This statement is as true today as it was two thousand years ago. A healthy gut is one of the core foundations of having vibrant health. More than half of our members that come to Parsley Health have some level of digestive imbalance. For each member, we take a root cause approach to determine the underlying dysfunction to heal from the inside out and create a plan tailored to their specific needs.
When your digestive system isn’t working properly, it affects every single system in your body, from cardiovascular to immune. Because it begins in your mouth and ends in your rectum, think of it as a continuous tube that is technically still exposed to the outside environment. The lining of the colon is only one cell layer thick and therefore very susceptible to environmental toxins. These toxins can be in the form of unhealthy foods, antibiotics, birth control pills and other medications, alcohol, and even emotional stressors.
The good news is our digestive lining renews every 72 hours. The bad news is most of the time it has no chance to recover from the constant onslaught of toxins. This also creates malabsorption of key nutrients. You could be eating the healthiest, organic diet, exercising daily, and sleeping 8 hours a night. However, if your gut is imbalanced, you can still feel unwell.
If you think it’s ok to experience gas , bloating , and general discomfort on a regular basis, think again. These symptoms are your body’s signals of something deeper going on and it’s important to address them as soon as possible. Below are some of the most common symptoms of digestive dysfunction:
Maybe. Many digestive issues can be solved simply by going on an elimination diet. This is defined by removing the top 7 inflammatory foods—gluten , dairy , egg, soy, corn, peanuts, and artificial sweeteners/sugar. While this sounds daunting and restrictive to many people, working closely with a health coach can help you make successful dietary changes.
If symptoms like bloating, constipation, and brain fog don’t improve with dietary changes within 30 days then moving on to specialty testing is usually recommended. Comprehensive testing includes evaluating biomarkers for digestion, absorption, parasites, yeast, and pathogenic bacteria.
Creating and maintaining a healthy microbiome requires paying attention to what is on your plate at every meal. In addition to eating a plant-based diet, adding in fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, miso, and kombucha helps to keep high levels of healthy bacteria in our gut. It’s important to limit your portion of fermented foods as more is not always better. No more than a tablespoon of kimchi or 6 oz. of kombucha is recommended in one sitting.
Also, if you notice that these foods cause an increase in bloating or constipation, please seek professional medical advice. While they are an excellent source of healthy bacteria, it can worsen conditions like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or irritable bowel syndrome.
It’s also important to support adequate enzyme levels so that you can digest and absorb the food that you are consuming. If patients are having symptoms of excessive belching or heartburn, I will recommend they take some digestive bitters before meals. They now come in all kind of flavors and even a pocket-sized spray to take with you anywhere.
Some people might find intermittent fasting to be healing for the gut. By giving your digestion a rest for an extended period of time, usually 14-16 hours, you allow your body to reset. While intermittent fasting is usually safe for most healthy individuals, it is best to proceed with the guidance of a health coach or physician.
Additional ways to ensure your gut is healthy and happy include trying a recipe like our anti-inflammatory smoothie , incorporating more of these good bacteria boosting foods into your daily menu, and drinking warm water with lemon every morning.
The number one supplement I recommend for better digestion is probiotics . They not only aid in digestion but can speed weight loss, improve mood, eliminate constipation, and boost the immune system . Having high levels of good bacteria also crowds out excess yeast, pathogenic bacteria, and parasites. They create enzymes to help destroy these harmful pathogens.
However, all probiotics are not created equal. Depending on if you are treating an active digestive concern or are on maintenance, the dosing needs to be adjusted. In addition, if you have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) taking a probiotic may actually make your symptoms worse! This is where working with an expert physician who is trained in functional medicine comes in, and they will help get to the root cause of any digestive imbalances.
Dr. Tiffany Lester is a board-certified Integrative Medicine Physician who has practiced a holistic approach to health for over a decade. She is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, where she completed her training in internal medicine. She also graduated from the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona with Dr. Andrew Weil, and has extensive training in functional medicine through the Institute of Functional Medicine. Dr. Lester is also featured as a teacher for the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and regularly contributes to national wellness publications.