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One of the primary keys to optimal health lies in the balance of your gut. The colon is our “second brain” and as such communicates with every system in our bodies. In fact, more messages travel from your gut to your brain than the other way around. Your gut contains 60-100 trillion bacteria and over 100 neurons (more than your brain!). The state of our microbiome, that is the colony of bacteria in our bodies, affects our mood, immune function, weight, and blood sugar levels, just to name a few.
Gut imbalances can manifest as the obvious bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea, but also unexplained symptoms such as chronic fatigue, chronic pain, brain fog, skin problems (rashes, acne, eczema), insomnia, depression, anxiety, frequent bouts of sickness, weight gain and autoimmune diseases.
Every time we eat something we are either nourishing our good bacteria or negatively impacting our gut balance. This can happen quickly, sometimes within 30 minutes of eating a meal! That’s both good and bad news for our gut. The bottom line is you have the power to rebuild (or destroy) your microbiome with each and every bite or sip you take.
For myself personally, because of injuries I suffered in an automobile accident (you can read my experience on my About Me page), assisting my gut in maintaining function and balance has been essential to my health. Organs of my digestive system were physically damaged to the point that the nerve connection between my stomach and intestines does not always function properly. Over the years, I’ve had to learn powerful dietary and lifestyle strategies for giving my gut as much support as possible.
While you may not have the same digestive issues as me, each one of us can benefit from the healing strategies below. Gut health is important for everyone, especially if you suffer from issues such leaky gut, IBS, GERD, SIBO or regular bouts of nausea.
Here you’ll find 12 simple, everyday strategies you can take to immediately nourish and help balance your gut.
Simple Daily Habits That Keep Your Gut Balanced
Avoid gluten, sugar and highly processed foods
Eating a diet high in processed foods is THE major contributing factor to an imbalanced and sluggish gut. These foods feed the bad bacteria, leading to their overgrowth and problems like candida and leaky gut syndrome.
Gluten is detrimental even if you don’t have celiac disease or gluten sensitivities as it causes the tight junctions in the lining of our gut (similar to the mortar of a brick building) to weaken and open. This can lead to leaky gut syndrome which is implicated in many disorders.
Opt for fresh, whole foods whenever possible.
Eat fermented foods
One of the number one ways to balance your gut (and keep it that way) is to regularly eat fermented foods such as
- Yogurt. I’m not referring to the highly processed sugar-filled yogurts! (Those will actually contribute to gut imbalances.) Look for all natural, organic, low sugar varieties. Greek yogurt is a good one to try. If you’re vegan or dairy-free, there are also almond and coconut based yogurts at most health food stores.
- Kefir. Again, NOT the sugar-filled, highly processed brands!
- Sauerkraut. You can easily make your own sauerkraut by placing chopped cabbage in a large mason or canning jar. Dissolve 1 tablespoon pink Himalayan or sea salt in water. Fill the jar with this salt water so that it just covers the cabbage, allowing a small space remaining at the top. Screw the lid on tight and set the jar aside in a cool, dark area for 5-7 days (you could go longer, but I like that the cabbage stays a little crunchy at this point). After opening, refrigerate your sauerkraut. It should keep for about a month. (You can actually ferment many different kinds of food with this method!)
- Miso or tempeh
- Sourdough bread
Add chia seeds to your daily smoothie
Chia seeds are high in fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. They are 20% protein and contain 5x more calcium than milk, 7x more vitamin c than oranges, and 3x more iron than spinach. They can also help balance blood glucose levels. When soaked, chia seeds will expand into a gel-like substance. This same action takes place in your gut, sweeping through and assisting with “clean-up.”
Take an activated charcoal supplement
Activated charcoal is for more than just those pore cleansing face masks! It has the power to trap toxins, chemicals, pathogens, and parasites, binding to them within your colon and acting like a vacuum to pull them out. Not only does this aid in detoxifying your system, but it can immediately soothe bloating and gas by binding the gas-causing byproducts in foods that cause discomfort.
My go-to colon cleanse supplement – which I’ve been using for many years – is a natural herbal product from Dr. Schulze. His intestinal Formula #1 and Formula #2 (made with activated charcoal) has been a game changer in keeping me regular and flushing out toxins and parasites. Several years ago I suffered from a terrible parasite infestation that I was having trouble getting rid of on my own. After completing a round of Formula #2 (a 5-day cleanse), the level of parasites in my body dropped over 90% (as measured by tests at my naturopathic doctor’s appointment). I HIGHLY recommend both formulas!
[When taking any activated charcoal supplement it’s important to drink plenty of water to help flush this potent substance from your intestines and keep your gut moving along.]
Use gut healing essential oils
Essential oils can provide relief of digestive symptoms (such as bloating, gas and indigestion) while at the same time assisting your gut in repairing and rebalancing.
- For leaky gut try peppermint, thyme, and oregano. These can be applied topically in a carrier oil to the abdomen 2-3x per day at 5% dilution (30 drops per 1 ounce of carrier oil).
- For SIBO and dysbiosis try caraway, lavender and bitter orange.
- For IBS, try peppermint and cumin oil. These can be taken in capsule form before meals.
- For nausea, try peppermint, ginger and citrus oils.
Increase your probiotics
Probiotics promote a healthy gut ecosystem by encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria. You can get probiotics in a couple of ways:
- Take a probiotic supplement. Look for supplements that contain both probiotics (the good bacteria) and prebiotics (the indigestible carbs that feed the probiotics). Also, the supplement should have at least one million live bacteria, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains.
- Eat probiotic-rich foods such as asparagus, garlic, onions, leeks, and artichoke. (These foods may cause gas and bloating at first if you’re not used to eating them. Introduce them in small amounts slowly over time and chew thoroughly.)
Eat enough fiber (aka prebiotics)
Without enough fiber from our diets, probiotics in the gut can’t survive! This means increasing our consumption of fresh fruits and veggies. If you suffer from leaky gut or have gut sensitivities, you may need to start off with steamed or lightly cooked fruits and vegetables. Raw produce can be harder to break down and digest.
Drink bone broth
Bone broth provides vital amino acids and minerals that soothe and heal the lining of your gut. You can buy packaged bone broths or make your own bone broth with chicken bones or vegetable scraps.
If you’d like a quicker, cheaper and more convenient method, try my “cheaters” bone broth recipe:
- Add chopped onion, minced garlic, bone broth protein powder, collagen powder (optional), and pink Himalayan salt to 8 or more ounces of organic, low-sodium chicken, beef or vegetable broth.
- Simmer for a few minutes on low (until powders are dissolved and garlic and onions are softened). Take before bed to pull double duty as a sleep aid!
Kombucha is a fermented tea (black or green) made of yeast and bacteria. After fermentation, kombucha contains vinegar, B vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and beneficial acids. Some research shows that kombucha may heal stomach ulcers. It also aids in combating candida overgrowth and supports your gut balance.
You can buy bottles of kombucha in health food stores and many mainstream grocery stores. (My favorite brand is GT’s.) Or you can make your own with a kombucha SCOBY starter kit (SCOBY stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast).
My deep abiding love for kombucha cannot fully be expressed here (lol). I’ve been drinking it for over a decade and can attest to its amazing benefits. Drinking it regularly is an easy, tasty way to support and balance your gut.
Take a probiotic coconut water supplement
This is a kefir water made with coconut water and kefir cultures. If you don’t like the taste of kombucha and don’t want to have to drink 16 ounces of the stuff, coconut kefir water is a good alternative. You only have to down 1-2 tablespoons taken before meals and it gives you the same benefits.
Take a digestive enzyme
Digestive enzymes assist digestion and assimilation of nutrients by breaking down foods into amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol, simple sugars and nucleic acids. Your body naturally produces enzymes in the saliva, stomach, and pancreas, however, if your diet has not been optimal for some time or you have a digestive disease, you may be deficient.
My favorite brand of digestive enzyme supplement is from Standard Process. Normally you can only get these from a certified naturopathic doctor or nutritionist, but I’ve found a few Standard Process digestive supplements on Amazon at reasonable prices. That being said, it’s better to work with an experienced health kinesiologist or holistic nutritionist that can test and recommend just the right supplement and dose for you 🙂
Eating fresh raw foods and juicing are also great ways to flood your body with a regular supply of enzymes!
Try regular colonics
Colonics physically flush out your colon with gentle water pressure. I’ve tried this process a few times and found it beneficial (albeit a bit uncomfortable) for keep my colon moving along. This, of course, isn’t a daily habit per se but is helpful when done 1-2x per month.
There you have it! 12 simple ways to balance your gut every day
Of course, while I say “simple,” I realize these suggestions may not always be easy to implement, particularly when it comes to diet. If we have an addiction to sugar or gluten, breaking their hold on us takes time. Try cutting out highly processed foods slowly over time, perhaps starting with breakfast (no bagels, donuts or sugary cereals) and moving through each meal or snack of your day as you master the previous one.
In addition, serious gut issues can take time to heal, but these simple daily strategies are a step in the right direction. Give them a try – your gut, body, and brain will thank you!
What’s your favorite way to support your microbiome? Would you add anything else to this list?
If you’re looking for more resources on your journey to better gut health, I highly recommend the Gut Health Super Bundle below. You’ll get 65 ebooks, e-courses and printables, plus 846 gut healing recipes (worth over $700!) for 93% off.
Hi! I’m Liane, a self-proclaimed ‘scrunchy mom’ (as in semi-crunchy). I have a passion for all things natural, healthy and holistic. My aim is to inspire you on your healthy living journey by sharing simple, everyday habits that can transform your well-being and life.