Healthy living takes guts!
And by that, we mean a healthy gut is absolutely essential — like, we can't stress this enough — to our overall health. From proper immune function to healthy hearts, mood fluctuation, and smooth digestion our gut health is the foundation of our wellbeing. It is, quite literally, our CORE.
Unfortunately, when modern lifestyles meet the delicate (and honestly, quite finicky) ecosystem of our guts, it can cause imbalance and damage. So, the questions become, "How do we keep damage from happening?!" and "How do I heal my gut?!".
It is possible to do both! All you need is a little bit of knowledge and the right tools.
SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS "THE GUT"?
When we talk about the gut, we're talking about the digestive tract. It's a complex ecosystem of living microorganisms, intestinal and immune tissue, and a unique nervous system that can function completely on its own.
There are TWO very closely related variables that determine our gut health:
Our microbiome is the population of over 100 trillion microorganisms — that's 10x the number of human cells in the body — consisting of fungi, parasites, bacteria, and viruses that a) mostly live in our gut and b) have evolved symbiotically with us.
Determined by our DNA and exposure to our mother's microbiome (through the birth canal, breastmilk, and possibly the womb) our microbiome is with us from birth. These microorganisms diversify as we grow and, while some of them are pathogenic (or disease-causing), most are "good" gut flora that...
The health and diversity of our microbiota have a drastic effect on their ability to perform these functions. When factors like diet, illness, antibiotic use, or chronic stress disturb the balance we suffer something called Dysbiosis —a negative change in the composition of our gut flora that has a seriously negative effect on our health.
- Breakdown Food and Aid Digestion
Modulate Immune Function — 75 - 80% of our immune system lives in our gut!
- Support the Growth of New Blood Cells
- Help the Development and Function of the Enteric Nervous System
- Support And Encourage Intestinal Barrier Integrity
SIBO or small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth is a serious condition that happens when gut bacteria from our colon and stomach move into the small intestine where they don’t belong. This results in…
The jury is still out as to whether SIBO is caused by OR is the cause of Dysbiosis. However, we do know that — along with anatomic abnormalities — intestinal pH and immune issues are key components of SIBO closely related to Dysbiosis.
- Bloating + Gas
- even Malnutrition.
The Gut Barrier
The integrity of our gut barrier (a complex network of skin & intestinal cells and our gut-based immune system) is tied to our microbiota. BUT, we currently understand very little about how. What we do know is that the gut barrier is CRITICAL for maintaining health.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
When the intestinal barrier becomes permeable, it's known as "Leaky Gut Syndrome". This "leak" allows pathogens, food and environmental toxins, and undigested molecules into our bloodstream, which causes the body to mount an immune response.
Along with environmental and genetic factors, there's growing evidence that these attacks — and the systemic inflammation they cause — play a crucial role in the development of autoimmunity.
Modern factors that cause "Leaky Gut"...
... are so prevalent that most people suffer from a "Leaky Gut" — and it doesn't necessarily manifest as digestive trouble. "Leaky Gut Syndrome" can manifest as heart failure, brain fog, eczema & psoriasis, metabolic issues, allergies, and autoimmune issues (including Celiac's, RA, Hashimoto's, and IBD).
Poor Diet (especially ones with a high intake of gluten and processed foods)
Medications (NSAIDs, Steroids, Antacids, Antibiotics)
- Hormone Imbalance
YOUR GUT HEALTH AFFECTS EVERYTHING
An unhealthy gut is the main contributor to modern chronic disease and thesigns and symptoms can present themselves in many different ways. In the last 20 years Dysbiosis and a damaged gut barrier have been connected to:
Heart Health, Weight Gain, Diabetes [Type 1 & 2], Environmental and Food Allergies, Colorectal Cancer, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and...
"Tummy Troubles" like Diarrhea, Constipation, Bloating & Gas, Pain, and Upset Stomach are all common functional issues linked to Dysbiosis.
Acid Reflux — when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus and causes a burning sensation — is common. If you have Acid Reflux that happens frequently enough to negatively impact your life you might have GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Symptoms include:
- Functional Bowel Problems
This chronic digestive disease affects about 20% of Americans and is closely related to Dysbiosis and SIBO. Treatments range from avoiding trigger foods to taking an herbal supplement to improve stomach acid production and rebalance Dysbiosis.
IBS is an irritable digestive tract that causes an estimated 10 - 15% of people worldwide stomach pain or discomfort AT LEAST 3 TIMES a month. Symptoms of IBS vary widely but generally, they include:
- Persistent Heartburn
- Bad Breath
- Tooth Erosion
- Chest and upper abdominal Pain
- Trouble Swallowing and/or Breathing
The cause of IBS is unknown BUT we do know that stress is a trigger and changes to your diet — like avoiding common allergens and adding fiber & probiotics— can help with symptoms.
- Constipation or Diarrhea
- Hard, dry stools or loose, watery stools
- Bloating or Cramps (likely due to gas-producing microbes)
Crohn's Disease is an inflammatory response that attacks the entire GI tract —especially the connection between the large and small intestine —causing redness, pain, and swelling.
Autoimmunity — There are over 100 Autoimmune Conditions and 40 other diseases that have a known autoimmune component. Autoimmune conditions are characterized by an overactive immune response and chronic inflammation.
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)
Ulcerative Colitis is similar to Crohn's, but only affects the large intestine (a.k.a. your colon). Symptoms of Crohn's & UC are:
"Leaky Gut" and Dysbiosis play a huge role in all autoimmunity — and both Crohn's and UC patients have significantly reduced amounts of "good" protective bacterias like Lactobacillus.
Celiac Disease is the only autoimmune condition with a known cause — eating gluten. Gluten causes an immune response in the small intestine and damages your villi (the things that help you absorb nutrients). Symptoms of Celiac include:
- Abdominal Pain
- Rectal Bleeding
- Weight Loss
Gluten is considered a dietary toxin. It both contributes to "Leaky Gut" and triggers an immune response when it breaches a "leaky" intestinal barrier.
- Abdominal Pain
- Diarrhea + Constipation
- Weight Loss
- Bone Loss
If you're getting sick like, all the time, it's likely because you have Chronically Low Immune Function.
- Chronically Low Immune Function
A weak microbiome and a weak intestinal barrier lower our ability to resist pathogens and can lead to the overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria, yeast, fungus, or parasites that make us sick.
As far back as the 1930's, research showed that both stress and gut health played a role in the development of skin issues like Acne, Psoriasis, Eczema, and Dermatitis — all of which have an autoimmune component.
Studies have shown that changing your diet and/or adding healing dietary supplements can help alleviate these skin conditions.
The "Second Brain"& Moody Poo's
Have you ever had a gut feeling?
Our gut is home to a mesh-like system of neurons called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS)— otherwise knowns as our "Second Brain" — that keeps the gut functioning independently of conscious thought.
A “new” concept called the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis suggests that our gut flora participate in a complex communication system between the ENS + Central Nervous System.
This connection further explains “gut feelings” and why “tummy troubles” cause and are caused by Depression & Anxiety (did you know 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut?!). It’s also shown us that gut microorganisms play a role in CNS Disorders & Diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Schizophrenia, and MS.
WHEW! Okay. So, now that we have all of this information the question is — how can we use it?
A LOVED GUT IS A HEALTHY GUT IS A HAPPY GUT!!
Understanding all the complex aspects of our gut health — and a little bit about how they manifest — is important because it's only in knowing how the gut both functions & malfunctions that we can even start to fathom how to heal it.
Healing your gut can feel a little overwhelming — especially since so many aspects of our lifestyle, like chronic stress and the modern diet, contribute to Dysbiosis and weak gut barrier. But, while it seems like an impossible feat — it isn't.
Healing the gut, one step at a time
Our guts are as unique as our fingerprint, therefore, the way we go about healing them will be based on personal needs and the current state of our health. However, there are steps that everyone can take to help heal their gut and improve their overall wellness.
Studies in mice have shown that regular exercise can increase beneficial bacteria by approximately 40%!
It's common knowledge that stress is an overall wellbeing saboteur — and STRESS MANIFESTS IN YOUR GUT. Simple things like leaving space in your schedule for activities you enjoy or saying "No." so you have more time to relax reduces the strain on you AND your gut bacteria.
Antibiotics cause a "profound and rapid loss" of diversity and alter the composition of your microbiome — and that diversity is not recovered without help.
- Avoid Antibiotics (+ other gut killers)
Taking antibiotics — and other medications like NSAIDs and Steroids — only when absolutely necessary will help preserve the health of your gut flora in the face of illness or infection.
Environmental toxins like air pollution, herbicides & pesticides, paraffin candles, and harsh chemical cleaners — yes, even in your personal care products — can destroy your microbiome. Choosing natural, organic products whenever possible will help protect your bacteria.
The food that you feed yourself feeds your gut flora — so if you're eating foods that are at best, not nourishing, and at worst, damaging, your gut flora is going to suffer as well.
- Pay Attention to Your Environment
Dietary toxins (Ilke gluten), processed foods, sugary foods, and artificial sweeteners are all "conveniences" that dominate our modern diets — but these are things you want to AVOID. Instead, try to incorporate foods like...
Any foods that aren’t processed like organic fruits and organic vegetables which are great sources of...
Our ancestors got about 100 grams of fiber a day. We get about 14. The recommended amount is around 20 - 35 grams or more per day for optimal gut health.
The intake of fiber is crucial to our intake of nutrients and feeding our microbiome. PREBIOTICS — foods filled with indigestible carbohydrates and fibers that “feed” your “good” gut flora and ferment into crucial nutrients— offer some of the best benefits:
Polyphenols are plant compounds in Red Wine, Green Tea, Dark Chocolate, and Olive Oil that help stimulate healthy bacteria growth.
The fermentation process “pre-digests” foods, making it easier to absorb the nutrients and taking some strain off of weak gut flora. Fantastic fermented foods for your body include:
- Onion + Leeks
- Jerusalem Artichokes
- Dandelion Greens
These foods are also a fantastic source of probiotics — live microorganisms that can be introduced into our gut (through food or live bacteria supplements) to help replenish depleted colonies of "good" bacteria.
Kefir (if you’re not allergic to dairy)
Yogurt (also if you’re not allergic to dairy)
When exercise and diet alone aren't enough to help correct issues caused by Dysbiosis and a weak intestinal barrier, adding herbal supplements is a natural, gentle way to help! And we've created three herbal solutions to help reinvigorate digestion and heal your gut!
- Supplements. Herbal Supplements.
For people with digestive issues who can't tolerate whole foods — or those who don't have access to them — Prebiotic Powder can help give their "good" gut flora a boost!
- Prebiotic Powder (also with Cocoa!)
Made with Chicory Root and Burdock Root, two herbs high in indigestible inulin fiber, Prebiotic Powder can stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria and break down for other benefits like nourishing the colon. It's great for correcting Dysbiosis and increasing nutrient production and absorption.
Prebiotic Powder with Cocoa is the same great blend... featuring Cocoa! Cocoa isn't just delicious — it's a prebiotic itself, rich in flavanols (a type of polyphenol) that help increase healthy gut bacteria.
"Bitters" like Dandelion Root, Fennel, Gentian Root, Ginger, Milk Thistle, Goldenseal, and Peppermint were a standard part of our ancient ancestors' diets, used to stimulate digestion and ease digestive struggles. In our modern diet... they don't feature so much.
The problem with that is, well, bitter herbs help increase the secretion of our digestive fluids. And with stress, diet, and toxins throwing off our homeostasis and harming digestion... we kind of need the help!
Found Herbal's Digestive Bitters took this ancient wisdom and made the power of bitter herbs more accessible!
Using Digestive Bitters will help stimulate digestion and ease digestive issues like indigestion, slow digestion & elimination, poor nutrient absorption, GERD, and SIBO. This stimulation can also indirectly lower blood sugar, alleviate skin conditions, stimulate liver function, stimulate a weak appetite, and curb cravings.
"Leaky Gut Syndrome" — when your gut barrier becomes permeable — is one of the more dangerous gut health issues we can have. Amongst other things, it is a KEY contributing factor to autoimmunity.
It's also the most common digestive issue because of our modern lifestyle.
Leaky Gut Tea is a heavily researched blend of herbs that help restore your intestinal barrier integrity — with Peppermint to reduce inflammation, Licorice Root to help heal a damaged lining, and Yarrow to strengthen the boundaries of our gut — is actually helps HEAL a "Leaky Gut" to create a foundation for truly improved health!
This tea is great for helping alleviate symptoms from health issues caused by "Leaky Gut", like food & environmental allergies, chronic skin conditions, headaches, GI issues, and autoimmune conditions.
Collagen is the most abundant fibrous protein in our bodies. It's found in connective tissues — like ligaments and tendons — skin, teeth, bone, and muscles. It's also believed that collagen supports the lining of our gut — which means that consuming collagen can help us correct “Leaky Gut”.
- And then there's... Collagen!
Our collagen production DECREASES as we age so we often need to get it from an outside source — like a delicious, high-quality, organic, homemade Bone Broth OR an all-natural collagen supplement like our favorite, Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides.
A tasteless (unless you choose a flavored option, of course!) powder, Collagen Peptides can be added to anything from pasta sauce to water as a simple, easy way to introduce healing, gut - supporting collagen into our system on the regular!
All this information may seem overwhelming — this newsletter did get a bit epic — BUT, we hope that this small introduction can help bring a little clarity to the multifaceted topic of "gut health". Like all other aspects of your health, learning how to best care for your gut is a very personal process and how you go about healing is entirely up to you — even the smallest changes can have profound effects! And remember, at Found Herbal, we'll always be there to help!