Living with a damaged gut can negatively affect other areas of your life—but it doesn’t have to be that way! You (and your gut!) deserve to be happy and healthy. Read on to find out what you can do to begin healing your gut naturally.
Back to the Basics
Throughout history, humans have had an unusually diverse diet compared to other species, and this gut adaptability is directly linked to the gut microbiome. Specifically, we rely on the beneficial bacteria that make up the gut microbiome to digest foods that we can’t digest on our own, such as soluble fibre. Our friendly gut bugs essentially “unpack” such foods and their nutrients into forms that the human body can use.
The reason so many people may have trouble digesting certain foods—such as fibre and FODMAPs—is that they have an unbalanced or weakened microbiome. When your gut is out of whack, it needs to heal before it can reach its full digestive potential. While it’s important to get professional medical advice so that you can rule out any underlying illnesses or medical conditions, there are also steps you can take to begin healing your gut today!
First time hearing about FODMAPs? Learn more here.
Roadmap to a Healthier Gut
1. Take it slow.
Fibre is essential to gut health, but a damaged gut can only tolerate so much! The best way to reintroduce high-fibre and high-FODMAP foods into your diet if you have a weakened or imbalanced gut microbiome is to take it slow. Think of your gut as a weakened muscle that needs to slowly and gradually build up its strength. Too much fibre, too fast, can and probably will make things worse, whereas gradually reintroducing fibre into your diet will allow your gut to acclimate and be able to process more fibre.
For example, in one study, participants who consumed prebiotic fibre supplements were better able to tolerate the lactose in dairy products. In other words, strengthening their gut microbiome allowed the gut to more fully reach its digestive potential! However, this study revealed another fact that is just as important:
Participants given a LOWER dose of fibre supplements actually had BETTER results than those given a higher dose! This supports the idea then when you have a damaged gut, you need to slowly and gradually increase your fibre consumption so that you can effectively heal your gut without overwhelming it. Slow and steady wins the race after all 😉 [1, 2].
2. Instead of elimination, aim for abundance.
Often, addressing a damaged gut can be too elimination-focused—such as eliminating certain foods from the diet or taking antibiotics to eliminate bacteria. Elimination can be part of your healing strategy (especially in the initial stages), but it can’t be your final destination. For example, while eliminating fibrous foods from your diet may provide short-term benefit in terms of immediate relief, it causes long-term harm by weakening the gut, leading to poorer health overall.
Instead, you should focus on strengthening and empowering your beneficial gut microbes, which gives the gut microbiome the tools and strength to self-regulate itself long-term. For that reason, your eventual goal should be abundance. Remember, a diverse microbiome full of beneficial bacteria is what keeps you healthy—which leads us to our next point!
3. Diversity, diversity, diversity!
How do you go from a damaged gut microbiome to a thriving abundance of diverse, beneficial gut bugs? The key to a diverse microbiome is diversity in your diet, especially in the plant foods you eat! Believe it or not, the diversity of plants in your diet is actually the #1 predictor of a healthy gut microbiome . Part of the reason for this is that there are as many types of fibre as there are plants. For example, the soluble fibre in a raspberry is not identical to the soluble fibre in a chickpea, so eating a wide variety of plant foods ensures you get the unique benefits that each type of fibre has to offer.
4. Treat supplements as supplements.
Fibre supplements can be a great way to boost your daily fibre intake. That being said, keep in mind that they can never replace, but only supplement, a healthy diet. For the most sustainable results, aim to get the majority of your fibre needs from dietary fibre—the fibre naturally found in whole plant foods. And when you do take fibre supplements, remember to look for the ones that are natural, plant-based, and that contain mostly soluble fibre. Acacia fibre is a great example that meets these criteria. If you’re interested in trying some, check out Acazen, Alpinia’s organic, sustainably produced acacia fibre supplement!
Want to learn more about keeping your gut happy and healthy? Check out our article on holistic gut health!
- Barley in nature: https://pixabay.com/photos/barley-cereal-grain-healthy-food-872000/
- Bulsiewicz, Will. Fiber Fueled: the Plant-Based Gut Health Program for Losing Weight, Restoring Your Health, and Optimizing Your Microbiome. Penguin Publishing Group, 2020.