What’s with the gut? These days, it seems like everyone is talking about gut health and how important it is for total wellbeing. Ongoing research has shown that the gut is not just about digestion – it’s the essential factor to create overall health and wellness for the whole body. Without a healthy gut system, it’s unlikely that you will have a healthy immune system or balanced mental health. The key to reaching total health lies in the gut, and we’re here to help you achieve just that.
While there are a slew of health fads, juices, diets, and other trendy information out there to help heal the gut, there are also some natural, sensible lifestyle habits and tips to follow to help you achieve greater gut health and overall wellness. Here we will explore the idea of gut health, the gut-brain, and what causes poor gut health. We will also review what you can do at home and which trusted herbal remedies to take to systemically improve your gut health, digestion, mood, and total wellbeing.
What is Gut-Health?
As we learn more and more about how the body works, we are finding that the gut and our microbiome is intricately connected to our overall health. The gut is no longer considered just the organs of digestion. Research is finding that our gut health manages our immune system, nervous system, energy, focus, fertility, and even happiness and wellbeing.
A healthy gut can be hard to come by. Dietary choices and lifestyle habits can wreak havoc on our guts, leaving us not only with digestive issues but a host of other issues and potential for more serious illnesses.
That being said, a healthy gut is not out of reach for most of us. When fully functioning, our guts are able to extract healthy nutrients from our food and produce waste from the rest. Our digestion is comfortable and complete with no nausea, bloating, or constipation. The gut hosts a wide variety of healthy gut bacteria and thrives on probiotics and prebiotics. It maintains our healthy immune system and balances our moods and emotions. Our skin is nourished, clear, and youthful. With a healthy gut, we are more likely to sleep well, have focus and energy throughout the day, and have a general sense of wellbeing.
Gut-Brain: Our Second Nervous System
One of the most interesting things that has come out of the recent gut health research is the vast nervous system that exists in our gut. That’s right – whenever you’ve had a “gut instinct,” butterflies, or noticed your appetite change based on mood, fear, or stress, that’s your gut’s very own “brain” at work.
Countless neurons and microbiota in the gut make up a nervous system of its own: the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system engages in a bidirectional relationship with the central nervous system, creating what’s called the Gut-Brain Axis. These intricate neural connections link the gut closely to our brain, mood, and emotions, as well as other nervous system functions (including pain perception and organ function). Naturally, those with GI issues have shown to be more susceptible to stress, pain, and anxiety than those with healthier guts.
Causes of Poor Gut Health
Over our lifetime, our stomachs quietly take on abuse (excessive drinking, heavy foods, grease, spices, processed food, sugar, and acids) until they get sick and rebel. Sometimes the rebellion is clearly linked to the gut: issues like leaky gut syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome arise and cause clear digestive trouble. Other times, however, this rebellion is not obviously linked to the stomach or digestive organs until we understand the connection our guts have to the rest of our bodies. Consider the following symptoms:
- Brain fog
- Breakouts and acne
- Poor sleep
- Loose stools
- Weight gain
- Pains and aches
- Anxiety, irritability
- Lack of motivation
Do any of these woes sound familiar? All of these symptoms are quite common in our modern age and can also be tied to poor gut health. The most notable culprits are environmental toxins, heavy stress load, and poor dietary choices.
How to Heal Your Gut
The gut can be a tricky system to fix, especially if you already have substantial GI issues or have a history of poor diet and lifestyle choices. The good news is that big progress can happen with just small, daily changes. Here are some attainable goals to try that will improve your gut health substantially.
Since our guts are so closely linked to our mental state and brain, we need to manage our stress and emotions to protect our guts, and vice versa. To boost our gut health with lifestyle habits, we need to take good care of our mental health. Here are some easy habits to adopt to protect the gut and improve your mood.
- Meditate daily. Even if you have only five minutes to spare, dedicate those few minutes every day to quiet meditation. Don’t worry if you can’t focus or clear your mind. It is a practice and will get better with time and consistency. Download an app like Calm or Headspace to keep you on track.
- Exercise. Exercise is one of life’s best anti-depressants. Even a 30-minute walk can clear the mind, release endorphins, and boost your mood. Over time, this practice has a cumulative effect and you might just start to feel like a whole new person. Exercise also helps to increase blood flow throughout the body, including the digestive organs. This improves the health of the gut and microbiome, leading to increased gut health which further impacts your mental health.
- Detox Your Life. Aside from removing harmful foods from your diet (like processed food, sugars, and alcohol), consider removing harmful substances from your home and life. Ditch chemical-based makeups, soaps, cleaners, and even clothes made from toxic textiles like polyester and rayon. Keep your home clean by regularly vacuuming, clearing old food from cabinets and the refrigerator, and using non-toxic cleaners or natural solutions.
Every day, often 3-5 times per day, we make choices that directly affect our guts. Every time we eat a meal, drink a beverage, or ingest anything we are impacting our gut. The question? Are you choosing to impact your gut in a beneficial or harmful way? Each bite we take can either help or harm our current state of health. The goal is to have most of our choices be beneficial, while still enjoying life and food in moderation.
One of the easiest and most impactful things you can do to improve gut health is to start taking a quality probiotic. These come in many forms and varieties, but in general you want to choose one with a mix of different bacteria strains. Take daily to encourage good gut flora.
- Fermented foods
Another way to boost your probiotics is through natural foods. Fermented foods like miso, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, natto, Greek yogurt, raw cheeses, and apple cider vinegar are great sources of naturally occurring probiotics.
Prebiotics are a type of fiber that helps encourage the growth and activity of healthy gut bacteria. Lentils, chickpeas, beans, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions, nuts, oats, and bananas are all rich sources of prebiotics.
- Fresh Vegetables and Fruits
Increasing your fresh fruit and vegetable intake is necessary for a healthy gut. Produce is full of nutrients, vitamins, fiber, and water that keeps your digestive tract clean and healthy.
Most of us can benefit from drinking more water. Water nourishes every cell in the body and helps to keep the digestive system clean and functional. Replace your second or third cup of coffee with warm water and lemon juice or mint tea. Try adding fruit or cucumber to water to sip throughout the day to make it more enticing. You’ll quickly notice amazing changes in your digestion, mood, skin, and energy levels.
Herbal Care for a Healthy Gut
Part of improving your gut health involves repairing the lining and function of your gut. Chinese herbal medicine has gentle, yet powerful formulas to help restore the power and strength of your gut while also addressing those pesky symptoms that come along with a troubled gut.
Si Jun Zi Tang
Si Jun Zi Tang is a classic formula for boosting qi and energy through the crucial axis of the gut. In Chinese medicine, just as we are discovering through gut health research, the gut is the root of our vitality. With a weakened system, we are susceptible to nausea, bloating, fatigue, brain fog, poor concentration, lethargy, muscle weakness, pain, and digestive issues. Si Jun Zi Tang improves gut health from the root and restores energy and strength
Gui Pi Tang
Gui Pi Wan is a tonifying formula that helps the Spleen regain strength and energy. Since the Spleen is involved in energy production, stable moods, and immune function, this formula works to restore these functions and promote a healthy gut. This formula is best if you suffer from anxiety, poor sleep, fatigue, or brain fog.
Mu Xiang Shun Qi Wan
Bloating, gas, brain fog, bad breath, and irregular bowel movements are all signs that the digestive system is backed up and that there is an unhealthy balance of good and bad gut bacteria. Mu Xiang Shun Qi Wan is effective in breaking up the stagnation, promoting waste and toxin elimination, and clearing the system so that healthy bacteria can thrive. This is best for those with a stronger, more robust constitution. If you are weak, fatigued, and thin, consider Gui Pi Tang or Si Jun Zi Tang.
Gastro Comfort Tea
If you tend to have abdominal pain, bloating, indigestion, or want to detox your digestive system, Gastro Comfort Tea is a great way to start repairing the gut. You can drink one tea daily for ongoing support or start a two-week detox by drinking 3-5 cups of Gastro Comfort Tea daily.
Curing Pills: Symptom Relief
Curing Pills are an amazing remedy for when you’ve overdone it with the heavy or indulgent foods. This formula helps to relieve food poisoning, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gas, bloating, overeating, and even hangovers. This formula is meant to be used for symptom relief and should not be used as a daily formula to restore health.
Restore Your Gut, Restore Your Life
Our gut health is crucial to our overall wellness and happiness. With so much relying on a healthy microbiome and digestive system (immunity, energy, mood, stress resilience, digestion) there’s no better time to start addressing your gut health than now. Take charge with simple lifestyle and dietary changes and supplement with a healing herbal formula to make a life-changing impact in your overall health.