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Herb Affair Blog - Digestive Health

​How to Heal Your Gut Naturally

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By: Karen Brennan

You may have gut issues and not even know that your symptoms and health conditions are related to your gut health. Because of the type of society, we now live in, we are exposed to toxins daily from our food, water, soil and air. For this reason, it is important to support your gut health on a regular basis.

When the gut lining gets damaged this leads to a condition that you may have heard of-Leaky Gut Syndrome. 

Leaky gut means that you have intestinal permeability, thus food particles can pass through the gut lining, travel through the blood stream and create havoc.

If you have a healthy gut, then the protective barriers allow food to get digested and absorbed instead of breaking through and entering the blood stream. When the gut lining becomes inflamed then this protective barrier starts to break down. There are many things (as you can see from the list below) that can cause the gut lining to break down.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it is, and the bigger issue is that you may not even realize that it is occurring. Once these food particles enter the blood stream, where they should not be, your body reacts and wants to attack to protect you from these invaders. This creates an inflammatory reaction in the body and leads to systemic inflammation. While the issue may start in your gut, instead you may have symptoms that you would not associate with your gut such as brain fog, fatigue, allergies, asthma and autoimmune disease.

Some Causes of leaky Gut Include

(not an exhaustible list):

  • NSAIDS (ex: ibuprofen, Aleve)
  • Anorexia, bulimia
  • Candida (yeast overgrowth)
  • Old age (reduction in stomach acid as we age)
  • Alcohol abuse/alcoholism
  • Chemo and radiation
  • Parasites
  • GMO’s, pesticides, herbicides, glyphosate (Round Up sprayed on foods you consume)
  • Antibiotic use (even just one use can disrupt the gut)
  • Food allergies/food sensitivities
  • Fast food, frozen meals, take- out meals, sugar, simple carbs, rancid oils, GMO’s, hormones and antibiotics in your food
  • Diet high in refined sugar and processed, refined carbs (again the standard American diet)
  • Gluten (today’s gluten is sprayed but is not a GMO crop)
  • Pasteurized dairy (these animals are injected with antibiotics)
  • Meats from CAFO (confined animal factory operations)

Leaky Gut Syndrome Symptoms

Not sure if you have Leaky Gut Syndrome? Then see if you have any of the symptoms below.

  • Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation
  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Autism
  • Bipolar
  • GERD
  • Poor functioning immune system
  • Brain fog, memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Nutritional deficiencies (not absorbing your nutrients)
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Skin issues (eczema, psoriasis, acne)
  • IBS
  • IBD
  • Other autoimmune conditions such as Hashimotos, celiac disease
  • Arthritis, inflamed joints, chronic pain
  • Changes in mood, weight, and appetite

How To Treat Your Leaky Gut

  • Remove: This is the first step. Identify your root causes for leaky gut syndrome. Are you drinking alcohol in excessive amounts, do you eat the standard American diet of fast food and processed food, or do you pop ibuprofen for pain daily? For most people, dietary changes are needed to support gut health. If you are not sure if foods are aggravating your health, do a 21 to 30 -day elimination diet and remove gluten, soy, dairy and eggs from the diet and slowly re-enter one back into the diet every 3 to 4 days after the trial removal period and watch for symptoms.
  • Replace: Do this by adding supportive gut healing foods and herbs into the diet to nourish and heal the gut. Foods to add in include leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, quality fats and proteins. Eat whole foods as much as possible. If you are not familiar with using herbs, start with the spice cabinet! Add herbs to your meals instead of just using salt and pepper! Add turmeric to curry dishes since turmeric is known to reduce inflammation. Ginger is gut supportive and this can be added to Asian dishes. Thyme and oregano have antibacterial properties and can be useful if you have an overgrowth of yeast.
  • Hydrate with filtered water and herbal teas. Herbs that are supportive, healing and soothing to the gut include ginger, chamomile, nettles, slippery elm and dandelion root.

Before adding in herbs to your diet, check with your health professional as some herbs can interact with some medications and may not be right for those with certain health conditions and may not be safe to use in pregnancy or with children.

  • Ginger Root: Ginger is a warming herb and good for the digestive system. It can help to stimulate your digestive juices and can be a good herb to use for issues such as gas, bloating and an upset stomach. If you ever see ginger candy in the store front by boats, it is there for good reason as ginger can aid with nausea and motion sickness. Ginger is a warming herb and gives off some heat. If you are not familiar with ginger, you can start with your spice cabinet and add some ginger powder to stir fry’s. As a tea, it is good on its own or can be added with other herbs. You can buy ginger root in your local grocery store and mince it and add it to hot water, strain and then sip. Because it is a root, let the hot water simmer longer with the root than you would for a tea with leaves. It takes a bit longer for the constituents from the root to be extracted into the hot water, thus let it steep for about 10 minutes.
  • Chamomile Flowers: Chamomile is a great gentle herb to use alone or add to other herb blends. It can be a useful aid in healing the gut, lowering gut inflammation and removing toxins from the gut. Use this herb if you have gas, bloating, digestive issues, acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome. It has a wonderful scent and is a great addition to a tea.
  • Nettle leaf: The nettle plant is known as a very nourishing plant and is considered a booster food because you need only a small amount to provide this nourishment. Add nettle leaf and nettle seeds to your smoothies or make a tea with nettle leaf.
  • Slippery Elm Bark powder: This herb can have a slimy quality to it such as with okra. This slimy quality is what is so good about it for gut health! It is very soothing and healing for the intestinal tract. Think of it as coating your gut as would the gel from Aloe Vera. Add this herb to your regimen if you have acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, or an upset stomach. The way to use the bark is in powder form and to make a gruel. Mix a small amount of slippery elm bark powder (1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon should be plenty) with filtered water and blend it until it has a paste like consistency and then consume.
  • Dandelion Root: By now you probably know that the weed growing in your yard is a powerhouse for your health! The root will aid with digestion and can be a useful herb for constipation, gas or acid reflux. Use the root in tea and as mentioned under ginger root, let it simmer longer than you would for ariel parts of a plant. Since it is a bitter herb (bitter herbs help to stimulate the digestive juices needed to break down your food) when using in a tea you may want to blend this with other herbs or add in a bit of raw honey.
  • Consume Foods that are sources of probiotics and prebiotics. Adding in probiotic rich foods will help replenish the good bacteria in the gut while the prebiotics are considered food for the probiotics so that they can thrive. A prebiotic is the non-digestible fiber that makes its way to the large intestine to feed the good bacteria there. Prebiotic rich foods include unripe bananas, raw and cooked onion, raw garlic, raw dandelion greens and raw asparagus (add the tips to salads). Probiotic rich foods include those that are fermented. These foods can be found in the refrigerator section of your health store. This includes kefir, fermented vegetables, miso, pickles such as Bubbies brand and fermented sauerkraut.

A healthy gut can mean a healthy body and brain. Take care of your gut health by eating a whole foods diet and adding in the right plants and herbs to nourish and heal.

Sources

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutic Nutrition. CA: Bauman College.

Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine. CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc.

Nichols, T. & Faas, N. (2005) Optimal Digestive Health. VT: Healing Arts Press

About The Author:

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need.

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and If Life is So Good, Then Why AM I Still Depressed? Discover the root cause for your depression and learn what to do to feel better and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC.

For more information visit www.trufoodsnutrition.com

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only. 

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