min read
June 20, 2024

How To Heal Your Gut: A Functional Medicine Approach

Imagine a bustling metropolis, teeming with life and activity. Streets crowded with people, vendors selling their wares, and the sounds of cars and motorcycles filling the air. But what if I told you that this city wasn't made up of humans and their vehicles, but rather trillions of tiny organisms living in your gut? Welcome to the world of the gut microbiome.

Your gut is home to a diverse ecosystem of microbes, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, collectively known as your gut microbiome. These tiny inhabitants play a crucial role in your overall health and well-being, controlling everything from your digestion to your mood and even your immune system.

In fact, your gut microbiome is so important that you could say you're less human and more bacteria. That's right, your body is home to about 40 trillion bacterial cells, outnumbering your human cells by a ratio of 1.3 to 1. And the vast majority of these bacteria reside in your gut.

So why is the gut microbiome so important? Well, for starters, it helps you digest your food. The bacteria in your gut microbiome break down the food you eat and convert it into nutrients your body can use. But they do more than just digest food. The "good" bacteria in your gut microbiome also perform a variety of other functions, such as supporting your immune system, producing vitamins and neurotransmitters, and even regulating your mood.

But when your gut microbiome is out of balance, it can lead to a host of health problems. For example, an overgrowth of "bad" bacteria can cause inflammation, leading to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). And if your gut microbiome is damaged by things like antibiotics, poor diet, or stress, it can have far-reaching consequences for your overall health.

What can cause harm to your gut health?

Your gut health plays a significant role in your overall well-being. It's not just about having a flat stomach or avoiding digestive problems; your gut microbiome controls how you feel, look, and think. It's vital to understand the factors that can harm your gut health, as a diverse and healthy microbiome is crucial for maintaining optimal health.

  1. Lack of diversity in food

Consuming a variety of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can result in a more diverse gut flora. Your gut receives various nutrients from a diet high in whole foods that support the growth of various bacterial species, leading to a more varied gut flora. In contrast, a diet high in processed foods and low in fiber can negatively affect the composition of your gut flora.

  1. Alcohol overuse

Alcohol overuse is another factor that can harm gut health. While the occasional glass of wine may not do much harm, chronic and excessive alcohol consumption can have negative psychological and physical effects. Chronic alcohol use can alter the composition of your gut flora and lead to dysbiosis.

  1. Use of certain medications

Antibiotics are necessary for treating bacterial infections, but they can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. Even a single course of antibiotics can have long-lasting effects on the diversity and composition of your gut flora.

  1. Chronic stress

Stress can alter the gut bacteria, decrease blood flow, and make the body more sensitive to inflammation. It takes more than just a healthy diet, regular exercise, and enough sleep to be healthy. Managing stress is a crucial part of maintaining optimal gut health.

  1. Hormone Imbalances

Slow healing of intestinal damage has been associated with hormonal imbalances in estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid hormones, and cortisol families. Chronic inflammation in the gut lining can damage it and make it more permeable, resulting in leaky gut syndrome.

How to improve your gut health?

  • Take probiotics: If you've recently taken antibiotics or have been under a lot of stress, your gut could use some love. Fermented foods high in probiotics, like sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi, are a great way to repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria. Not only are these foods delicious, but they can also help improve digestion and boost your overall immunity.
  • An elimination diet plan: If you're experiencing gut issues, it may be helpful to eliminate certain foods from your diet that could be causing inflammation. Slowly reintroduce each potential irritant one at a time while monitoring your body's response. This will help you figure out which foods are irritating to your individual gut. Plus, it can be a fun challenge to experiment with new and different foods that you may not have tried before.
  • Reduce your stress: Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your gut health, weakening your immune system and reducing the amount of blood and oxygen reaching your intestines. But don't worry, there are plenty of ways to reduce stress levels. Regular exercise, meditation, and deep breathing exercises are all great options.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise is great for your health in general, but did you know that it can also increase the diversity of the good bacteria in your gut? It's true! So whether you prefer a morning jog or a yoga class, make sure to get moving.