick with it. Whether you are feeling the results of excessive stress or not, making time to manage your stress will reduce inflammation, lower cortisol levels, and improve your gut health. Some techniques include:
· A daily meditation practice
· Journaling and gratitude diaries
· Yoga (both yin and yang practices)
· Getting out doors and gentle exercise
· Connecting with friends and family
· Disconnecting from media
Getting sufficient sleep is pivotal in attaining and maintaining overall health, systemic stress reduction and the flourishing of your good gut bacteria. A sleep deficit raises cortisol levels (and harms the gut) similar to, and often worse than, other forms of stress. Aim for between 7 and 9 hours a night.
I have really come to understand that you can change your gut, and in turn change your life! More research is being conducted and more science is emerging daily connecting issues with the digestive tracts to issues throughout the body and mind. This is great news for you! Knowledge and well-informed actions will allow you to 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. This is not an overnight success story, but positive results will become evident and change will happen. Changing your gut just might be the first step to changing your life.
If you have been struggling for some time, contact me, I can provide some ideas and strategies to get you on your path to wellness, guiding you through implementing these and other changes to optimize your gut health.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to your feedback.