Consider that our bodies are our individual kingdoms. This would make our gut the gatekeeper to the kingdom. When we breach and harm the gut, we are by extension damaging our bodily kingdom and all the power within it.
Aside from our skin, it is our largest interface with the outside world. Essentially, we need to nurture and nourish our gut, so that it can protect and support us.
The gut is a source of intelligence and intuition, guiding us to make sense of the world beyond our bodies. Additionally, it reveals to us much about what we are experiencing within. It requires us to tune into our bodies and listen to what it is telling us about ourselves.
How we treat our gut reflects how well we feel in mind, body, and spirit, and poor gut health can be linked to unwelcomed mental and physical health problems.
We all have the power to maintain and elevate our own health by being mindful of what we feed our bodies and how much we take care of ourselves in our day-to-day lives. By honoring our gatekeeper, we are caring for our immune system as well as maintaining positive mental health and general wellness.
Inside the Gut
The gut is home to our microbiome. The microbiome is the living ecosystem in the stomach that works tirelessly to keep us healthy. This system (our gut flora) is made up of a community of microbes, bacteria, fungi, and viruses that establish a symbiotic relationship with our bodies. These microbes can be both beneficial and counteractive to our health. Under healthy and happy circumstances all the residents of the flora coexist harmoniously.
It is highly likely that our bodies actually have more bacteria than human cells inhabiting it. Most of the good bacteria in our body reside in the digestive tract, specifically the large intestine. It is what helps us digest our food as well as produce and absorb micronutrients to establish homeostasis in the body. Just like everything else, there needs to be a balance. Tip the scales too far in one direction and everything will spiral down.
There are many ways that we can harm our gut. For example, antibiotics are generally heroic in nature. They can save the day when we have a bacterial infection. Yet, as helpful as antibiotics can be, they can affect our overall microbiome health by destroying the good bacteria in the gut. Antibiotics can lead to more diseases because of the destruction of good bacteria that support our bodies’ immune systems.
Being mindful of overmedicating our bodies is key to keeping the good bacteria alive and our gut healthy. At the same time, we don’t want to overdo it with overpopulating our gut with microbes. As always, there is too much of a good thing. Once we have awareness of how our bodies functions healthfully, we will learn how to manage our gut health.
Everyone’s gut acts a little differently. Microbiomes are bio individual. No two guts are identical. The unique network of living organisms has been established by a variety of factors including our DNA, the way we entered the world (through the birth canal or not), and how we were nursed as young, just for starters. Over the years, our diet, lifestyles and genetic predispositions also start to affect our health in positive and negative ways.
Given an unstable gut flora, dis-ease in our bodies, chronic health issues, and autoimmune disorders are imminent. The truth is an unhealthy gut can affect us much more than we think. So often we overlook it as an issue in our overall health, but we are unknowingly wreaking havoc on the very system we rely on to keep us healthy and happy.
Happy Gut, Happy Us…
Fun fact: 95% of the serotonin in the body is created in the gut.
Serotonin is a chemical that carries messages to the brain and acts as a hormone. Serotonin is a welcomed hormone. Serotonin is in the brain, and it regulates our mood, anxiety level, happiness and so much more. Keeping our gut healthy is very much correlated to our inner happiness. We don’t think about how our stomachs have a direct effect on our mental wellbeing, but the proof of the pudding is very much in our eating, so to speak. We can improve our own individual mental health by keeping our gut strong and happy.
When we feel emotions, it also often corresponds to a feeling we get in our bellies. That stomachache that rears its ugly head when we’re afraid, the irritable bowels that overreact when we are anxious, or the vomiting that arises when we’re nervous are all a part of the connection between the gut and brain. Studies are now finding that patients with severe digestive issues can improve their digestive health by reducing their stress levels, showing us a healthy microbiome can have a truly great affect on our mind and body.
Stressing out the Gut
Stress is toxic and creates dis-ease in the body. Cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone, is unleashed in the body every time we experience distress. Our bodies go into fight or flight mode and like dominoes it starts to have negative impact on our systems. It can cause our digestive systems to have a negative immune reaction, our blood pressure and heart rate to soar, and increased inflammatory responses throughout. Chronic inflammation can cause continued harm if it is not controlled.
Unfortunately, it can take time to clear our bodies of stress. A stressful event that happened months ago could affect you now if you don’t learn how to minimize your stress levels. It is crucial for your gut health and general wellbeing that we actively manage our stress levels. It needs to be a part of our daily preventative care.
How We Heal our Gut
It really takes an orchestration of integrative care to keep our bodies in check in mind, body, and spirit. We need to tend to the roots of the problem and not just put Band-Aids on the broken branches. It’s vital to look at the whole picture and understand why your body is breaking down and what, in your particular case, is the culprit.
Gut health isn't easily improved overnight, but addressing gut health from a holistic perspective can help us get back on track and feeling better. We can feel more in control and at peace with ourselves. If the body is struggling systemically, it might be best to consult a professional to navigate the journey back to a healthy gut. There are ways, however, without the support of others, that we can tend our gut on a daily basis.
The following five tips are great ways to improve gut health, maintain a healthy gut, and reduce overall stress on the body.
Fermented foods are living foods that contain microorganisms like yeast and many types of bacteria that can improve our gut health. These living foods contain natural pre and probiotics that can assist with balancing our gut health and lower inflammation in the body. Adding foods like miso, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, and sourdough bread can be one of the first steps to healing and balancing the gut.
Meditation is an excellent way to tune in to the world within and relieve stress. Doing a guided meditation that incorporates simple breathing exercises can lower cortisol levels and decrease the impact of stress on the body. Being mindful of our breath, allowing ourselves the space to feel rooted in the earth, and surrendering to what is in the moment, relieves the feelings of fight or flight we experience when the going gets tough. It also opens up a whole different dimension of spiritual connection to self and to the bigger picture.
Sleep is correlated to everything. We often disregard it as a part of our wellness journey. Still, it’s a key ingredient in our daily cycle of staying healthy. If we don’t get adequate sleep (7-9 hours a night), we can bet that everything else will be out of whack. It affects the way and what we eat, plays a role in how we function physically, mentally, and emotionally, supports our immune system, and helps to keep us at a healthy weight. Solid sleeping habits have been demonstrated to positively impact general health and happiness.
Since our mental well being has significant effects on our gut and physical well being, it is important to remember the importance of daily exercise. A simple walk outdoors can bring significant health benefits, including lowering overall stress levels. Lowering your stress levels on a daily basis can assist with keeping your microbiome in balance and working properly. Not only does your body feel better from moving and stretching, but it does wonders for the mind too.
Quit Artificial Sweeteners
More and more evidence is being revealed that artificial sweeteners affect the gut. Not only can they make you crave more real sugar, but it has been linked with issues that can cause type-2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Eating moderate amounts of real sugar is much better for your overall health and microbiome than eating artificial sweeteners regularly.
Implementing these new tips into your daily routine can be time-consuming. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to healing the gut. It requires time, patience, trial and error, and a solid support system.
It is, undoubtedly, completely achievable and life-altering. Feeling well and happy is an absolutely worthwhile game changer. We do it for ourselves and we do it for the people we love.
Be sure to take baby steps and have grace with yourself on days that you're struggling. Be grateful for all the ways in which your body does serve you well and set positive intentions for all the ways in which it could improve. Value your kingdom for all its beautifully wondrous ways.
We invite you to join us a Honey Hollow to participate in an individual-based holistic health program! Feel free to peruse our recipes for healthy ways to nurture your gut.