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Twelve Natural Ways to Improve Gut Health

Discover the amazing contributions of gut bacteria to health and disease. Plus scientifically validated natural remedies that may improve your gut health in just few days!

Your gut provides a home for trillions of bacteria. So far there are 2,000 known species of gut bacteria. The contributions of the gut microflora are astounding for they affect nutrient uptake, metabolism, body clocks, carcinogen detoxification, immune responses, chronic inflammation, and mental health!1

The proper balance, composition, and a healthful diversity of gut bacteria is necessary for favorable immune responses and optimal health. Imbalance that favors unfriendly bacteria over friendly germs triggers strong immune and inflammatory processes.

Good Germs

Beneficial bacteria release useful byproducts that protect your health and lower your risk for colon cancer, atherosclerosis, and inflammatory conditions. They also protect your gut from infections, produce some nutrients, release certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, and affect our sleep.2

Germ Warfare

Unfriendly gut bacteria, however, release toxins and inflammatory agents that disrupt the gut barriers. Once inside the blood, these inflammatory compounds and toxins contribute to the development of conditions such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, allergies, diabetes, obesity, inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s, celiac, ulcerative colitis), lung problems, anxiety, and depression.3 Could Your Gut Impact Your Blood Pressure?

What Shapes Gut Bacteria?

Every individual microbiome is different and develops because of genetic, environmental, lifestyle, and dietary factors to which we are exposed.  So, how do we encourage the population of good germs and reduce the number of unwanted ones?

Whole, Nutrient Dense Plant Foods

Diets that are high in whole plant foods–fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains–and low in added sugar and saturated and trans fats– stimulate the proliferation of beneficial bacteria such as those that have anti-inflammatory properties.4 In this aspect, liberal amounts of raw fruits and vegetables are particularly useful in building healthy gut microflora.5

In contrast, a poor-quality or Western diet (rich in sugar, animal products, salt, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates) is linked to more disease-causing bacteria.6,7 One such species of bacteria is Fusobacteria, which has been linked to colorectal cancer.8

Great Carbs

Good carbs boost gut health. While it is true that high sugar, fat-rich, and refined products promote the population of unfriendly bacteria in the gut, the keto and low carb diets miss the important contributions that result from eating resistant starches!

Whole grains and legumes contain resistant starches that are not fully digested in the stomach and small intestine. Consequently, they are not absorbed. Resistant starches, like soluble fiber, feed the friendly bacteria in your intestines, having a positive effect on the distribution and composition of bacteria as well as their number. These bacteria produce useful byproducts from resistant starches to curtail inflammation and lower the risk for chronic diseases.9,10,11

Another advantage of eating resistant starches from whole grains and legumes is that they improve your cells’ ability to respond to insulin and can help to reverse insulin resistance. This serious condition itself increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and eventually may lead to diabetes. An elevated blood sugar level itself makes the gut barrier more permeable so that it leaks out toxins and inflammatory compounds.

Another advantage: Most prebiotics are oligosaccharides (carbohydrates that have a small number of monosaccharides) and help to maintain the balance of gut microflora in favor of friendly bacteria. A prebiotic is non-digestible carbohydrate that not only feeds good bacteria but it feeds probiotics too. Prebiotics selectively work on a limited number of gut germs. Asparagus, artichokes, barley, rye, lentils, onions, chicory, garlic, leeks, and bananas are good sources of oligosaccharides.

Salt-Gut Connection

Go easy on the salt! Excessive salt decimates a certain type of beneficial bacterium in the gut (lactobacilli). It also increases the number of certain immune cells (helper T-17 lymphocytes). These particular immune cells play a role in the development of high blood pressure and autoimmune conditions in which the immune system attacks tissues and organs of the body. (Please note: The problem is ingestion of too much salt and the excessive number of T-lymphocytes. A little salt is essential to health). When probiotic lactobacilli were added to a high-salt diet, the elevated T-17 cells and blood return to normal—at least in rodent studies.12 Seven Facts about Salt Your Doctor Won’t Tell You

Eat Organic!

Pesticide residues on food have the potential to harm friendly gut bacteria over time.13 To help remove pesticides from produce, soak the produce briefly in a 10% salt rinse. (Use 1 part sodium to 9 parts water). There is no way you can reduce pesticides from meat, dairy, and fish.

Downside of Artificial Sweetners

Because they potentially reduce the number of good bacteria in your gut and encourage insulin resistance, avoid artificial sweeteners.14 Saccharin and sucralose, for sure, and possibly stevia, adversely affect gut bacteria.15 Insulin resistance and high blood sugar themselves can disrupt the gut barrier and increase its permeability so that inflammatory compounds and toxins enter the blood.

Meal Frequency

Limit the number of meals and skip snacking. If you are sedentary, or have a chronic inflammatory condition, you might want to consider skipping supper and eliminating snacks. In other words, time restricted eating.Why? Time-restricted feeding allows for only 8–10 hours of feeding each day. Time restricted eating changes the gut microflora in positive ways to discourage obesity, disruption of blood glucose regulation, and bowel diseases.16  The Satisfying Fast

Do Not Relapse!

The composition of gut bacteria can change quickly!—within ten days. For better or worse. In other words, even a short-term consumption of diets composed mostly of animal or plant products rapidly alters and deteriorates the community of gut microbes. Just eating an animal-based diet or consuming fast foods for several days, for example, reduces useful byproducts from fermentation of carbohydrates. This diet consequently lowers the potential for diarrhea and other intestinal infections and inflammatory bowel diseases.17 The good news is that a proper diet can favorably shift the gut bacteria to a friendlier status within a few days!

Regular Schedule

Eat meals and sleep on schedule. Gut microbes have circadian rhythms that are controlled by the biological clock of the host in which they reside. Disturbed body rhythms adversely change the composition of the microbial community in such a way as to promote obesity and metabolic problems  18 How to Diffuse Your Body’s Time Bomb

Don’t Short Change Your Sleep

Even healthy young men who experienced only two nights of partial sleep deprivation, have a significant decrease in types of beneficial bacteria. They also experienced changes to the composition of microorganisms in the microbiome that are linked specifically to obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes

Researchers from Kent University investigated the influence of the microbiome in a group of adults ages 50-85 and found strong connections between higher sleep quality, better cognitive flexibility (the ability to transition between one concept to another), and higher levels of beneficial gut microbes.19 Even individuals who wake up frequently during the night develop adverse changes in gut bacteria.

Get Regular Exercise

Exercise boosts the diversity of the bacteria found in the gut. Reduced variation in gut microbes (microbiota) has been linked to obesity and other chronic problems. On the other hand, increased diversity favors a metabolic profile and a more helpful immune system response.20 Moderate exercise is especially useful in reducing inflammation.

Learn to Manage Stress

Stress can change the gut bacteria in undesirable ways. Exposure to psychological stress disrupts the beneficial gut bacteria. The dominance of certain bacteria can produce substances that interact with the brain, erode mental health, and lower the threshold for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsory disorder, and possibly other mental illnesses.21 Unfortunately, even moderate stress during pregnancy is enough to change the intestinal bacteria so that newborn infants are more susceptible to infections.22

Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses have many causative and contributory factors. The gut health is only one possible contributing factor in mental disease, but it should not be overlooked. Overcoming Fear & Anxiety

Check Your Meds

Antibiotics are not the only drugs that disturb the gut microflora. Acid-reducing meds, antibiotics, NSAIDS (nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs), calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure, anti-virals, anti-psychotic drugs, and chemotherapy can also negative impact our gut bacteria. If you take these any of these drugs, you might want to consider probiotics. Always take probiotics four hours after taking the medication!

Try to discover the causes of your condition. Treat the cause and you might do with less medicine and in some cases dispense with it all together. Please do not adjust medication without discussing it with your doctor first.

Downside of Probiotics

Live probiotics can be useful especially during a round of antibiotics, if using a drug mentioned above, if one has been on a poor diet, or has some medical condition in which documented evidence indicates that probiotics may help. If a person has been eating a healthful, plant-based diet and is generally healthy, there is no need to take probiotics every day Probiotic use can result in a significant accumulation of bacteria in the small intestine that can result in disorienting brain fogginess as well as rapid, significant belly bloating.23

© 2019 – 2020, Wildwood Sanitarium. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is educational and general in nature. Neither Wildwood Lifestyle Center, its entities, nor author intend this article as a substitute for medical diagnosis, counsel, or treatment by a qualified health professional.

Sources

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  3. Singh RK. Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. Journal of Translational Medicine volume 15, Article number: 73 (2017).
  4. Tomova A. The Effects of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets on Gut Microbiota. Front. Nutr. 17 April 2019.www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2019.00047/full
  5. Karon A. A Western Diet Linked to lower microbiome diversity. Internal Medicine News. March 29, 2019.www.mdedge.com/internalmedicine/article/197770/gastroenterology/western-diet-linked-lower-microbiome-diversity
  6. Zinöcker MK. The Western Diet–Microbiome-Host Interaction. Nutrients. 2018 Mar: 10(3): 365.www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5872783/
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