By Stephanie Jackson
Gut health is at the centre of human health and it’s no wonder that the gastrointestinal system is often referenced as our second brain and the body’s first line of defence against illness. To get well, lose weight, or fix digestion, often it’s about looking deeper at healing your gut where the hidden underlying root causes of imbalance typically reside. Until you fix your gut, your immune system is going to be imbalanced as proteins spill over into the bloodstream acting as foreign objects. It is only after the removal of fungal, bacterial overgrowth, parasites, or pathogens, that you’ll be able to fully reduce inflammation.
The long-term benefits of rebalancing the gut can include:
- Improved digestion and nutrient absorption
- Clearer thinking
- Deeper sleep
- Vibrant skin
- Increased Energy
- Weight loss
There are several common symptoms of gut dysbiosis, a condition where the bacterial colonies of the gastrointestinal system are out of balance, which is closely associated with several other conditions including: IBS, colitis, candida, celiac disease, leaky gut, PCOS, chronic UTIs, as well as skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
General symptoms of gut dysfunction often include:
- Weight gain
- Vaginal or rectal itching
- Craving for sweets & carbs
- Mood disorders
- Difficulty urinating
- Joint pain
- Hormone imbalance
- Bad breath
- Brain fog
- Low libido
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of concentration
- Chronic allergies
- Sinus congestion
Step #1 to rebalancing the gut: don’t guess, test with functional lab tests
One of the best courses of action, and the first places to start is with functional medical lab testing. It is the only way to really know what imbalances you are dealing with in the gut and to start building a holistic plan back to health. Functional GI testing can uncover abnormal levels of bacteria such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), candida, yeast, fungal overgrowth, H. Pylori, or other pathogens and parasites often associated with permeability problems.
It can take years of trials and errors and what I like to call, holistic Band-Aids such as, turmeric, frankincense, green tea powder, all in the attempt to reduce symptoms of inflammation; However, a nutritional and herbal plan alone is often not enough to get your gut back to a state of healthy balance.
Once you get the results back from the lab tests, you will then know exactly where you need to start, what you need to remove, and then work on sealing back up the gut walls.
Sometimes it only takes one test to uncover imbalances, other times, it takes a few additional lab tests to have a comprehensive picture. In order of importance, I recommend the following lab tests:
- Organic Acids Test
- Stool Test
- Hair Tissue Mineral Anaysis
- Food Sensitivity Test
Learn more about lab testing here.
Step #2 to rebalancing the gut: remove foods that harm and proceed with an appropriate yeast, bacterial, fungal, or parasite protocol
There are certain foods in the list below that aren’t ideal for gut health which can feed unhealthy levels of overgrowth and pathogens.
Foods to Avoid
- Excessive amounts of saturated animal fats, high-fat foods, trans fats, hydrogenated fats
- Fried foods
- Food dyes
- Condiments and sauces
- Wheat and Gluten grains (barley, kamut, rye, spelt)
- Yeast-raised baked goods
- Artificial additives and preservatives
- Processed nuts
- Carbonated beverages
- Processed and smoked meats
- Packaged and processed foods
Once you have your lab test results, you can work on removing the overgrowth and rebalancing the gut microbiome through a specific protocol such as a candida bacteria overgrowth CBO, SIBO, H. Pylori, or other parasite protocol. These protocols work to specifically remove the biofilm and access the actual yeast, bacterial, or parasite overgrowth. Otherwise, it is very difficult with herbal remedies or nutritional support alone to fully remove the imbalance. Eating well can temporarily help, but often a relapse will occur since it isn’t strong enough to sustainably kill the unwanted pathogens to healthy levels.
Lab tests can also uncover other levels of toxicity such as heavy metals or mould, as well as, vitamin and mineral deficiencies. From here, it is easier to come up with a personalized and timely plan to rebalance health through nutrition, replenish deficiencies, and remove toxins in the body.
Once you have rebalanced the gut, and sealed up the gut walls, you may find that you have less food sensitivities and that you can go back to eating a healthy balanced variety of foods. Once you have completed your protocols, you can try reintroducing healthy foods one-by-one over a 3-day windows to observe how your body reacts.
Other Foods that May Need to be Temporarily Eliminated
- Gluten-free grains (oats, rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat)
- Nightshades; eggplants, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes
- Nuts and seeds (except hemp)
- High-lectin foods: beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, squash
- Bananas and high glycemic fruit: watermelon, mangos, papaya, pineapple
- Histamine foods: fermented foods, fermented vegetables, kombucha
Step #3 to rebalancing the gut: include easy to-digest foods that heal
It takes a very strong and healthy digestive system to thrive on a raw plant based-diet. Therefore until the gut is rebalanced, it can be beneficial to heat, blend, and stew to help breakdown nutrients so that they are more accessible, easier to digest, and assimilate. Since 30% of our energy is used to digest and breakdown foods, opting for a breakfast smoothie is one of the best ways to get in a good portion of the daily fruit and vegetable servings while reserving energy for heavier protein meals later on in the day.
When sourcing foods to rebalance the gut, it is really important to alleviate the toxic burden on the body while replenishing nutritional deficiencies by:
- Choosing organic, non-GMO varieties of produce and foods whenever possible;
- Opting for sustainable animal proteins such as grass-fed, pastured meat and wild caught, low mercury fish;
- Eating a rainbow of 7-9 servings of vegetables/day (60-70% vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit/day (lower fructose and lower glycemic options);
- Consuming lower amounts of overall protein, about 10-15%; and
- Restricting fat to 10-20% of healthy options such as: avocado, coconut, extra-virgin, first cold pressed olive oil.
Step #4 to rebalancing the gut: reduce emotional, psychological, physical stress
The gastrointestinal system is especially sensitive to stress. The fight or flight response specifically diverts energy to deal with whatever the source of incoming stress may be. This is a survival mechanism that shifts energy away from digestion to instead deal with the perceived immediate danger, either fight or run away fast. Consequently, the digestive processes shut down which shows up as lower levels of digestive enzymes and stomach acids required to breakdown food, as well as less saliva production. This can result in stagnation, issues related to nutrient absorption, slow or hyperactive bowel activity, and hormone dysfunction.
Balancing daily routines and exercise with more calming YIN styles, or parasympathetic nervous system activities can help soothe and restore the digestive function. Here are some examples that can greatly improve the body’s ability to move into more of a rest, restore, and digest state:
- Breath work
- Soft martial arts
- Nature walks
- Low-impact exercise
Step #5 to rebalancing the gut: supplement with nutrients that rebuild overall health
Very often it is still not enough to have a healthy routine of nutrition, exercise, sleep, and de-stressing even after completing one of the gut balancing protocols. The last element to the equation is to give the body a boost in terms of nutrients in order to continue healing, regenerating, and ultimately living in more of a thriving rather than surviving state.
Due to the accumulation over the years of toxic foods, substances, overuse of antibiotics, various stressors, nutritional sensitivities, and deficiencies, imbalances within the GI tract can worsen and reoccur. Sometimes it can take years to feel balanced from this kind of damage unless given a boost with nutrients from whole foods and specific nutritional supplements.
A good foundational support may include:
- A daily activated multi-vitamin and mineral support
- Plant-based phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber
- Vitamin D3
- A Digestive enzyme support
Visit equilibrium nutrition for recommended 3rd party tested, activated functional medicine grade nutritional support here.
For a free 30 minute consultation on how to rebalance your gut, get back the life, health, and body you want, book a free call with me here today!