Updated: Jan 2
“All disease begins in the gut”~Hippocrates
The health of your gut and digestive system is one of the most important factors in the overall health and function of all of your body’s systems. If your gut isn’t working optimally, it is very likely that you aren’t feeling so great. This is because the gut is ground zero of health disorders which may start in the form of leaky gut and progress to food intolerances, inflammation and eventually autoimmune disease. Good health is reliant on a healthy and diverse gut microbiome.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
The gut microbiome is a diverse collection of many different species of bacteria, viruses, fungus and protozoa that live in our intestinal tract. It is involved with making micronutrients, synthesizing hormones, detoxification and immune function.
Your gut microbiome is established by the time you are about 2 years old!
A healthy gut microbiome has many roles to keep you safe from disease. If disrupted, your immunity and hormonal metabolism are lowered. When this happens your energy tanks and you will feel it in the form of exhaustion and fatigue throughout your body.
This is because of the many functions that a healthy gut microbiome performs:
It helps digest food, breaking it down into its nutrient components and allowing them to absorb.
It produces nutrients like B-vitamins, Vitamin K, neurotransmitters and antioxidants.
It synthesizes hormones.
It helps with detoxification by the breaking down and excretion of food.
It regulates the immune system--80% of the immune system begins in the gut.
It helps to protect against pathogens.
It maintains the gut lining to prevent bacterial pathogens from entering the bloodstream, leaky gut and inflammation.
It is related to the optimal functioning of our whole biological system.
The Cause and
Effect of Leaky Gut
Leaky gut, or gut permeability, occurs when the tight junctions in the mucosal lining of the gut, that are supposed to be impermeable, start allowing proteins into the bloodstream. It begins when this lining becomes damaged by toxins, chemicals, and medications. This allows particles like gluten, microbes and food particles to enter the bloodstream through the damaged lining, which is no longer providing protection and causing inflammation throughout the body.
When the gut lining becomes permeable, it can also lead to nutrient deficiencies and can further progress into food intolerance. Eventually it can lead to immune system issues and possibly autoimmune disease.
So, as you can see this process can take quite some time and may even be occurring before you notice. It’s usually not until the signs and symptoms are screaming loud and clear, that they will get your attention that something is wrong.
This is why it is so important to pay attention to our bodies and recognize when something doesn’t seem right. Addressing a possible issue early can be helpful in stopping the cascade of events that could follow if ignored. An ounce of prevention goes a long way.
The biggest causes of leaky gut are:
Processed food diet
Toxins in food and environment
Drugs and medications
Leaky gut affects the whole body! It can have a role in a wide range of issues:
The skin--acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis or hives
The thyroid--Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease
The colon--irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohns, or ulcerative colitis
The adrenals--fatigue or kidney problems
The joints--Rheumatoid arthritis
The sinuses and mouth
The brain--anxiety, depression, ADHD
How does your gut health affect your energy?
Gut health affects your energy in a multitude of ways. When your gut health and digestion are working optimally then your body is receiving the nutrients it needs to perform all of its functions. If you aren’t digesting nutrients properly because of leaky gut, then the nutrients aren’t properly being broken down to be sent off to do their jobs of providing your body with energy. If your digestion is sluggish that usually results in you feeling sluggish.
Mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of the cells and the energy producers of the body are very important environmental sensors. How much energy you have during the day is completely dependent on how much energy your mitochondria can produce in all of the various cells. Fatigue occurs when the mitochondria are not functioning properly. There is a direct link between gut dysfunction and mitochondrial dysfunction.
The gut microbiome has the ability to manage the health and function of the mitochondria. In turn, when the mitochondria sense the need to protect the body and the immune system against leaky gut they switch out of energy production mode and into immune system protection mode. The more they are in protection mode, the more they shut down their capacity to produce energy. When this happens because of leaky gut and invasions to the immune system it leads to low energy and fatigue.
Start Optimizing Your Digestion and Gut Health Today
What we eat has the most impact on changing the composition of the gut microbiome. In order to have a healthy microbiome you must focus on dietary diversity. Dietary changes can start to change the microbiome in as little as 3 days.
In order to heal a leaky gut you first want to identify and remove inflammatory triggers. Common triggers are genetically modified foods (GMOs), antibiotics, gluten, processed sugar, conventional dairy, food allergies and stress.
Once you remove the inflammatory triggers, you want to start nourishing the gut lining by regularly including the following in your diet:
Goat’s milk kefir
Aloe vera juice
Fermented vegetables, sauerkraut and kimchi
Omega 3’s---green leafy veggies, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, salmon
Polyphenols--grapes, berries, apples, pears
Zinc--pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, cashews, chickpeas, lentils
Prebiotic foods (feed the good bacteria)--garlic, onions, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke
Fiber-rich foods--avocados, peas, brussels sprouts, black beans, lima beans, quinoa
The goal is to eat a diverse diet of real, whole foods while eliminating processed foods and chemicals. Make sure to purchase organic produce to avoid the toxins used in growing non-organic food.
Reducing your toxic burden has a huge impact on your health. This means in addition to avoiding processed, non-organic foods, you want to stay away from toxic household cleaners, electromagnetic frequencies from electronics, environmental toxins in the air and water as well as the toxins in body products and makeup. To determine the safety of the products that you use, check out The Environmental Working Group (EWG) website. There, you will find all sorts of guides to clean living and a database of non-toxic products.
It may be helpful to look into supplementation in addition to the dietary changes that you are making to heal your gut. Any time you are taking a supplement you want to do your research, follow all instructions on the packaging, check for contraindications with other medications and check with your doctor before starting supplementation. Just because something is natural or herbal does not mean that it is healthy for your particular situation, so always use due diligence to determine what is best for you. Guessing or going off what a friend recommended can be like throwing money away if you don’t need it or worse, can actually be doing you harm.
Probiotics--you may consider taking a probiotic supplement to increase the diversity of healthy gut bacteria. If you do so, look for a shelf-stable (meaning it doesn’t need to be refrigerated), soil-based probiotic from a reliable source. This means the bacteria is encased in a spore which will protect it from being destroyed by stomach acid as it is making its way to the destination in your digestive tract.
Digestive enzymes--help break down your food and give your gut a break.
L-glutamine--anti-inflammatory and can help heal and repair the intestinal lining.
On Your Way to a Healthy Gut
Always keep in mind that for your healthy microbiome, you must have dietary diversity. In addition to the above dietary recommendations it is very important to make sure that your lifestyle choices support your gut health as well. You must be including regular exercise, sunshine, good sleep and plenty of fresh, filtered water.
Stress is a major toxin as well. Examine your life to determine what stressors you can remove and discover healthier ways you can respond to the stressors that you can’t eliminate. Incorporating meditation, mindfulness and breathing practices into your day can have a huge effect on the health of your digestive system.
When your digestive system is working optimally then it will help everything else to fall into place in your healthy, energized lifestyle. Take some time to focus on this part of your life and your body and mind will thank you.
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About the Author
Kristi Ryan is the founder of Kristi Ryan Holistic Nutrition and the creator of the Abundant Energy Method for Busy Women. As a holistic nutrition and health coach specializing in energy wellness she supports, educates, motivates and empowers busy women with nutrition, mindset and lifestyle transformation using her proven methodology to bring abundant energy and vitality into their lives.
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Disclaimer: The information I share is for general information only and is not intended to replace medical advice. I do not diagnose, treat or cure disease, prescribe treatments or medications, or recommend medical treatment or surgery. You should speak to your physician prior to making any changes to your diet, lifestyle, exercise or medications or acting on anything you have read or discussed with me. If you don’t, you are doing so at your own risk.