Your gut health is a complete ecosystem that western culture has generally ignored for centuries until now. We are beginning to finally talk a little more about our digestive systems and not just assuming that if it goes in and comes out at some point, then we’re all good. According to a study done by doctors at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of 71,000 adults, 61% of them reported having some gastrointestinal issue within a week of resuming their regular diet. The term "gut health" has become more prevalent in the last several years throughout the medical community and food industry. It encompasses all aspects of our digestive system - from food intake to absorption, breaking it down, and releasing it.
For centuries, Asian Medicine has seen gut health as the center of our souls. Japanese culture sees the intestines as the "Honoured middle" (Onaka) and "center of the spiritual and physical strength" (Hara). Japanese culture respects it, while Western culture is just becoming hip to the importance of a balanced, healthy gut.
Why so many suffer from Digestive Issues
Many of us feel behind in our understanding of the importance of a healthy digestive system. In the last few years, more natural options are gaining popularity as alternatives to what the medical community has thrown out as the only options. Many of these over-the-counter or prescribed options are blanketed solutions to help with the symptoms but do not solve the actual problem.
Common Digestive Health Issues
1. Gerds: Gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly known as 'heartburn,' is one of the top issues among Americans. From the study mentioned at the beginning, 31% of the 71,000 participants suffer from chronic heartburn. It is entirely normal to have occasional bouts of acid reflux from greasy meals. It becomes an issue if this is happening more than it is not. With Gerds, the lower esophagus sphincter contracts and slows down the digestion of food, causing symptoms that include burning in the chest, the feeling of a lump in your throat, regurgitation of food or acid tasting liquid, and difficulty swallowing.
Natural Solution: There are many easy solutions to alleviate Gerds that do not entail a prescription:
- Drink more water and less coffee, carbonated beverages, citrus juices, and alcohol
- Low Carbohydrate Diet
- Sleep with your head elevated
- Avoid eating onions and chocolate
2. Leaky Gut: Leaky Gut Syndrome has been long associated with celiac disease, and has been gaining traction in the medical community and has been linked to mental disorders such as autism, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, depression, and schizophrenia. When you suffer from a leaky gut, your intestinal wall has been compromised and allows toxic digestive metabolites, bacterial toxins, and small molecules to leak into the bloodstream. Symptoms include food sensitivity, bloating, fatigue, skin sensitivity, and digestive issues.
Natural Solutions: The best way to heal a leaky gut is to remove foods that cause sensitivity and refined, overly processed foods and replace them with foods that promote a healthy digestive ecosystem. Foods such as fruits, green leafy vegetables, and fermented vegetables are amazing for gut health. Then to finally rebalance your gut with good bacteria that will promote and continue the healing process. Finding a balanced diet of foods that are full of prebiotics and probiotics is key.
3. Constipation: Constipation is another common issue and is generally related to your diet. Almost everyone will deal with constipation at some point in their life. Constipation is where bowel movements move slowly through the intestinal tract and cause buildup and difficulty releasing stool. This can cause the intestinal walls to stretch and cause further constipation compacting the stool.
Natural solutions: Drinking plenty of water and having a fiber-rich diet is critical to release buildup and clean out the intestines. Spirulina and Chlorella are rich in fiber, help detoxify the body, and replace the buildup with good bacteria that balances the intestinal ecosystem and regulates bowel movements. They are both easy to add to your diet. You can add them to a cup of water or a smoothie in the morning before beginning the day.
4. Candidiasis: Candida is a natural fungus that can be found in the intestines and mouth. It is entirely normal at regular levels, but it can overpopulate and become overgrown and cause infection in the body. The good bacteria in your gut help to control candida, but if that bacteria becomes imbalanced, then candida will take over, causing yeast and urinary tract infections, fatigue, digestive issues, among other things. Things that can cause candidiasis are taking antibiotics, a diet heavy in refined sugar, high stress, and drinking too much alcohol.
Natural Solutions: Candida is easy to get under control once you add the healthy bacteria to the gut to help kill the candida. An excellent probiotic like Spirulina or Chlorella will do the trick. Kombucha, garlic, and coconut oil have also been shown to help to kill candida.
5. Diarrhea: Diarrhea is a problem that can happen periodically or chronically. It’s characterized as a loose and watery stool accompanied by the need to use the bathroom frequently. Causes for chronic diarrhea could be a food allergy or intolerance, an infection, or an adverse reaction to a medication.
Natural Solutions: It is essential to find the cause of your chronic diarrhea because if it is a food issue, you will need to eliminate that specific food from your diet. You can also lean on a bland diet of chicken breast, apples, bananas, and rice. Bananas are beneficial because they restore the potassium lost from diarrhea. It's a low-fructose, fiber-rich fruit and contains inulin. It stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
In the meantime, it is essential to balance the bacterias in your gut, especially when dealing with loose stool, because it causes you to lose a lot of your good bacteria. A good probiotic will help with this. Dairy, such as kefir, is known to be a probiotic, but it is crucial to restrict dairy intake if you have diarrhea. There are non-dairy probiotic options such as Spirulina, Chlorella, or kombucha.Regardless of your bathroom habits, it would be best if you did what you need to create a balanced ecosystem for optimal gut health. The gut is the center of your being, and a healthy digestive system is essential for a healthy body or mind. Check out our digestive health smoothie recipe to add to your daily diet.