When chatting with people and sharing my story, I often hear this question: Where do I start with healing my gut?
Chances are it needs healing because if you are a normal American living a typical American lifestyle– you have damaged it.
You’ve been over-sanitized, over-stressed, over-stuffed with inflammatory foods, and over-prescribed with antibiotics and pharmaceuticals covering up the issue and not resolving the root of the problem.
And you may have the symptoms to prove it:
- Food Allergies
- AutoImmune diseases
- Thyroid Issues
- and more…
I truly believe that gut health is foundational for all health. And gut issues are the root of most health issues.
The road to healing our gut can be long, depending on how much and how long the damage has gone for. But no matter the circumstances, the same three or four first steps are essential. The rest will depend…
The first piece of advice I give all my friends and acquaintances who ask me is this….
Stop Eating Wheat and Dairy!
This is the simplest, least complicated change you can make in your diet. Once you have that down, then you can up the ante and go on a Paleo-type diet which is best for healing the gut. You get rid of legumes, sugars and starches as well for a good 30-60 days at least and significantly increase your leafy green intake. Ideally you want to make this an 80/20 lifestyle for yourself if you don’t want to regress.
Until then know this-wheat and dairy are the most common inflammatory foods and often times the main staple foods of most Americans. I could write an entire paper on wheat alone. But I’ll share the gyst for wheat and dairy right here.
- If you have gut issues, gluten will most likely exasperate it.
- The US mandated that wheat products be enriched back in 1998. Enrichments include synthetic vitamins like folic acid in it, which a large population of people cannot breakdown.
- Dairy is something most people’s bodies have a hard time breaking down. We were not meant to eat a lot of dairy in the first place.
- When we have gut issues, we can become extremely sensitive to the dairy protein A1 and for some even A2, as well as the inflammatory effects on our gut.
Trust me, I know that when you hear this, you might want to cry, but there are tons of great recipes and alternatives to both and while it can be a difficult transition if you love these foods, you will feel better and it will get easier! Eventually you can work them back in small amounts on occasion without consequences. Here is a great book with lots of recipes to make your life easier if coming up with meal ideas without wheat or dairy is a challenge for you.
Increase Your Stomach Acid and Digestive Enzymes
If you have symptoms of gut issues, chances are you have low stomach acid and low digestive enzymes.
Low stomach acid is by far one of the most common triggers for other gut issues that happen further down the line due to it’s effects. Stomach acid sanitizes your food, breaks down your proteins, breaks down your vitamins and minerals so you can absorb them, triggers your gall bladder to kick in and digest your fats, and triggers your gut to get into digestion mode. If your body is not doing those things, you can wreak havoc in your gut and in your health.
You can learn more about how low stomach acid leads to other gut issues here as well as how to test your self to see if you have low stomach acid. Then if you have the symptoms and took the test to discover you are low in the stomach acid, start supplementing with Betaine HCL with pepsin with your high protein meals, but start at the lowest dosage and work your way up to your optimal level. I go over this process in more detail in that same article above.
Also begin taking a good digestive enzyme. Enzymes that help us digest our food occur naturally in raw veggies we eat. Unfortunately with our modern diet, these get cooked out or are absent, making our stomachs depleted of the digestive enzymes needed to break down the various carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and sugars in our food. So if you are not eating raw veggies at the beginning of every meal….take some enzymes. I take a full spectrum one because my gut issues are enough that I need help digesting everything.
With HCL and digestive enzymes, you will notice an improvement in your digestion right away. And may even notice an improvement in your other symptoms long term, like anxiety or depression.
Do a Cleanse on Your Gut
Prepping your gut for what is next can be helpful to get it moving in the right direction. A cleanse will get rid of anything your sluggish gut is holding on to, and trigger your liver and kidneys to start releasing toxins. When your body holds on to toxins, its hard to heal. Make sure you are not already sick when you do this as your body needs to be ready to get rid of the toxins. A cleanse will also help your body get ready to shed fat if your gut issues have lead to weight gain that won’t go away.
I like to regularly cleanse to keep my body healthy all year long. I use a great 3-Day Gentle Cleanse you can do every month if you want. Do this after about 10-14 days after you have gone wheat and dairy free.
Rebuild Your Microbiome with ProBiotics
A healthy microbiome is essential for a healthy gut. But sadly, this microbiome for most Americans have been starved and killed by modern American practices. C-section births, antibiotics, over-santization, and low stomach acid from stress and nutrient deficiencies have lead to a plethora of people with a scarcity of good-bacteria in their gut.
You want a variety of different species in your gut and you want a lot of them. That variety and amount helps you store nutrients, use sugar, regulate your appetite, and control your weight as well as reduce inflammation, make serotonin and melatonin, and keep your gut communicating properly with your brain.
If you have a lot of food and seasonal allergies, you will want to start with low-histamine variety which are high in bifidos. This is the one I give my husband. It has a variety. I would take 1-3 of these everyday with food.
If you don’t have an abundance of allergies, you can handle the larger variety and that’s a good thing. They are good for you as long as your body hasn’t build antibodies to histamines like so many have. I alternate between these Seeking Health’s Probiota 12 and Dr. Mercolas’s Complete Probiotics to make sure I get a good spectrum of probiotc in my gut. I also have them autoship every 90 days so I don’t miss and stay on track.
And by the way, you should stay on probiotics if you have gut issues. Just one bottle of antibiotics takes a year for your gut to recover from with probiotics. So count every bottle of antibiotics you’ve taken over the course of your life, consider all the other issues, and recognize this is essential.
The only people who should not follow this step are those with SIBO. Check out this article for symptoms of SIBO. If you have symptoms, you may want to take this test first to confirm. If you test positive, then kill the over-growth of bacteria in your small intestine before you start adding more bacteria in your body. You need your bacteria in your large intestine, not your small intestine. Until SIBO is killed, the probiotics will only make it worse.
Next Steps…(Not in any particular order)
- See a naturopath and get some stool, urine, and blood tests to see the details of what is going on with you (This is worth every penny!)
- Go all the way with Paleo with lots of veggies and prebiotic food
- Possibly go on a FODMAP or LECTIN Free diet/lifestyle if your gut is still having issues or you have an autoimmune disease (Plant Paradox is a great Resource) .
- Drink lots of filtered water
- Drink Bone broth daily
- Take Fish Oils and L-Glutamine
- Replenish Your minerals
- Get Your Vitamin B’s in and Folate
- Read Dirty Genes
- Read Plant Paradox or if you don’t care about all the science behind it and just want to do it and get results check out his Quick and Easy version here and the cookbook with 100 recipes!
- Get Genetic Testing
I’ll write more on these next steps needed to replenish your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive, and eradicating the triggers that complicate and prevent your body from doing its job.
If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, there’s even more I will share. But regardless of what you are struggling with–these 4 steps are what I’d tell anyone with gut issues to start with.
Summary of What to Get to Complete Your First 4 Steps:
You can also get a great starter pack for your gut health here.