The Fundamentals of THRIVING Gut Health from a Holistic Perspective

Mar 21, 2023

The GUT!

The core of our body’s functioning.

Our gut not only helps us digest our food, absorb nutrients and flush out waste, it also produces/regulates many hormones and influences our mental health, too!

In order to keep this powerhouse of a system functioning strongly for years ahead, there are fundamentals we need in our ‘toolbelt’ that support our gut from a holistic, well-rounded perspective.

Before we dive into that, let’s make some connections!

Here are some examples of exposures, nutritional habits and lifestyle factors that bring about imbalances and damage to the gut microbiome over time (1):

  • High-volume processed foods and sugar
  • Medications (e.g. antibiotics, oral contraception, Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, Proton-Pump Inhibitors)
  • Sleep deprivation (dampens immunity; the majority of the Immune System is within the gut)
  • Chronic stress/worry (given the ‘Gut-Brain Connection’)
  • Alcohol/smoking/drug use
  • Chemicals (e.g. GMOs, pesticides/herbicides, chemical food ingredients, toxins in conventional house cleaning/personal care products/the workplace)
  • Individual food sensitivities/intolerances (e.g. gluten, refined dairy, corn, shellfish)

What do I mean by imbalance and damage?

A shift in the healthy balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract - equilibrium between the beneficial (probiotic) and poor bacteria has been lost.

This is a state of ‘Dysbiosis’ - a detectable change in the composition of the gut microbiota (gut bacteria) and overall diversity of strains - chronic disequilibrium (2).

More Specifically? Too much poor bacteria, too little good bacteria, or particular strains that are too high/too low. Specific types of Dysbiosis in the gut include Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Candidiasis (yeast overgrowth) (3).

This poor bacterial balance in your gut microbiome can manifest in various symptoms, including persistent gas/bloating, irregular bowel movements, acid reflux, fatigue, food sensitivities/allergies, joint pain, brain fog, skin issues, vaginal/rectal itching and mental health challenges (4).

Dysbiosis and persistent symptoms (including any already-known-about conditions in the picture), are indicative of specific, underlying imbalances going on, including (5):

  • Low stomach acid
  • Low pancreatic/digestive enzymes
  • Liver congestion/poor bile flow
  • Nutrient deficiencies (e.g. iron, B12, folate, vitamin D)
  • Motility issues
  • Gut infection (bacterial, viral, parasitic) or bacterial/yeast overgrowth
  • Leaky Gut (Intestinal Permeability) 
  • Malabsorption 

There are always ‘Next Steps’ we can take to redirect the trajectory of our path our gut is taking.

Here’s an introductory look at the key pillars of our health and some beginning supports to consider!

DIET

  • Consume ½ your body weight in oz. of filtered water daily
    • Helps flush out toxins
    • In combination with diverse sources of fiber, helps support regular bowel movements
  • Build consistency with a whole food-based, anti-inflammatory diet structured around the 3 macronutrients:
    • Protein
      • Ethically-sourced lean animal proteins and plant-based proteins (e.g. legumes, quinoa, organic tofu)
    • Anti-Inflammatory Fats & Oils
      • Organic, cold-pressed/expeller-pressed/unrefined avocado oil, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, chia/flax/walnut oils, rendered animal fats, egg yolks, etc.
    • Carbohydrate Fiber
      • Diverse, colorful sources of plants
      • Work towards approx. 30 sources of fiber weekly!

With fiber, more specifically, seek out sources of (6):

  • Soluble Fiber
    • Attracts water into the intestinal tract, turning it into a gel-like substance
    • Slows down digestion and nutrient absorption in the stomach and small intestine, keeping you more satiated, for longer
    • Feeds the good (probiotic) bacteria in the intestinal tract
    • Helps to bulk up/soften stools for elimination - easier-to-pass poops!
    • E.g. walnuts, chia/flax/sunflower seeds, apple, avocado, berries, broccoli, carrot and sweet potato
  • Insoluble Fiber
    • Remains intact/undigested as it passes through the digestive tract
    • Helps move food through the stomach and intestines
    • Cleanses the colon of debris
    • Helps bulk up stools for elimination - keeps you ‘regular’!
    • E.g. almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, root vegetables and their skins (e.g. carrot, sweet potato, zucchini), celery, broccoli, onion, dark/leafy greens, berries, apples/pears (skin on) and cucumber
  • Prebiotic-Rich Fiber Sources (7)
    • Feed the good gut bugs in your microbiome!
    • E.g. apple, asparagus, banana, chicory root, dandelion greens, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, leek, onion
  • Probiotic-Rich Fiber Sources (8) 
    • Raw, unpasteurized ferments (pre-digested by the probiotic bacteria they contain)
    • Bring beneficial bacteria into the gut to perform countless functions
    • E.g. raw sauerkraut/kimchi, organic miso, organic tempeh, organic coconut milk kefir, organic/low-sugar kombucha

STRESS MANAGEMENT

A more calm Nervous System is your new best friend! Minimizing stressors on the body and effectively navigating our stressors is crucial. It starts with how we respond to stress.

Consider establishing clear personal boundaries, be organized/prepared with strong time management skills, and schedule in stress-reduction activities, just like you would any other responsibility in your life. 

FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT

Regularly move your body with low-moderate intensity activities (e.g. biking, walking, swimming, pilates, strength/resistance training, yin yoga).

The bowels are stimulated to support digestion, also stimulating ‘endorphins’ that amplify mood!

QUALITY SLEEP

Prioritize minimum eight hours of sleep to avoid sleep deprivation/dampened immunity.

Start establishing or fine-tuning your ‘Sleep Hygiene’ (sleep routine). Do the 60-90 min prior to your bedtime involve Nervous System-stimulating or calming activities?

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL-MENTAL HEALTH

Seek out social connection with those you care about and love, counterbalancing those opportunities with sufficient time alone, as needed.

Start building/expanding your network of like-minded individuals who share your vision and intention for your life!

All pillars of our health require awareness, attention and support in small, key ways that are repeated to build consistency and momentum!

These days, ‘gut issues’ of countless types are all too common. While they can be quite complex, supporting the body does not need to become overly-complicated.

Repair and rebalancing of our body starts with awareness toward what we are/are not tolerating right now. We have strong intuition when it comes to our own body!

Next-level, deeper layers of support are what targeted plans/therapeutic protocols (developed and supported by a qualified practitioner) will do for you.

If you’re unsure as to how to get started supporting yourself, or are unsure as to the next step to take with your gut health journey, there’s always someone who can help! ;)

Article by: Jessica Pecush, CNE, C.H.N.C., BEd., BPE. Certified Culinary Nutrition Expert & Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant™. AIP Certified Coach® & Leader In Transformation

Jessica supports professionals navigating the imbalances of autoimmune gut disorders (e.g. Celiac, Crohn's & Colitis) with REPAIRING their gut, REGAINING their energy and becoming RECONNECTED to their personal and professional lives once again!

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Email connect@jessicapecush.com

SOURCES

  1. Rimes, J. et. al. (2018). Canadian School of Natural Nutrition: Guide To Nutritional Symptomatology. CSNN Publishing.
  2. Hooks, K. & O’Malley, M. (2017). Dysbiosis and Its Discontents. American Society for Microbiology, mBio 8:e01492- 17. https://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.01492-17.
  3. Rimes, J. et. al. (2018). Canadian School of Natural Nutrition: Guide To Nutritional Symptomatology. CSNN Publishing.
  4. Rimes, J. et. al. (2018). Canadian School of Natural Nutrition: Guide To Nutritional Symptomatology. CSNN Publishing.
  5. Rimes, J. et. al. (2018). Canadian School of Natural Nutrition: Guide To Nutritional Symptomatology. CSNN Publishing.
  6. Balch, Phyllis A. (2003). Prescription for Dietary Wellness, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Avery (A Penguin Random House Company).
  7. Haas, E.M. & Levi, B. (2006). Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, 21st century ed. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.
  8. Haas, E.M. & Levi, B. (2006). Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, 21st century ed. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.
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