Improving Gut Health Naturally
Gurgle. Groan. Growl. Backfire. Burning oil. No, I am not describing someone trying to start an old jalopy. I am describing acid reflux/ heartburn/leaky gut/indigestion. In short, a painful annoyance which afflicts so many of us at one time or another and I have had more than my share. So let’s find out about improving gut health naturally and get that system in smooth running order again.
A Full Point Tune-Up For Your Gut
There are many known reasons for these symptoms to occur. Let’s face it. Everyday life is just plain stressful. High stress, lack of sleep, eating the wrong foods, and taking antibiotics are some of the culprits which can damage what is called our gut microbiome.
These Are the Nasty Signs That Can Manifest Due to an Unhealthy Gut
Bad Gut Bacteria Symptoms / An Imbalanced Gut:
1. Some bad gut bacteria symptoms / an imbalanced gut will include stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn. A balanced gut would have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste.
2. Unintentional weight fluctuations. Frustrated because you keep packing on the old pounds even though you exercise daily and eat reasonably healthy foods? Could be the ole gut trying to tell you something. An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat. Conversely, weight loss may be due to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
3. Chronic sluggishness, and fatigue can also often be blamed on the old gut. Insomnia or poor sleep are pesky and hard to control. The majority of our serotonin is produced in the gut. So it stands to reason if your gut is acting up sleep suffers. Some sleep disturbances have also been linked to the development of fibromyalgia.
4. Skin irritation. Countless people suffer from eczema, psoriasis, and other skin problems. Inflammation in the gut (caused by food allergies or poor diet) can cause some proteins to leak out into the body, (similar to the aforementioned oil leak in our hypothetical car malfunction). These can irritate the skin and cause nasty skin afflictions.
More Bad Gut Bacteria Symptoms
5. The poor old immune system gets it again. It is believed that an unhealthy gut increases inflammation and alters the proper functioning of the immune system. Hence, autoimmune diseases where the body gets confused and attacks itself rather than the bad guys.
6. Two food issues are usually linked to gut health as well. Food intolerance occurs when people have difficulty digesting certain foods. Food allergies are caused by an immune system reaction to some foods. Poor quality of gut bacteria is the culprit here. The result, difficulty with digestion resulting in bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea.
Home Food Sensitivity Testing
But, in this case, help is on the way in the form of home food sensitivity testing. What is home food sensitivity testing?
Food sensitivity testing checks how your immune system responds to different types of food. Although there are no at-home food sensitivity tests available at this time for food allergies, there are options that test for food sensitivities. These tests aid you in discovering the culprits causing your gas and bloating.
They work like this:
– sample collection. These can come from hair strands, cheek swabs, or blood samples.
– testing. These tests offer a range of results from sensitivities to you genetic response to food, exercise, and more.
– support. Many of the test kit companies offer customized information to assist in improving your health decisions.
Here is a copy of excellent at-home food sensitivity testing examples:
Healthline’s picks for the 5 best at-home food sensitivity tests
- Price: $159–$259
- Sample type: Finger prick blood sample
- Results: Within 5 days
Each purchase comes with instructions, collection materials, prepaid shipping, and the options for both digital and printable results.
Everlywell offers support to provide actionable steps for your results, including a group webinar with a healthcare professional to answer questions. Each test is reviewed by an independent board certified physician.
The company offers a partial refund if results haven’t been released and your purchase is less than 30 days old.
Best If You Already Took a DNA Test
- Price: $99
- Sample type: Cheek swab
- Results: 4–6 weeks
The Health + Ancestry Report by Vitagene tests your DNA to see how your genetics influence your health. It tells you how your body responds to gluten, lactose, caffeine, alcohol, carbs, fat, and sodium.
You also receive an ancestry report providing an interactive ethnic map and regional percentages about your heritage.
You can also use raw data for your health report if you took a previous DNA test from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, or MyHeritage.
Vitagene sets you up with a personal online coach to help you work on changes based on the information gained from your test.
Note the company tries to up sell supplements to you based on the results of your DNA test.
Best for Meal Planning Assistance
- Price: $189
- Sample type: Saliva swab
- Results: 10–15 business days
The Diet Fit plan from DNAfit includes reports for vitamins, minerals, lactose intolerance, and food sensitivities. Included with your purchase is access to a personalized meal plan and recipe platform based on your food preferences and genetics.
The company offers a 30-day money-back satisfaction guarantee. As well, DNAfit offers additional services to work with dietitians and fitness professionals.
23andMe users can use the raw DNA file from a previous DNA test with the DNAfit system.
Largest Genetic Analysis
- Price: $199
- Sample type: Cheek swab
- Results: Within 8 weeks
CRI Genetics Ancestry + Health Kit compares your DNA to over 600,000 genetic markers to get a picture of your health. It will be good to have this picture before you set about the business of improving gut health, naturally.
They provide a detailed report about your ancestry, health, and sensitivities. The information can be used to better understand how you metabolize carbs, fat, and protein, as well as how you store fat and use energy.
The company guarantees results by the end of 8 weeks, or they’ll refund your money.
Best Breath Test
- Price: $179
- Sample type: Breath test
- Results: Immediate, but need to be tracked consistently
The FoodMarble AIRE device is the first personal breath test device. It works by testing fermentation and hydrogen levels after eating food. This can indicate sensitivities and intolerances to certain foods.
This test requires the most work from you because you’ll need to consistently use the device. You’ll also need to track food and health behaviors in the app.
Over time, you’re able to see trends to better understand any food sensitivities you have. From there, you can make changes to your diet to ease bad gut bacteria symptoms, improving gut health, naturally.
Frequently asked questions:
Are food sensitivity tests covered by insurance?
No. Most at-home food sensitivity tests aren’t covered by insurance.
Your insurance may cover food sensitivity tests ordered through your doctor, but that’s not guaranteed.
Are at-home food sensitivity tests reliable?
Many companies work closely with clinical doctors and researchers to create accurate results for patients.
Over the past few years, at-home food sensitivity tests have only continued to become more reliable and advanced. They are probably the best place to start for anyone looking at improving gut health, naturally.
It’s common for food sensitivities to change over time. Food sensitivity can be tested every 1 to 2 years, or sooner if you notice changes in symptoms.
Can at-home food sensitivity testing diagnose a food allergy?
No. Currently, at-home food sensitivity testing cannot be used to diagnose food allergies.
Improving Gut Health Naturally: Takeaway
Experiencing the symptoms of food intolerance regularly can be exhausting. At-home food sensitivity tests can take the guesswork out of elimination diets and provide you with a more focused plan for improving gut health naturally.
If you experience sudden changes in symptoms, it’s best to discuss these with a healthcare professional.
But at-home tests can help support your health by guiding you to the possible causes of your symptoms.
Ashley Braun, MPH, RD, is a health and wellness writer based in Michigan. Her work helps people understand what affects their health, so they can make informed choices to take back the control in their health and wellness journey.
There are numerous self-help ways to mend your gut health. Yes, some of them are in the category of “easier said than done” but if at first you don’t succeed……and if you do succeed your gut will thank you profusely.
In this age of high stress coming at you from every angle, your poor body pays the price, but especially the long-suffering gut.
Give at least a few of these a try and hopefully you will see an improvement. Meditation, long walks, massages, relaxing time with friends and family, use of essential oils, laughing uproariously, having a pet.
Try to achieve 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
Eat slowly. Wolfing your food causes digestive discomfort (aka heartburn) whereas chewing slowly and thoroughly promotes full digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Stay hydrated. Water, water, and more water. This hugely benefits the mucosal lining of the intestines and balances the good gut bacteria.
Take a prebiotic or probiotic. Prebiotics provide help in promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut while probiotics have in themselves good bacteria and influence immune function. One caution: not all probiotic supplements are high quality. Some are loaded with added sugar and sodium.
Change your diet. You know the drill….less processed, high sugar and high fat foods, more plant-based foods and lean protein and, of course, fiber. Fermented foods are lauded as winners as they are great dietary sources of probiotics. Collagen rich foods such as bone broth, salmon, mushrooms, and good dairy aid in the production of your own collagen.
Let’s talk a bit more about those strange k-words that seem to be popping up everywhere. Fermented foods such as these are the stars of the show these days.
1. Kefir – tangy liquid, a bit yogurt-like, it contains lactic acid bacteria and has yeasts. Drink it on its own or use it to make oatmeal or smoothies.
2. Kombucha – a slightly carbonated fermented drink made from sweetened black or green tea. A bonus to some, not so much to others, during the fermentation process a little alcohol is produced.
3. Kimchi – an Asian fermented cabbage dish.
Other Gut Health Building Foods
Some other gut health building foods are:
Yogurt (the varieties that contain live and active cultures)
Aged cheese (Parmesan, Swiss, cheddar, Gouda are the ones that contain probiotics)
Fermented vegetables ( sauerkraut, pickles, and olives)
Oats (whole oats which are rich in fiber and feed the good gut bacteria)
Garlic, Apples(full of pectin which is a prebiotic fiber), and Beans (yes, they sometimes cause that machine to backfire but a little gas is good as it indicates that your gut bacteria are chowing down on a good meal).
And the moral of this story is:
On the path to improving gut health, naturally, you are doing one primary thing:
Taking care of those friendly bacteria in your gut so that they will do their very best to take care of you. Do a full point tune up, and soon you will have that machine humming like a new Mercedes.