10 Ways to Naturally Heal Your Gut and Optimize Your Health

The gut is the foundation of your health. Learning how to heal your gut can fuel wellness and vitality in every aspect of your life.

Why is your gut health so important? It’s how we digest our food, how we process information, how we form memories, how we synthesize nutrients from what we eat – it has a profound effect on our lives.

So why do so many people suffer from digestive disorders?

The answer: due to the inability to properly digest, absorb and utilize food. This is caused by an unhealthy and unbalanced microbiome and impaired intestinal permeability ( aka “leaky gut”). Your microbiome is the community of good bacteria, fungi and other organisms living and working in your gut. Many people also suffer from digestive disorders because the gut lining is too “leaky”.

With the right healing strategies, you’re on a different track. As my client, you’re destined for optimal wellness, starting with improved gut health: an improved microbiome community and gut lining that is intact.

This blog post will give you 10 strategies for how to heal your gut naturally and optimize your health!

Do you experience common gut issues such as gas, bloating, stomachaches, reflux, early fullness, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, weight changes, skin issues, emotional issues, fatigue or food intolerances? Then you may consider trying these steps to better gut health.

Step 1: Eat real colorful foods for a healthy microbiome and whole-food diet

The foundation of how to heal your gut? What you eat! There is a significant movement influencing how we approach food, nutrition and health called the “real food” movement.

Real foods are nutrient-dense whole foods that have been minimally processed or prepared so they retain their nutritive value (the amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your body can actually use). The more a food is processed, the more additives it typically has and the more nutrients have been removed – not good for optimal gut health!

The gut microbiome thrives when you feed it a variety of different foods. Each different plant food – from fruits to veggies, whole grains to nuts and seeds – offers different fibers. Fiber is fuel for the microbiome. And a well-fed microbiome is a happy microbiome. Another term for these fibers is “pre-biotics”: this refers to them being the food for the bacteria. We’ll talk about those more in the next section!

Step 2: Include probiotics and prebiotics each day

It isn’t just an apple a day to keep the doctor away: prebiotics and probiotics help to keep you feeling your best, too. What are they?

Probiotics are living organisms, usually bacteria. There are foods that contain the healthy bacteria needed to support your microbiome. These good bacteria can help restore balance in your gut when it has been depleted, or there is an overgrowth of harmful microorganisms like yeast and the bad bacteria.

Some examples of probiotic-rich food are sauerkraut, kimchee, yogurt, miso, tempeh, and fermented pickles.

Prebiotics are the fibers from plant foods that we cannot digest, but our bacteria can. What foods contain prebiotics? Apples! Apples have prebiotic fibers, but that’s not the only example. Oats, leeks, onions, tomatoes, barley and soy all do, too (1).

Prebiotics and probiotics are a gut-boosting combo. When we consume prebiotics and probiotics on a daily basis, our gut health thrives.

Step 3: Remove potential gut offenders

Not all gut health strategies are about adding things in. Sometimes, we need to talk about what makes sense to remove.

There are plenty of things in our typical American diet that can irritate our gut health. These include alcohol, processed foods, refined carbs (hey there, cookies and muffins) and added sugars.

While once in a while these things are perfectly okay, many of us enjoy them far too often to achieve optimal gut health. A good place to start is to begin to be aware of added sugars in your usual foods and drinks and begin to cut back. Slowly replace refined carbohydrates with whole grains, such as oatmeal for breakfast instead of a muffin.

Let’s talk about adding back in again with healthy fats.

Step 4: Eat more healthy fats

Fats still seem to have a bit of a negative reputation from the fat-free craze of the 1990s, but thankfully, fat’s reputation is improving. And it should!

The truth is, fats are essential! We need fats each and every day; for energy, to make hormone messengers, to repair and replace new cell membranes and to keep our skin glowing. If we skip fats, we don’t feel great and our gut health suffers.

Skip “fat-free foods” and enjoy more healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds. You’ll feel more satisfied with your meals and snacks and your skin will glow…not to mention you’ll improve your gut health.

Next topic? Fiber!

Step 5: Increase fiber intake

Did you know that most of us are eating far below the recommended amount of fiber each day? Far below! This is too bad because fiber is an incredibly important nutrient to support gut health, heart health and more.

And before you reach for a fiber supplement, keep in mind that fiber is found in plant foods, which are full of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, in addition to fiber. If you take a fiber supplement, you may get closer to your fiber goal, but you’d be missing out on the rest of the nutritional boost of getting it from a natural source.

Increase fiber slowly by eating more fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds and choosing whole grains over refined grains most often. Be sure to stay on top of hydration to prevent any issues with constipation.

Step 6: Eat more slowly and chew your food thoroughly

Did you know that digestion actually starts in your mouth? By thoroughly chewing your food and slowing down, you improve the process!

So many of us feel rushed through meals and are eating while we’re distracted: working, watching TV or trying to multitask.

Not being relaxed while we eat makes our body feel like we’re in fight or flight mode, which means our body is not focused on our digestion.

Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly (20-30 times for each bite) to give your digestion a great head start before that tasty meal reaches your stomach. You can take breaks between bites by putting down your fork. And whenever possible, try not to eat while doing something else. Step away from your computer or turn off the TV.

Next topic? Kick stress to the curb.

Step 7: Reduce stress

We live in very stressful times. Stress management is less about the stress itself, but how we respond to it and let it affect us.

Constant stress impacts how we feel and function, including our digestion. Although stress is more and more common these days, it doesn’t mean that we need to let it be “normal.” Did you know that long term stress greatly increases the chance that you’ll develop an ulcer (2)? That’s a serious consequence!

Reducing stress is possible with practice and tools. You can use stress management techniques such as yoga, mindfulness, deep breathing and meditation to release your stress. Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique: breathe in slowly for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and then breathe out slowly for 8 seconds.

While there will always be new things to think about and potentially worry about, releasing stress helps to minimize the negative impact.

Stress management techniques — no matter which one works best for you — bring your body back to equilibrium from fight or flight mode.

Step 8: Sleep

What do high blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux disease, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disorders, and colorectal cancer all have in common? You’re at a great risk for all of them if you’re not getting enough sleep each night (3). Yikes!

Many of us are sleep deprived without even realizing how much it impacts our health, especially our gut health. One study found over half of the participants reported poor quality performance due to work related fatigue and drowsiness, leading to poor decisions on how they cared for their bodies.

If your feelings of fatigue and tiredness persist please see a doctor as this could be a sign of other illnesses too.

If you have a routine of not enough sleep, small changes can help to get to bed a bit earlier and to have better quality sleep. For example, make sure that your bedroom temperature is cool and you don’t have any light. Try reading a book before bed instead of watching TV or scrolling through your phone; the light on the screens is stimulating to your brain and makes sleep more elusive.

No matter what small steps you can take to get more sleep and better quality sleep, your gut health improves. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep most nights (4).

Step 9: Exercise

Did you know that the benefits of exercise extend far beyond heart health and weight? For example, research has shown that exercise can increase the diversity of your microbiome (5). And we know now how important a diverse microbiome is for gut health.

Find movement that you actually enjoy – whether it is walking, biking, hiking, dance classes or just an active lifestyle. The key is to find something that you love!

If you’ve been more sedentary lately, take it slow. It is far better to start with a ten-minute walk and feel good the next day than to overdo it with lifting weights and risk hurting yourself. It is better to try to build habits slowly and deliberately to ensure that they stick. Don’t overdo it and wear yourself out.

Step 10: Supplements

Sometimes we simply need a boost. Supplements can help to repair and support our gut health. Everyone’s health history, goals and dietary habits are unique, so I recommend a unique protocol for everyone – this is the personalized approach you get from a clinical nutritionist!
A few examples of supplements that I might recommend include:

  • Probiotics
  • Omega-3
  • Collagen
  • L-glutamine
  • Zinc carnosine
  • Deglycyrrhizinated licorice root (DGL)

Another supplement I may recommend is digestive enzymes. Our body naturally makes enzymes to digest — i.e. take apart — the nutrients we have in our food — carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
If our body is not making enough digestive enzymes, our digestion can suffer.

Supplementing with digestive enzymes can be an easy way to help your body break down the nutrients you’re eating and absorb them.

Finding the right kinds of enzymes, that are the highest quality, to best support your digestion is something I help my clients with. In general, I recommend starting with a low dose of one or two capsules with meals until you notice how they affect how well you digest, then slowly increase the dosage as needed.

Summary: How to repair your gut

The examples listed here are just a few things you can do on a daily basis for optimal digestive
function. There’s no quick fix — it takes commitment! By making a commitment to yourself today
to begin to repair your gut health, you will provide yourself with a path to renewing your mind,
body and spirit.

Don’t forget how important it is to also have support along the way, so look out for others who might need encouragement too. Doing these steps will help ensure your path to wellness. There is no right or wrong place to start with these suggestions; feel welcome to pick the strategy or two that sounds the best or easiest to get started with and build from there.

Small, everyday choices can help to repair and heal your gut, improving your overall health, wellness and vitality. Each little step adds up!

If you’re ready to take charge of your health by improving your gut health, let’s chat about how I can help.
Set up your complimentary discovery call to learn how I incorporate personalized nutrition to support restoring digestive health.

As a clinical nutritionist, I can help you figure out the root cause of your symptoms and restore your health and well-being.