Want more energy, clearer skin, better digestion, better sleep, and a better overall mood? Who doesn’t, right? Yet what most of us don’t realize is that all of these things—plus so much more—are directly related to something called GUT HEALTH. And after reading this post, you’ll get why I’m obsessed with gut health, and I’m betting you will be too!
I am SO FIRED UP about this one, you guys….seriously, it is basically my favorite topic in the whole world.
Yes, it’s a thing. In fact, it’s a BIG thing. And I’m not even joking when I tell you that I am completely obsessed with gut health.
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I’m actually so obsessed that it’s become a running joke for my husband and our friends–they’ve basically turned it into a drinking game. Every time I start talking about gut health, they drink. Or at least pretend to drink, depending on what we’re doing (I swear we’re not drinking 24 hours a day, even if you can totally still enjoy alcohol on keto!).
The Research Behind Gut Health
So how did I get SO obsessed with the topic of gut health?
I guess it really started with all the research I was doing into metabolic science and what causes us to gain weight in the first place.
Because the more I started to learn about insulin resistance and hormonal imbalance and about all the negative effects sugar and refined carbohydrates have had on our bodies and our health, the more I also started to learn about the impact those foods have had on our guts as well.
It’s all related.
We don’t always realize how much of a beautifully complex system of interrelated processes our bodies really are.
It’s almost like we think our health issues occur in a vacuum, within their own area of specialty.
We see cardiologists for heart issues and dermatologists for skin issues, and oncologists for cancer. We visit GI doctors when we need a colonoscopy, our OB-GYN when we need to get that annual exam of our cervix, and a psychiatrist when something is wrong with our mind.
The medical world has trained us to think of our bodies in terms of all of these unrelated pieces, each with its own unique symptoms and markers.
But it’s really just ONE system that is irrevocably interconnected.
If something is off with one part, then something is off with the whole. And do you know what is the very center of this whole interconnected system?
You guessed it. Your GUT.
So let’s talk about it, shall we?
What does “gut health” mean?
In its broadest form, when we talk about “gut health,” we’re talking about a measure of how well the organs and tissues in your digestive system are functioning.
In case it’s been a while since high school anatomy, this system includes the stomach, intestines, colon, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. And again, while these different organs sometimes get talked about or focused on separately, they are all part of the same interconnected system.
But when we talk about gut health, we’re not just talking about good digestion.
Because a big part of gut health has to do with what’s often called your gut microbiome, which is comprised of all the bacteria and other microscopic organisms that live in your digestive tract. We sometimes refer to these as “good” or “friendly” bacteria, in contrast to the bad bugs that can take over if your gut health gets out of balance.
So why is this so important?
Well, it turns out that this microbiome plays a big role in just about every aspect of your overall health and well-being.
From your immune system to how you process and make use of the food you eat to your mental health and cognitive function. And did you know that most of your serotonin (the “happy” neurotransmitter) is actually made in your gut?
It’s true! And it all boils down to this:
If your gut is healthy, you are likely to be healthier. And conversely, if your gut health isn’t up to par, it can throw off SO many other areas of your life and health that it’s not even funny.
So, when we talk about gut health, we really are talking about the whole gamut.
In short? Gut health is all about:
- how your body is taking in and absorbing nutrients
- how it is eliminating waste and toxins
- how it’s protecting itself from pathogens and foreign invaders
- how it’s responding to stress and hormones
- what’s happening with your microbiome
What is leaky gut?
That brings us to the next big question when it comes to gut health. There’s something called “leaky gut” that everyone and their dog keeps talking about. It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot, but do you really know what it means?
In a nutshell, leaky gut is a condition in which the walls of your digestive tract become permeable and “leaky,” allowing toxins, bacteria, and viruses to enter your bloodstream. It’s a physical weakening of the barrier between the inside of your intestines and the rest of your body that can occur for any number of reasons—including (but not limited to) poor food choices, stress, medications, and nutrient deficiencies.
When this happens, it sets off a literal domino effect of inflammation in the body that causes all sorts of problems. This can be everything from skin conditions like acne or rashes to autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s or Crohn’s disease. It can also lead to more serious issues like food allergies, malnutrition, and even depression and anxiety.
In other words, leaky gut is BAD. Very bad. And it’s something that you want to avoid at all costs. If you think you might be struggling with leaky gut, it’s something that you NEED to get serious about healing because it will literally change everything for you.
Signs & symptoms of leaky gut
Now that you know what leaky gut actually is, it poses the next question: How do you know if you have a leaky gut?
Well, the simple answer is—you don’t. Not definitively, anyway.
It’s not something that typically shows up on conventional lab tests (at least, not yet). Yes, there are online companies that offer mail-in stool sample tests that will tell you what’s happening with your gut microbiome, but in truth, you probably don’t really need those.
Because honestly, guys, the statistics are pretty grim. It is currently estimated that 80-90% of the population has some form of leaky gut. EIGHTY TO NINETY PERCENT. So basically, almost all of us. That’s crazy, but also not surprising because the majority of what most of us are eating is directly contributing to a lack of gut health.
Rather than trying to find a test, a good place to start is by looking at the signs and symptoms that tend to accompany leaky gut syndrome and other gut health issues.
Let’s spend a little time talking about some of the big signs that there might be something wrong with your gut.
First, there are the digestive issues. This could be things such as:
- acid reflux
Then, there’s a whole host of seemingly unrelated mystery symptoms that could also be attributed to leaky gut like:
- joint pain
- food sensitivities (even if you don’t think you have any!)
- headaches and migraines
- chronic fatigue and brain fog
- ongoing skin issues like eczema or acne
It could also include things like:
- anxiety and depression
- hormonal imbalances
- unexplained weight gain
- trouble losing weight
Common Diseases and Conditions
And finally, there are all the common diseases and conditions that can be directly attributed to leaky gut. These include autoimmune and inflammatory diseases like:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Crohn’s disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- chronic fatigue syndrome
So if any of these symptoms or conditions sound familiar to you, it might be time to start thinking about gut health.
Because when your gut is healthy, the rest of your body tends to follow suit. But if it’s out of balance, all sorts of problems can arise.
That’s why it’s so important to focus on gut health and to take steps toward healing your gut if you think something might be wrong.
Benefits of Healing Your Gut
So what can you look forward to when you heal your leaky gut?
Well, the most obvious benefit is that all those symptoms and conditions I just mentioned will likely start to diminish or even disappear. You’ll have more energy, better digestion and regularity, improved mental clarity, fewer skin issues, and more balanced hormones.
You’ll also likely have a much easier time losing weight or maintaining your ideal weight because your body is functioning the way it should.
Also, you’ll be able to enjoy a wider variety of foods without worrying about food sensitivities or allergies because when you heal your gut, those issues often go away. Plus, you’ll absorb more nutrients from the foods you’re eating (instead of passing them straight through your system). This means better overall health and fewer nutrient deficiencies.
The bottom line is that healing your gut can have a massive impact on your overall health.
Practical Strategies for Improving Your Gut Health
So I guess that brings us to the question of the day….what CAN you actually do about it? How can you start healing your gut?
Well, the good news is there are a lot of practical steps you can take to start improving your gut health. It’s not really aren’t difficult or complicated, but you do have to be more intentional about what you’re putting into your body.
1. Cut out processed food and added sugars.
First and foremost, I’d recommend cutting out as much processed food and added sugars as you possibly can. These are the two biggest culprits when it comes to unhealthy guts.
Sugar and all other carbohydrates, which your body essentially converts to sugar, are what feed all the UNHEALTHY bacteria in your gut microbiome. This, in turn, prevents the healthy bacteria from thriving.
So ditching the carbs and processed food is a must if you want to start healing your gut.
2. Include fiber-rich, whole foods in your diet.
Incorporate plenty of fiber-rich, whole foods in your diet. This will help feed the GOOD bacteria and promote good gut health. Some great sources for this are:
- nuts and seeds
- green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collards
- cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower
- healthy plant fats like avocado and coconut
Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are also especially helpful.
I believe so strongly in this that we have an entire post devoted to the connection between keto, fiber, and gut health.
3. Add a good probiotic to your daily routine.
Taking a quality probiotic supplement each day will help repopulate the gut with all those healthy bacteria that are so important for proper digestion. This is especially true if you’ve been on antibiotics recently or you take other medications that can upset the balance of your microbiome.
4. Avoid lectins as much as possible.
Lectins are found in many plant foods, and they can be especially hard on the gut. Some of the most common culprits are:
- nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant
If you’re trying to heal your gut, it’s best to avoid these for a while.
5. Drink enough water.
Making sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help flush out toxins and aid in digestion. This is especially true if you are eating a low-carb diet!
So just to wrap things up…the biggest reason I’m totally obsessed with gut health? It is literally at the center of everything when it comes to health.
If your gut isn’t healthy, YOU’RE not healthy.
In fact, you’re likely struggling with any number of issues, from poor digestion to fatigue, autoimmune disorder, allergies, inflammation, weight gain, and more.
That’s why I’m so passionate about helping women get their gut health back on track. It really is the single BEST thing you can do for your overall well-being!
Gut Health Next Steps
Hopefully, by now, you’re just as obsessed with gut health as I am! If so, I’ve got GREAT news—there’s still time to sign up for The Healthy Belly Challenge! The Healthy Belly Challenge is a 28 day guided program that’s centered around getting your gut healed and functioning properly.
Don’t miss your chance to heal your gut and feel incredible. You’ll be amazed at what 4 short weeks can do to boost your health!
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