4 Ways to Effectively Reset Your Gut Health from a Naturopathic Doctor
The gut is often referred to as the body's second brain, and with good reason. The human gut is home to trillions of microbes, which play a crucial role in our health. These microbes help to break down food, synthesize vitamins and minerals, and protect the gut from harmful bacteria. Gut health is therefore essential for the proper functioning of the digestive system. There is growing evidence that the gut microbiome also has a profound impact on the rest of the body. Studies have shown that gut bacteria can influence the immune system, the nervous system, and even the brain. In fact, some experts believe that the gut-brain connection may be one of the most important determinants of overall health. While more research is needed to fully understand the role of gut bacteria in health, there is no doubt that maintaining a healthy gut is essential for well-being.
The Power of Fiber
Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. It helps to keep the digestive system working properly and can reduce the risk of constipation, diarrhea, and other digestive disorders. Fiber also helps to remove toxins and waste from the body, promoting gut health. In addition, Fiber acts as a prebiotic, feeding the beneficial bacteria in your gut and helping them to grow and flourish. These bacteria are essential for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, and they also play a role in boosting immunity. For a more defined definition of fiber, Naturopathic Doctor and Gut Health expert Dr. Firlande Volcy explains that "dietary fiber covers a very broad category of large molecules made by plants. These molecules pass through the mouth, throat, stomach, and small intestine (relatively intact) prior to reaching the large intestine (colon). Humans are not equipped with enzymes that can digest fiber. They are digested by bacteria which chemically convert dietary fiber into short-chain fatty acids.” An adequate amount of dietary fiber is essential for a healthy gut. Some benefits of dietary fiber include:
· Protection against coronary heart disease
· Protection against some cancers especially colon cancer
· Delays the rate by which the stomach empties
· Improves sugar tolerance
· Decreases appetite
· Decreases cholesterol levels
· Keeps the bowel clean and moving
Soluble dietary fibers
Soluble dietary fibers are partially digested by bacteria. They increase stool bulk by absorbing water while speeding movement of food through the digestive tract. When they absorb water they turn into gel-like goo. Soluble fibers include beta-glucans, gums, mucilages, and pectins and are found in foods like okra, oats, prunes beans, parsnips, seaweeds, apples, pears, psyllium and flax seeds, peas, and gum.
Insoluble fibers are more fibrous and are mostly indigestible by the body’s digestive enzymes and intestinal bacteria. They do not absorb water and when consumed in excess, can lead to irritation of the intestinal lining causing colitis. Insoluble fibers include lignan and cellulose found in sesame seeds, grains, fruit skins, celery, and soybeans.
So how do we begin to heal and reset the gut? Dr. Firlande shares that “when starting to repair the gut, most naturopathic doctors such as myself, will follow the 4R protocol of gut healing. The 4R is a common four-step process designed to support gut health.”
Remove all obstacles to cure, such as pathogens and inflammatory triggers (e.g., foods and environmental stressors) that could potentially lead to further damage. The following must be removed – refined starches and sugar, vegetable shortening, fried foods, certain baked goods, gluten, alcohol, and mold.
Next, replace with nutrient-dense foods (e.g., fatty fish, bone broth, fresh fruits, and vegetables), digestive enzymes, anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and rosemary, stress relieving activities (e.g., yoga, meditation), and proper sleep hygiene to help reduce inflammation and growth of bad bacteria.
Reinoculate (to reintroduce to the body). The process of adding beneficial bacteria to rebalance the microbiota. In this step, pre and probiotics supplements and fermented foods (e.g., yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, water kefir) are often recommended.
The last and final step is to repair the intestinal lining with specific nutrients and medicinal herbs known to decrease inflammation and heal the gut lining. Omega 3 fatty acids, zinc carnosine, L-glutamine, polyphenols (e.g., quercetin and curcumin), and vitamin D are often suggested to continue the healing process.
“Although the steps may seem simple, they must be incorporated strategically to be effective. It is important to work with a practitioner who specializes in gut health for best results.” Dr. Firlande suggests. Improving your diet and lifestyle is also important for maintaining gut health. Eating plenty of fiber-rich foods, probiotics, and antioxidants can help to promote a healthy gut microbiome. Reducing stress, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly are also important for keeping the gut healthy.