In part 1 of this blog series, we discussed the importance of Gut Health and why an unhealthy gut is linked to most health conditions.
The truth is, every function in the body, every organ system, each and every process that keeps us alive and well, is intricately linked to the health of our gut.
What is Gut Dysbiosis?
We discussed why the balance of bacteria in our gut is essential for optimal health. Beneficial bacteria keep us from illness and protect us from viruses and parasites. They also help us absorb nutrients from the food we eat. Unfortunately, with our use (and overuse) of antibiotics and antibacterial products, the Standard American Diet (SAD), and chronic stress, the harmful (pathogenic) bacteria can start to outnumber the beneficial bacteria. This is known as gut dysbiosis or gut dysfunction.
As I mentioned in Part 1, my nutrition clients and readers often indicate that they don’t think they have any issues with gut health because they’re not having digestive issues specifically. In almost every case, it’s not long before we uncover that these (seemingly unrelated) health issues and concerns are directly linked to gut health!
You can be doing everything right (doing your best to avoid toxins in food and products, eating well, and reducing stress) but if your microbiome isn’t balanced, healing your body is going to be nearly impossible. This is because our bodies rely on a balanced microbiome for nearly every organ and organ system to function optimally. Additionally, we can’t absorb the nutrients we’re eating if our gut is not functioning.
In Part 1, I provided a broad list of symptoms that signify gut issues. Here are some more (some are quite surprising!)
Signs You May Have Gut Dysbiosis
(Make a mental note of each one you might have)
- Foggy Brain, Depression, Anxiety, Constantly feeling ‘weighed down’ or ‘spacey’
- Migraine Headaches
- Fungal Infections (yeast infections, nail fungus, etc.)
- Recurring UTIs
- Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, Keratosis Pilaris (the pesky red bumps often on the back of our arms)
- Lack of Energy, Chronic Fatigue, or Chronic Exhaustion
- Weight Loss Resistance
- Unexplained Weight Gain
- Hormone Imbalance
- Decreased Libido
- Trouble Sleeping
- Weak Immune System
- Autoimmune conditions (80% of your immune system lies within your gut!)
- Food Cravings (particularly sugar cravings)
- Food Intolerances, Sensitivities, and Allergies
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Chronic Sinus Infections, Tension, and Congestion
- Seasonal Environmental Allergies
- Acid reflux
- Feeling gassy and bloated most of the time
- Chronic bad breath or a white coat on the tongue
- Irregular bowel movements
Some of these are of course caused by other health conditions, yet are dramatically improved when gut health is improved.
If not addressed, gut dysbiosis leads to inflammation, ultimately creating the opportunity for a host of more serious health issues to arise, from autoimmune disorders, hormonal disorders, and metabolic disorders, to cancer, neurological disorders, and more serious gut issues (such as IBS and IBD). This is why it’s so critical to focus on healing your gut as soon as you suspect any level of gut dysfunction.
Often when people hear about gut health and don’t have any of the following:
- GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
- SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)
- Celiac Disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Crohn’s Disease, or
they think their gut must be healthy & balanced. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The lesser known, yet most common gut issues
Candida is an opportunistic organism that occurs when our microbiome consists of more pathogenic bacteria than beneficial bacteria. It thrives on the body’s byproducts (such as digested sugars). Without changing the environment of bacteria in the gut and eliminating its’ source of food (sugar), candida can literally take over various organ systems and cause a range of symptoms (from mild to severe). It can also lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome (see more below)
Signs & Symptoms of Candida
If you have 4-5 of the symptoms listed above, you may have underlying candida. Approximately 70% of all people are affected by this, so it isn’t a rare infection (most people simply don’t realize they have it until it’s progressed).
Candida can also secrete aldehyde, which allows toxins to enter the blood-brain barrier. This is why “foggy brain” is commonly associated with candida.
If you suspect your gut may be contributing to your health issues, you can get in touch for personalized support.
My experience with Candida
I discovered that I had candida after trying everything else to reverse my health problems (nothing worked!) I tried: cleaning up my diet, improving my lifestyle and reducing toxins, increasing physical activity, reducing stress, eliminating trigger foods for years at a time, trying various ‘diets’ and ‘detoxes’, cleanses, supplements, natural remedies – you name it! Yet nothing worked. Some of these improved my symptoms for a short period of time, but they always came back and I was left feeling frustrated and defeated.
Once I learned that I had candida (in my situation it was a result of long term antibiotic use), I started taking action to eliminate it, which can be rather difficult, as it is an opportunistic organism that thrives on anything it can. This is when I started to see lasting improvements in my health. Once I eliminated the candida, everything else started to fall into place. The symptoms I was trying to address in the past started to disappear. They were all linked to my gut!
Leaky gut is thought to be responsible for more than half of all chronic conditions!
In Leaky Gut Syndrome (gut permeability), the small intestine’s villi are inflamed and ‘leaky’, meaning that small holes are formed in the villi, allowing food and toxins to enter the bloodstream directly. The immune system doesn’t recognize these particles, and starts to attack itself. Here’s a helpful illustration.
You can see from this image that there are several imbalances caused by leaky gut such as:
- A weakened immune system
- Food sensitivities and allergies
- Nutrient deficiency and malabsorption
If you’re noticing any of these symptoms, it could be a sign that your gut has become leaky.
Candida and Leaky Gut are just two common examples of gut dysfunction – there are many more.
Don’t worry, healing your gut is absolutely possible!
The Process of Healing the Gut
Don’t fall for the myth that if you just ‘take a probiotic!’ or ‘eat some yogurt!’ you’ll be able to heal your gut. If it was that easy, we’d all just take our daily probiotic and we wouldn’t be dealing with all of these chronic symptoms that so many of us face. The gut is so much more complex than that and healing the gut is a detailed and individualized process that must be followed closely and in the appropriate order.
These are the primary aspects of an effective gut-healing protocol:
- Avoiding the unique ‘trigger foods’ that your gut may be intolerant and/or sensitive to
- Eliminating foods that destroy gut lining, while adding foods that restore the gut
- Implementing gut-healing foods into your regular routine to create a healthy gut
- Incorporating an effective probiotic that contains the right strains and that reaches your intestines alive & intact
- Determining the gut-healing vitamins, minerals, and inflammation-reducing supplements your gut needs in order to heal
- Incorporating the appropriate herbs that promote gut-healing
*Note that probiotics alone are not enough to heal the gut. We can’t expect to pop a pill and resolve our health issues. While appropriate probiotic supplementation can be extremely helpful in healing the gut, it is only one piece of the puzzle and is ineffective without appropriate diet modifications.
- Reducing physical, mental, and emotional stress
- Improving quality and quantity of sleep
- Implementing the appropriate detoxification methods that boost the gut-healing process
Each category (and subcategory!) is an important piece to any effective gut health protocol, but if you only address one and neglect the others, you might be sabotaging the results you’re hoping for.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to healing the gut. Each person is unique (and each microbiome is unique!) which means each gut-healing protocol is unique (which is why I created offer personalized Nutrition Services). Health history, lifestyle factors, and current state of gut health determine the best protocol for individualized gut-healing protocols.
For example, due to microbiome diversity, there are specific strains of bacteria in a probiotic supplement that may work for one person and not another. This is why so many people don’t see the results they’re looking for (because the protocols they are following aren’t tailored to their specific needs).
The Unexpected Results of a Healthy, Balanced Gut
These are just a few examples of some unexpected results & benefits of a healthy, balanced microbiome, but there are so many more!
- Weight Loss
- Increased energy, libido, & better sleep
- Reduced inflammation and pain
- Elimination of food intolerances and allergies
- Improved autoimmune conditions
- Elimination of various skin conditions (acne, eczema, psoriasis, even Keratosis Pilaris and more!)
- Improved mental clarity, focus, and reduction of migraines
- A strengthened immune system
- Improve symptoms related to obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic conditions
- Improvements in chronic health conditions such as sinusitis, asthma, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
Because each gut-healing protocol must be personalized for optimal results, I offer a full range of Nutrition Services to support your unique needs. Learn more here.
Hannah is the founder of Healthfully Hannah and is a nutrition professional empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Get in touch with Hannah right here.
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