5 Ways to Heal Your Gut Naturally
By: Dr. Keara Taylor ND
Gut health is one of the most important contributors to overall wellness. The state of your digestive tract affects how you digest food and the amount of nutrients you absorb. Beyond that, the gut microbiome housed in the digestive tract has an impact on metabolism, mood and mental health, and plays a huge role in our immune system.
We are learning so much about the function of the gut microbiome, including the role it plays in synthesizing vitamins and amino acids, and its role in immunity. The good microbes in the gut produce compounds called short chain fatty acids, which act as a fuel source for the cells lining the digestive tract, thus strengthening the mucosal barrier. Additionally, they have a positive effect on inflammatory molecules called cytokines, all of which are important for immune function (1).
So, how do you know if your gut could use some support?
While digestive symptoms like sluggish bowels, discomfort, gas and bloating are good indicators, other signs to look out for are feeling fatigued or foggy after eating, or experiencing headaches or skin irritations after consuming certain foods.
Here are 5 simple ways to heal your gut that you can start implementing today:
1. Consume anti-inflammatory foods and herbs.
Inflammation in the digestive tract can lead to uncomfortable digestive symptoms and a disruption to the gut microbiome. Beets contain nitrates which increase nitric oxide and have an incredible anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Licorice is an herb that has been found to have anti-inflammatory action particularly in the upper gastrointestinal tract like the esophagus and stomach. Other herbs with potent anti-inflammatory action include rosemary, ginger and turmeric, and when consumed or taken regularly can reduce inflammation in the gut.
2. Include fibre to feed your gut microbiome.
One of the most important components of the microbiome is the diversity of beneficial gut bugs in your digestive tract. The best way to improve diversity is to increase fiber in your diet. Focus on fibers that are prebiotic, meaning they feed the good bugs in your gut and can improve microbial diversity (3). Examples of prebiotics are inulin, fructooligosaccharides, and resistant starch which can be found in foods like chicory, moringa leaf, onion, garlic, and asparagus. Spices like rosemary, ginger, and cinnamon have also been found to have a beneficial effect on the gut microbiome (4). Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, spices, and whole grains will ensure a diverse and healthy microbiome. The more colours you can consume, the better!
3. Eat in a relaxed state.
Optimal digestion occurs in the parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ mode of the nervous system. This opposes the sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ state that is all too common in today’s modern world. Eating while in fight or flight (think: working to a deadline, during a meeting, rushing to get to your next task) can impair digestion. Incorporating adaptogenic herbs like licorice and ashwagandha, which modulate the main stress hormone cortisol, throughout the day and before meals can promote the ‘rest and digest’ state. In addition, mindful eating practices, like taking 3 deep breaths before a meal can be enough to activate the parasympathetic state to ensure that digestive function is working optimally (2).
4. Consume bitters before your meals.
Herbs and foods with bitter properties activate stomach acid and enzyme production, which are needed to break down food. Examples of bitter foods include arugula, dandelion greens, and apple cider vinegar. Herbal bitters include gentian, artichoke, dandelion, and even green tea. Having bitters about 10 minutes before starting your meal can kick start your digestive process.
5. Drink enough water.
This one is not a surprise! But drinking adequate water is important to get things moving along, as well as for energy, mood, and mental clarity. The caveat here is that you want to avoid drinking water WITH your meals. Gulping down liquids with meals can dilute the digestive juices that are so important to break down food (see above!). Sipping on water or tea with digestive or anti-inflammatory properties, however, is just fine, and will even benefit gut health.
Dr. Keara Taylor, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor who practices in Toronto. Dr. Keara is passionate about helping her patients live their best life, aiming to get to the root cause of symptoms and focusing on evidence-based holistic treatments to bring the body back into balance. She graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and is an active member of the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors. In her spare time, you are likely to find Dr. Keara curled up with a book and warm cup of tea, spending time in nature, or planning the next traveling adventure with her family.
Our Digest Beet + Moringa is an adaptogenic herbal tea blend that supports all angles of digestion with a soothing organic blend of Beets, Moringa, Chicory, Licorice Root, and Rosemary.
1. Singh RK, Chang H-W, Yan D, Lee KM, Ucmak D, Wong K, et al. Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. J Transl Med. 2017 Apr 8;15(1):73.
2. Cherpak CE. Mindful Eating: A Review Of How The Stress-Digestion-Mindfulness Triad May Modulate And Improve Gastrointestinal And Digestive Function. Integr Med Clin J. 2019 Aug;18(4):48–53.
3. D D-D, M N, I K, M S, M M, Sj M, et al. Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications [Internet]. Vol. 8, Foods (Basel, Switzerland). Foods; 2019 [cited 2020 May 21]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30857316/
4. Lu Q-Y, Summanen PH, Lee R-P, Huang J, Henning SM, Heber D, et al. Prebiotic Potential and Chemical Composition of Seven Culinary Spice Extracts. J Food Sci. 2017;82(8):1807–13.