by Jenny Smiechowski
It’s Halloween-time, and everywhere you look you see blood, guts, ghouls, and gore. But perhaps nothing is as scary or stomach-turning as ongoing issues in your own gut.
Gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea—it’s like a horror movie set in your bathroom. But even worse, gut issues can have a frightening impact on your overall health…
You may have heard that 70 to 80 percent of your immune system is in your gut (1). Well, these immune cells are constantly interacting with the bacteria in your gut (2). This interaction can be good or bad depending on what bacteria you have floating around in there. In fact, the type of bacteria in your gut is thought to play a part in whether you develop serious diseases like type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colon cancer, heart disease and certain autoimmune disorders (3, 4).
That means, if you’re having problems in your gut, your health may eventually start suffering in other areas too. But don’t let gut issues scare you too much. There are safe, natural and effective solutions that can tame your grumpy gut. Here are six of the best tricks for better gut health:
Harness the Power of Probiotics
Probiotics are the good, health-promoting bacteria found in certain foods and supplements, and they have been proven in many studies to benefit the gut. A 2015 study, for example, found that Lactobacillus rhamnosus (a probiotic strain found in many popular probiotic products) impacts your genes in a way that promotes the growth of more healthy gut bacteria, including several strains that have been tied to a highly functioning immune system (5). Of course, if you want optimum gut health, you should do more than pop a probiotic supplement. You should eat plenty of fermented foods too, like sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, kefir, and pickles. They contain lots of healthy, live bacteria that can keep your gut in great shape (4).
Don’t Pass on Prebiotics
With so much attention focused on probiotics, people often forget to pay attention to another crucial component of a healthy gut: prebiotics. Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fiber found in certain fruits, vegetables and whole grains (6). Prebiotics act as food for the healthy bacteria in your gut, so the more you eat, the more your good gut bacteria will grow and thrive (7). If you want to up your intake of prebiotics, consider eating more bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans and whole-wheat (7).
Stay Open to Omega 3s
Once you have your prebiotic and probiotic routine down pat, you need to focus on getting enough omega-3s. A recent study from researchers at the University of Nottingham and King’s College London found that high omega-3 intake encourages healthier strains of bacteria to take hold in your gut and promotes more bacterial diversity (8). Researchers say that’s because omega-3s encourage your gut bacteria to create a healthy compound called N-carbamylglutamate (NCG), which they believe reduces oxidative stress in the gut and promotes gut environment that’s friendly for good bacteria (8).
Get To Know Gut-Healing Herbs
When your gut is in distress, there are many herbs that can provide almost immediate relief. Ginger, peppermint, and fennel, for example, are all herbal remedies that aid digestion (9). When it comes to ongoing gut issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), research shows that enteric-coated peppermint oil pills are one safe and effective way to relieve some of your symptoms (10). Native Remedies also creates two digestive supplements that contain all three gut-healing powerhouses—ginger, peppermint, and fennel. DigestAssist™ is an herbal formula that, when taken after meals, encourages healthy digestion and encourages digestive comfort. Besides ginger, peppermint and fennel, it also contains an African medicinal plant known as Pelargonium Root, which has long been used as a digestive tonic by the Khoisan tribe of southern Africa. If gas is your primary gut complaint, you may want to try GasTamer™ to encourage a calm belly and less gas after eating. Or if you find yourself struck by a sudden (and embarrassing) gas attack, try GasTamer™ S.O.S. Oral Spray, a homeopathic formula for more immediate symptom relief.
Find Your Food Triggers
If you have ongoing gut issues, it could be a sign that you have food allergies or intolerances. The foods that most often cause allergies and intolerances are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, and sesame (11). But any food can be an allergen, so pay attention to how your body feels after you eat. Some people with ongoing gut issues like IBS also find it helpful to avoid foods high in FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols). FODMAPs, in case you don’t know, are different sugars found in foods, specifically fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, and polyols (12). A 2016 study found that 50 percent of people with IBS who followed a low-FODMAP diet for six weeks saw a substantial improvement in their symptoms (13). So that may be something to consider.
Stop Stress in its Tracks
Your brain and your gut are closely connected—so much so that scientists even call your gut your second brain (14)! That means, when you’re feeling anxious, stressed, depressed or emotionally-unbalanced in any way, you’ll likely notice an uncomfortable feeling in your gut too. You may even have uncomfortable symptoms like nausea and diarrhea. In fact, people who had stress in early life or who deal with anxiety are more likely to have irritable bowel syndrome or other gut issues (3, 14). So if you’re dealing with ongoing gut issues, stress could be a contributing factor. Try managing your stress levels by practicing yoga and meditation, setting aside more time for relaxation and treating yourself to stress-relieving therapies like massage or acupuncture.
Now, everyone deals with gut issues from time to time, but if your gut issues go on indefinitely, you may want to visit a doctor to see what’s causing your grumpy gut. He or she can help you get to the root of your gut issues by testing you for food allergies and ruling out serious gut-related conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Of course, many of the remedies mentioned above can provide at least some digestive relief no matter what’s causing your problem. So start making these healthy changes sooner rather than later!
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- Vighi, G., et al. “Allergy and the gastrointestinal system.” Clinical & Experimental Immunology. 2008 Sep; 153(Suppl 1): 3–6. doi: 1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03713.x. Web 21 Sept. 2017.
- Fields, Helen. “The Gut: Where Bacteria and Immune System Meet.” John Hopkins Medicine. N.D. Web 21 Sept. 2017. <http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/research/advancements-in-research/fundamentals/in-depth/the-gut-where-bacteria-and-immune-system-meet;.
- “Keeping Your Gut in Check: Healthy Options to Stay on Tract.” National Institutes of Health. N.D. Web 21 Sept. 2017. <https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2017/05/keeping-your-gut-check;.
- “Can gut bacteria improve your health?” Harvard Medical School. Oct. 2016. Web 21 Sept. 2017. <https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-gut-bacteria-improve-your-health;.
- A. Eloe-Fadrosh, et al. “Functional Dynamics of the Gut Microbiome in Elderly People during Probiotic Consumption.” mBio. 14 April 2015; 6(2): e00231-15 doi: 10.1128/mBio.00231-15. Web 21 Sept. 2017.
- Zeratsky, Katherine R.D., L.D. “Do I need to include probiotics and prebiotics in my diet?” Mayo Clinic. 12 Sept. 2017. Web 21 Sept. 2017. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/probiotics/faq-20058065;.
- Wolfram, Taylor MS, RDN, LDN. “Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 10 Oct. 2016. Web 21 Sept. 2017. <http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/prebiotics-and-probiotics-the-dynamic-duo;.
- Menni, Cristina, et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids correlate with gut microbiome diversity and production of N-carbamylglutamate in middle aged and elderly women.” Scientific Reports, 2017. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-10382-2. Web 21 Sept. 2017.
- Purkh Singh Khalsa, Karta. “30 Digestive Herbs.” Mother Earth Living. May/Jun. 2002. Web 21 Sept. 2017. <http://www.motherearthliving.com/Health-and-Wellness/digestive-herbs-zm0z12amzdeb;.
- O’Connor, Anahad. “Remedies: Peppermint Oil for Irritable Bowel.” 21 Jan. 2011. Web 21 Sept. 2017. New York Times Well Blog. <https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/remedies-peppermint-oil-for-irritable-bowel/;.
- “Common Allergens.” Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). N.D. Web 21 Sept. 2017. <https://www.foodallergy.org/common-allergens;.
- “Low FODMAP Diet.” Stanford Health Care. N.D. Web 21 Sept. 2017. <https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-treatments/l/low-fodmap-diet.html;.
- “Clinical trial demonstrates success of low FODMAP diet.” University of Michigan Medicine. 24 May 2016. Web 21 Sept. 2017. <http://www.uofmhealth.org/news/archive/201605/clinical-trial-demonstrates-success-low-fodmap-diet;.
- “The Brain-Gut Connection.” John Hopkins Medicine. N.D. Web 21 Sept. 2017. <http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection;.