Gut health. It's the big topic of conversation in the wellness community at the moment - though don't let that put you off investigating the concept further.
There's a reason experts are singing the praises for supplements like probiotics and digestive enzymes.
The power of an optimally functioning digestive system includes life-changing elements like improved mood, better quality sleep and a boosted metabolism.
There is a multitude of reasons why your mid-section might not be feeling in tip-top shape right now. Your gut bacteria balance is susceptible to even a minor change, and your everyday activities have the power to effect it.
For example, if you've been going through a stressful period in your life or if you've just started or finished a course of medication - there's a chance you're suffering the effects of an unhealthy gut.
But how do you know and what can you do about it?
We reached out to Anna Paredes – Nutritionist and founder of Digestive Health Clinics, who has shared with us ten signs that you have an unhealthy gut, and five things you can do to fix it.
10 signs that you have an unhealthy gut
This is a sure sign of stagnation and inflammation in the bowel and can result in bloating which is actually trapped gas.
2. Acid reflux/heartburn
Lifestyle and dietary factors can increase the amount of acid in the stomach which is a contributing factor to acid reflux or heartburn. Note that this is not our normal production of hydrochloric acid (HCI) which breaks down proteins. Ongoing acid reflux time can cause ulcers within the stomach lining.
3. Belching or burping
If you find yourself belching or burping excessively after meals, you may have a Complex Carbohydrate Intolerance. This occurs from lacking the enzymes necessary to digest these carbs. When the undigested carbs reach the colon, bacteria that normally live in the colon ferment them and often this results in gas. Try cutting grains, legumes, starchy vegetables and cereals out of your diet and notice any changes.
4. Inability to lose weight
Do you feel like you’ve tried everything to lose weight – diets, fasts, exercise, and yet nothing seems to budge? This could be a sign that the body is unable to shift unwanted fat cells due to toxic overload in the liver and colon.
5. Bad Breath/Halitosis
Bad breath that still lingers even after you have brushed your teeth suggests that food has begun to ferment in the gut (due to undigested food particles). This is also a sign of an imbalance of good and bad bacteria, as well as yeast or candida in the gut. Check the state of your tongue – if there is a thick white coating then this points to a weak functioning digestive system.
6. Skin Problems
Blemishes, dry skin and acne, are all signs of a toxic colon. When bowel motions are incomplete the bowel begins to develop into a highly toxic environment. Skin problems are a sign that there is a domination of bad bacteria in the colon and an imbalanced microbiome.
7. Fatty Liver
Fatty liver is a build-up of fat in the liver and is caused by the body’s inability to metabolise fat fast enough. This is sign that there is a toxic overload in our colon which is depriving the liver’s bile ducts to work efficiently. The fats are not being eliminated efficiently down into the colon and out through our complete daily eliminations.
8. Laxative abuse
If you have been taking laxatives or herbal mixtures to get the bowel moving, then beware that this disturbs our body’s natural balance of mineral production and eliminates good bacteria. The result of these supplements is water and very loose, soft bowel motions. Water is taken out of the small intestine in order for the bowel to move, which results in dehydration – ironically the main reason constipation is caused in the first place.
9. Feeling depressed, stuck or lacking energy
The colon (also known as the second brain) is the centre of our emotions and energy. In fact, the gut is responsible for producing 90% of the body’s serotonin – the ‘happy’ hormone.
A toxic gut (bacteria, yeast, parasites) causes the gut microbe to ferment neurotransmitters to release these happy hormones. Once the gut is cleared and flourishing with good bacteria, the result on someone’s mental state and energy is incredible!
10. Poor Immune system
If you find yourself prone to sickness, then the answer lies in your gut. The gut is an integral part of the immune system – in fact around 80% of the immune system resides in the gut. Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome and gut lining is vital for an optimal state of health.
5 ways to treat an unhealthy gut
1. Seek foods to aid in digestion
To help prevent and eliminate undigested meals that ferment in the gut, it’s important to add certain foods to your diet to allow food digestion to break down properly. Hydrochloric acid (HCI) is a digestive enzyme that aids digestion and is found in bitter greens such as chicory and rocket.
Eating these greens prior to having a protein main meal encourages production of HCI. Lemon juice also helps break down food in the stomach. Drink to a cup of hot lemon water or just suck on a small wedge of lemon after meals to help food break down.
Add natural probiotics to your diet such as Goats Kafir, Coconut Kafir for vegans or 20 mills of cabbage juice (from sauerkraut) first thing in the morning, 20 minutes before breakfast. This will build the good bacteria in your gut!
3. Colon Hydrotherapy
Though there is controversy around this topic, I speak from my own experiences. Being a clinician of colon hydrotherapy for over 20 years, I have treated thousands of patients with gut issues and have witnessed how this alternative therapy eliminates waste build up from the bowel wall, removes inflammation and hydrates the colon quickly and effectively. What we see come out of the system is astounding, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak...
Moving the body’s lymphatic system is ideal for getting rid of toxins through the breath and sweat. I suggest either a 2 hour walk, a 30-minute run, fast yoga movement or Pilates. The idea is to work up a good sweat 3 times a week. There are lymph’s circulating the entire gut, stimulating a circulatory response to movement. However, the diet needs to be adjusted first before exercise can have a positive response to eliminating toxins.
5. Water intake
Drinking 3 litres of water a day slowly is the key for proper hydration of each cell in the body. If water is drunk quickly, urination becomes frequent so water is unable to move through and hydrate the bowel or eliminate fat out of the cells. Studies show that every day we lose water in the following ways: