4 Holistic Approaches to Taming Gut Inflammation
I firmly believe that health begins in the belly. For centuries our mood, physical health, and mystic intuition were all linked to our gut; research to prove it so is only now surfacing.Unfortunately, so are the impossibly fast and unavoidably toxic lifestyles we lead, including increased rates of autoimmune disease, food sensitivity, hormone imbalances, and cancer. So, whether you’re already on the journey to healing your gut due to damage from such illnesses and imbalances or just trying to stay balanced these tips can help.
One of the primary reasons behind gut imbalance is inflammation, so a massive step towards balancing and healing the belly is to reduce irritation in the intestinal lining by limiting inflammation-causing habits. Speaking generally, high amounts of gluten, dairy, sugar, processed foods, pesticide-treated foods, and alcohol all may reduce the integrity of the sensitive cells that line the gut. Reducing or eliminating these foods for a period of time will give your intestines time to rest and re-balance. Although they cannot replace the care of a healthcare professional, a short term elimination diet can function as a functional alternative to clinical tests for pinpointing your unique source of inflammation, especially for those who cannot afford such diagnostic tests and clinical visits.
Protect Your Cells
The bedrock of intestinal health is maintaining the integrity of your gut membrane by preventing intestinal permeability. Intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, is when the cells that line your intestines separate, allowing for food debris and toxins to enter the bloodstream, which is super problematic. Incorporating L-glutamine and collagen into your diet can help maintain the health of your gut lining.
L-glutamine is an essential amino acid that has gained popularity with athletes for its ability to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. It’s also the preferred way intestinal lining cells gather fuel and is critical for the preservation and future growth of healthy cells in the gut. That means L-glutamine is vital in maintaining the integrity of the gut membrane and preventing permeability. Because L-glutamine is used by the body in states of extreme or chronic stress, people with high-stress lifestyles (most of us) may be deficient. The amino acid is abundant in protein-rich foods such as spinach, lentils, beans, chicken, and fish.
Collagen acts as the “glue” of the body and is found in our skin, bones, organs, eyes, and inside the digestive tract. Consuming collagen and gelatin provides belly-healing benefits by supporting the health of connective tissues, including those of the gastrointestinal tract. Collagen can be found in traditional bone broths and in convenient and versatile powders.
Feed The Good Bugs
Yes, probiotics are essential. They can help improve a myriad of bodily ails from digestion and mood to immunity, but they don’t work as cohesively without their other half: prebiotics. Prebiotics are a form of soluble fiber that feed the good bacteria in your intestines—they’re what give your microbiome the fuel to process nutrients. Recent research shows that when these microbes are starved of indigestible fiber from prebiotics, they can start to feed on the protective mucus lining of the gut, possibly triggering inflammation and disease. Meaning, prebiotics are critical in possibly avoiding preventable inflammatory illnesses. You can find them in foods like onions, garlic, oats, bananas, asparagus, sweet potatoes, dandelion greens, and jicama. Many probiotic supplements now include prebiotics, and there are quite a few powders you can incorporate into beverages or smoothies. But, when you can, always opt for whole foods. If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), however, take caution in your consumption of prebiotics as the fermentable fibers in these foods can increase symptoms such as bloating.
Incorporate Gut Nourishing Herbs
There are hundreds of healing plants that can be worked into the diet to help rebalance the gut, here are a few of the most widely available and potent:
Slippery elm is a type of elm tree works as a demulcent to soothe and calm irritated tissues in the gut. According to one study on IBD, slippery elm may also have antioxidant effects within the intestines.
The marshmallow plant has been a gentle and nutritive ally to humans for thousands of years. It has a soothing influence on the intestines and is helpful for inflammation and irritation of the GI tract as well as the bladder. Its root assists in repairing damaged gut linings from leaky gut syndrome by coating the stomach.
Burdock root is an incredible herb for improving digestion as it contains inulin, a potent prebiotic that feeds the gut microbiome. It is mildly bitter and stimulates the secretion of bile, this helps to improve appetite and digestion, thereby benefiting the health of the whole body.
About the Author
Jessica Gilbreath is a holistic nutritionist combining food-as-medicine and wellness education to help people navigate the many roads to optimal health. She received her Master’s Degree in Nutrition from the National University of Natural Medicine in 2019 and holds certifications in Clinical Herbalism. She teaches ongoing workshops, cooking classes and private nutrition counseling in Portland, Oregon. You can contact her through her website here and follow her on social media here.