It’s that time of the year again. The time where we take inventory of how our year played out and ask ourselves: what felt good, what felt not so good, and how can we vision our next year to be even better? This is especially true when it comes to our health, and if you’re like most people after an indulgent holiday season, perhaps you’re wondering how you can change your diet, and maybe add in more exercise too. It’s also common to feel anxiety this time of year when it comes to goal setting - especially of you seem to be revisiting the same starting point year after year! But, here’s a thought…Instead of coming up with a laundry list of new habits that you may or may not stick with, consider choosing one really important, focused health goal that pays out in spades - affecting not just one, but many facets of your health. We’re talking here about the importance of choosing to focus on your gut health!
Gut Health 101
Hippocrates, the father of medicine said over two millennia ago that “All disease begins in the gut” - and he was right! Modern science continues to show us the links and improvements between good intestinal health and our immune system function, mood, energy levels, skin health, autoimmunity, chronic inflammatory conditions, and of course, our digestive health too (regular bowel movements, less constipation, less gas and bloating, better nutrient absorption to name a few). Sounds pretty good, right? Given that our gut is at the foundation of our overall health, it makes complete sense to choose to improve your gut microbiome as an excellent New Year resolution!
Your Gut Microbiome
The microbiome, the community of microorganisms that live inside of the human body, play important roles in keeping us healthy. When the gut microbiome is healthy and in balance, the over 100+ trillion bacteria peacefully and symbiotically co-exist. They regulate the immune system to protect the body against germs and disease, produce vitamins (B, K), support healthy metabolism, and help to break down food among many more tasks. Yet, when one or more of the colonies fall out of balance, often caused by shifts in the gut flora from things like infections, medications (including antibiotics), poor dietary habits (sugar, processed foods, and food sensitivities), stress, something known as “dysbiosis” occurs.
Because dysbiosis affects the digestive system, it is common to experience digestive disturbances like gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. However, research reveals that disturbances in the digestive system often show up as symptoms elsewhere in the body - including those related to our immune system function, mood, energy levels, skin health, autoimmune and other chronic inflammatory conditions. As you can see, focusing on keeping the gut microbiome healthy will have beneficial downstream effects on your health and wellbeing!
Your Gut Makeover
As with any new health goal or resolution, it’s important to make it specific and measurable and to also be clear for underlying reason why you’re hoping to make the change in the first place. Here are some of our best tips for jump-starting your healthy gut goals!
1. The first thing you’ll want to do is take a look at what your current diet is made up and remove any inflammatory foods. These foods can contribute to imbalances in the microbiome leading to potential damage to the intestinal lining and permeability, eventually causing even more inflammation. The following list includes foods to be wary of, but keep in mind that food sensitivities may be different for everyone which means that your best gut health plan will be personal to you.
- Processed Foods
- Lectins (proteins found in grains and legumes)
- Conventional dairy
- FODMAPS (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols)
2. The next thing to focus on is replacing the important factors that will help you to achieve good digestive health. This may involve working with a professional, and because it requires a more holistic approach, it could look different for everyone.
- Adding in supplementation where biochemically is necessary (hydrochloric acid & digestive enzymes - protease, lipase, amylase, and pepsin)
3. Reinoculating the intestinal microflora is the next (very important) step in your gut health makeover! This involves rebalancing the colonies to create an environment of diverse beneficial bacteria. These can be found in probiotics supplements, fermented foods and specific types of fibers.
- Probiotics are the live bacteria that support the digestive system and keep the intestinal microbiome healthy and flourishing. Supplementing with a probiotic is a highly effective way of re-balancing the gut by adding in more beneficial bacteria to the microbiome. However, when investing in a probiotic, it’s important to choose a high quality and efficacious brand like Bio-K+ with deep expertise in gut microbiome health. Bio-K+ provides the clinical research trials supporting the final product to back up all of the claims they make, plus they provide the specific dosage recommendations for different health concerns (50 billion CFU per day in case of increased digestive problems, 25 billion CFU per day during digestive upset and 12.5 billion CFU per day to maintain the health of its intestinal flora, prevent discomfort and maintain a healthy immune system).
- Fermented Foods - perhaps the most cost effective and easiest to make at home with a starter culture, these foods naturally rich in probiotics include sauerkraut, kvass, kefir, kombucha, miso, tempeh, natto, kimchi, and pickles.
- Prebiotic Fiber - also known as ‘prebiotics’ found in non-digestible plant matter, they are the little workers that provide the probiotics with nourishment to help them grow and multiply. They come from soluble fiber (dissolvable in water) found in foods such as oatmeal, apples, strawberries, flaxseed and psyllium husk. Other types of prebiotic fibers include a type of carbohydrate called FOS found in leeks, onions, asparagus, and garlic, and Arabinogalactans found in foods like carrots, pears, and tomatoes.
4. Restoring and repairing the integrity of the gut lining with nutrients is the final and ongoing step. This looks like eating a balanced diet filled with healing nutrients (Vitamin D, Omega 3, Zinc, and L-Glutamine) along with maintaining a health-promoting lifestyle with plenty of rest, low stress, exercise, nature, and hydration.
It is clear to see that a gut makeover is both a foundational step and long-term investment with beneficial downstream effects on many areas of your health and wellness. Good luck!
Do you have any other questions about gut health? Ask us in the comments below. If you are looking to stock up on Bio-K+, head to our store locator. For more information on Bio-K+, probiotics and digestive health, contact us, find us on Facebook and Instagram or join our community.
Gerritsen, J., Smidt, H., Rijkers, G. T., & de Vos, W. M. (2011). Intestinal microbiota in human health and disease: the impact of probiotics. Genes & nutrition, 6(3), 209-40.