5 Steps To A Happier, Healthier Gut

I firmly believe that one of the biggest steps you can take to promote your overall health and well-being is to improve your gut health.

Not only does your gut act as the defense shield between what you ingest and your bloodstream, but it also helps you digest food and absorb its nutrients, houses most of your immune system, and even influences your brain function and mood.

Because your digestive tract and immune system are so intertwined, many of the health issues we deal with have some connection back to gut health. Compromised gut health can allow inflammation run rampant, which can cause digestive issues, fatigue, food sensitivities, skin conditions, mood changes, and more.

So if you’re feeling sick, tired, or just a little off, chances are your gut needs some extra attention.

Thankfully, you can improve your gut health in five easy steps. Whether you’re already suffering from symptoms of leaky gut syndrome (which basically means that your gut is compromised) or just need a quick reset, I recommend making these simple changes to your daily health regime for a happier, healthier gut.

1. Start With A Bone Broth Fast

By now, you probably know that bone broth is a powerful health food. Bone broth contains antioxidants, minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium, and collagen protein, which supports the health of tissues like your bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. These nutrients provide your digestive system with the ingredients it needs to restore the strength of your gut lining, support your microbiome, and ward off harmful compounds. Together, they help your digestive—and immune—system thrive.

To kick these benefits into gear, I recommend doing a bone broth fast. For three to four days, you’ll consume about 12 ounces of bone broth five times per day. You can either cook up a big batch of homemade broth or simply mix bone broth protein powder, into water.

You can have some solid foods (or smoothies) throughout your fast; just stick to healthy fats, clean proteins, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

These few days give your system a break from potentially problematic foods and the opportunity to really load up on bone broth’s antioxidants, minerals, and collagen. When you finish, I bet you’ll have easier digestion, sleep a little better, and feel all-around renewed.

2. Remove Inflammatory Foods

During and after your bone broth fast, it’s important to eliminate all potentially-offending foods.

The following foods are the most problematic:

  • Grains and breads
  • Packaged and processed foods
  • Foods and drinks with added sugar
  • Dairy products
  • Refined vegetable oils (soybean, canola, corn, cottonseed, sunflower, peanut, and sesame)

For many people, these food groups can trigger an immune response and inflammation that affects not only digestion, but mood and even skin health, too. They can be especially problematic if you have leaky gut, since undigested proteins (like gluten) and other potentially harmful particles in them can actually pass through your intestinal wall and enter your bloodstream, according to research published in Frontiers In Immunology.

3. Eat Fermented Foods Or Supplement With Probiotics

Probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to fight infections and absorb nutrients, have been widely researched—and hailed—for their positive impact on digestive and overall health.

You’ll find these good-doing bacteria in fermented foods (like kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh), cultured milk (kefir) or yogurt, and, of course, in supplements.

Related: 5 Foods That Are Packed With Probiotics

According to research published in Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, “probiotics may restore the composition of the gut microbiome and introduce beneficial functions to gut microbial communities.” Basically, these bacteria maintain balance in your gut, so you’re better able to avoid digestive- and immune-related issues.

4. Try Other Gut-Friendly Supplements

By cutting out problematic foods and working to increase the number of healthy bacteria in your gut, you’ve built a solid foundation for healing your gut health. To take it one step further, try incorporating a few other gut-friendly supplements into your routine, too.

Some of my go-to’s include:

  • Digestive enzymes: Taking a full-spectrum digestive enzyme supplement before or after meals can help your digestive system break down proteins, complex sugars, and starches, and avoid potential inflammation caused by undigested compounds passing through your system.
  • Collagen powder: Not only does collagen protein help to strengthen your bones, cartilage and tendons, but two of its amino acids, glycine and proline, also help build your gut lining and support overall gut integrity.
  • L-glutamine: According to research published in the Journal of Epithelial Biology & Pharmacology, the essential amino acid l-glutamine not only acts as an antioxidant, but can also be used by your intestinal cells for fuel, and helps rebuild your gut lining.
  • Quercetin: This powerful antioxidant can be particularly active in the digestive system, says research published in Nutrients.

 5. Reduce Stress

Research shows that chronic stress can negatively affect your immune function, skin health, heart health, digestive function, and even hormone balance. So if you truly want to restore the health of your gut and reduce system-wide inflammation, you need to lower your stress levels.

That seems like a tall order, I know—but small changes can make a big difference. Start by incorporating stress-relieving practices, like daily exercise, meditation, acupuncture, time outdoors, or meaningful social activities, into your routine. Seeing a therapist can help you establish more productive ways of dealing with stress triggers.

To further fight off stress, I also recommend trying adaptogenic herbs, like holy basil, panax ginseng, and ashwagandha. Adaptogens contain compounds that help your body respond to stress and normalize your physiological functions (like hormone responses) so you can better handle stress that comes your way.

Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., D.C., C.N.S., is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, author, and member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. Dr. Axe operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites, sharing healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, and information on essential oils and natural supplements. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world, in Nashville, TN, and has served as a physician for many professional athletes.

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