Ah, the gut. A too-often neglected area so crucial to your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Referred to as the “second brain” of your body, the gut affects more than most people know or understand. Protecting it is critical.
Without good gut bacteria, the rest of your body can go downhill fast!
The wonderful thing about your belly is that even if you’ve beaten it up for years with pro-inflammatory foods, poor habits, and little hydration…it isn’t too late! Your gut is incredibly resilient and with a few tweaks to your lifestyle and eating habits, you can mend the damage and prevent future problems.
Gut Bacteria 101
Bacteria are pretty fascinating when you look closely. They’re neither plant or animal but a single-cell organism known as prokaryotes. They are everywhere. Air, water, soil, food, and your body. It’s a good thing that most of them are considered harmless because they outnumber every other life form on the planet. In your body, you have hundreds of trillions.
You want more good ones than bad ones.
There is good bacteria that you want (and need) inside you to break down food, absorb nutrients, stimulate your natural production of vitamins, and keep your system free of toxins, parasites, and germs. In nature, good bacteria break down waste and produce oxygen, protecting and sustaining life. They do the same thing in your body. These little guys eat the bad stuff! If it isn’t supposed to be there, they get rid of it. You have them in your mouth and skin but the biggest accumulation of good bacteria is in your belly.
There is bad bacteria that causes basic system functions to break down (and sometimes fail completely). They get inside you in many ways such as environment, wounds that aren’t tended properly, or contaminated food. Infection, sickness, and even death can result from an overabundance of the bad guys.
Knowing the difference between the intestinal flora you want and the ones you don’t want is important. Humans represent an outstanding “breeding ground” for bacteria of all kinds. We supply ample warmth, fluids, and nutrients for them to feed on.
The right balance of good gut bacteria is the key to a strong immune system, gastrointestinal tract, and better nutrient absorption overall. However, what is becoming more clear as additional research is done is that your gut health also impacts your aging, the health of your skin and nails, weight, appetite, overall brain cognition, energy levels, hormone regulation, and even mood!
Variety is important, too. Having a diverse mix of beneficial gut bacteria means they’re focusing on many different issues inside you. Let’s talk about three steps to rebuilding your colony of good gut flora and helping them get rid of the bad guys.
Step One – Removing Pro-Inflammatory Foods
Before you can build up good gut flora, you have to stop destroying them with pro-inflammatory foods. For thirty days, remove the following from your daily consumption. Start weaning yourself off a few weeks before you start so it isn’t so frustrating. You might like the way you feel so much that you never reintroduce some or all of them back to your diet!
- Caffeinated products
- Dairy (non-fermented dairy is okay)
- Refined sugar
- Artificial sweeteners
Step Two – Give Your Body Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Once you take away the foods that burn through your body, you need to provide foods that further lower inflammation, stimulate the growth of new gut bacteria, and help repair what may amount to decades of damage in your belly. Here’s a list of some good choices.
- Vegetables (lots and lots of different colors)
- Coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
- Water (with a bit of citrus to aid digestion)
- Nuts and seeds
- Grass-fed or organic meats
- Wild-caught Seafood
- Organic eggs
Step Three – Let’s Colonize!
To get the right balance of good gut bacteria, you want to pick many different foods. Prebiotics are what the good flora eat. They need plenty of nutrients to do their job and the side effect is that not only is good for the bacteria…it’s good for you!
- Garlic, leeks, onions
- Artichokes or asparagus
Then you can start loading in those beneficial bacteria! Taking away the inflammatory foods is going to make it possible for these microscopic helpers to get comfortable, settle in, and get to work. Introducing bacteria from many sources helps you keep your colony diverse and able to handle all sorts of problems that might crop up in your body.
- Kefir (yogurt drink)
- Sauerkraut, sour pickles, or kimchi (spicy cabbage)
- Kombucha (fermented tea)
- Microalgae (chorella, spirulina)
Always use food sources over supplements whenever you can! Your body knows exactly what to do with the good gut bacteria you give it in food but can’t always process or absorb supplement versions. Take your nutrition seriously for long enough to really experience how it makes you feel.
With a body running at peak, you’re going to think better, feel better, look better, and live longer.
For more fantastic information about how your gut affects your entire body, check out my book, “Fire in the Belly.” Let’s talk about how that “second brain” has been making you feel and fix it right now. Don’t waste one more day!