When it comes to health and wellness, our gut plays a major role. If our gut is not functioning properly then it affects not only digestion, but many other systems including our immunity, skin, hormones and the nervous system. This is why it is known as the ‘seat of health’. No matter how healthy you eat, if your digestive system is not functioning properly then it will be affecting you on many levels. Digestive complaints are very common in modern times due to a poor diet high in processed foods and refined sugar, stress, over use of antibiotics and pain medications as well as lack of exercise. When functioning properly, our gut forms a barrier which ensures that no toxins or wastes area leaked into the blood via the digestive tract. This is achieved through tissue integrity in the gut. When there is a ‘leak’ in the lining and cell junctions it means that toxins and wastes spill into the blood stream which is where we get a condition called ‘Leaky Gut’, which causes a whole host of problems. Typically this condition creates immune dysfunction as the body tries to fight the foreign substances. Other signs of digestive dysfunction include reflux, bloating, excessive gas, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, skin conditions such as acne and eczema, frequent infections, chronic fatigue and allergies. There has recently been a lot of talk about gut healing foods such as bone broth and gelatine. These foods are great for healing and soothing the lining of the gut but if you are after plant based alternatives, there are plenty of options:
- Licorice – As a demulcent and anti inflammatory this is a great herb for soothing and healing the lining of the digestive tract. You can take it in the form of a tea, liquid herbal extract or in tablet form.
- Slippery Elm – Traditionally used to treat constipation, Slippery Elm is very gentle and soothing to the digestive tract which can help to sooth over acidity and heal the mucous membranes. You can take it in capsules or stir the powder into water.
- Turmeric – A wonderful anti inflammatory herb which helps reduce inflammation in the gut so that it can heal and regenerate. It’s also a great idea to avoid or reduce inflammatory foods such as wheat, gluten, dairy, red meat and sugar to help the healing process. Often allergies to these foods can be the cause of gut inflammation. You can take turmeric as the fresh root which can be juiced or grated into curries, as a powder in cooking or in supplement form.
- Marshmallow Root – An anti inflammatory and demulcent, Marshmallow root helps to sooth and health the digestive tract by forming a protective layer of the mucous membranes. You can drink Marshmallow Root as a tea or take it in capsules or as a liquid extract.
- Probiotics – The gut needs plenty of good bacteria for it to function properly. Yet a diet high in sugar and processed foods, stress and overuse of medication has robbed our guts of these good guys. Supplementing with probiotic capsules or powder as well as increasing probiotic rich fermented foods such as saurkraut, kimchi, olives, miso, kefir and kombucha is a great way to increase these beneficial bacteria.
- Glutamine – An amino acidt which is well known for its ability to repair and rejuvenate the integrity of the gut tissue by forming strong cell junctions in the digestive tract. You buy it as a supplement in the form of capsules or in a powder which can be stirred into liquid.
- Aloe Vera – A super soothing herb which helps to reduce inflammation and coat the digestive tract with a protective layer. Look for high quality, sugar free Aloe Vera Juice at your health food store.
There are many things you can do to start healing your gut, and as soon as you start to recognise how important the gut is in health, the sooner you will see how it influences all other areas of wellness as the root of many disease states. Once you start to heal your gut you should notice how your body starts to function properly as a whole, with improved digestive and absorption of nutrients, increased energy, improved skin and immunity. Watch for signs that your digestion is out of balance including how you feel after meals and how often you go to the bathroom. These are a good place to start to identify the state of your digestion and how it is affecting other areas of your health.
For more information of natural remedies or how to treat specific conditions you can contact me for details on Naturopathic Consultations (online or in person) here