I totally get that the term ‘heal your gut’ can sound quite ambiguous. It may lead you to wonder, is my gut broken? Why does it need to heal? Well, I’ll put it this way, if your gut was actually “broken”, you would know.
Gut healing in holistic nutrition isn’t about treating medical emergencies, it’s about getting a gut that is working sub-optimally to work optimally again so you can feel (and look) your best.
Heal your gut: signs of poor gut health
So how do you know if you have poor gut health? While these signs are not exclusively tied to gut issues, they are common signs of an unhappy gut. Here’s what to look out for:
Stress isn’t a symptom of poor gut health, but if you experience high levels of stress whether it be chronic or acute, this can negatively impact your gut health. How? Stress can actually negatively impact the bacteria in your gut and can also affect digestion leading to symptoms like constipation or diarrhea.
2. Gas and bloating
A little gas and a little bloating is perfectly normal, but if you’re experiencing painful gas and bloating or these symptoms significantly interfere with your day-to-day life, your gut may need some care.
3. Skin disturbances
Things like psoriasis, acne and eczema can all be triggered by gut imbalances. If you notice your skin disturbances occur in conjunction with other tummy troubles, your gut health may be contributing.
What does it actually mean to ‘heal your gut’?
You may have seen me obsessively post all about my “Gut Healing Tonic” on Instagram – my signature morning tonic that helped my gut heal post-COVID and during the worst of my acne and digestive issues. You can find this recipe + more in my guide, The Acne Protocol.
I would summarize my approach to gut health as a holistic nutritionist into two components: gut bacteria and gut function. They work together, but I’ll explain.
The good bacteria in your gut is not only important for clear skin, but it’s actually crucial to your survival. Yup, you read that right. Now, I’m not trying to scare you into taking care of your gut. But you should know that a healthy gut contributes to a healthy person overall, so it’s pretty important.
Gut bacteria: The Good VS. The Bad
A big part of healing your gut (and a big part of life I suppose) is getting the good to outweigh the bad. When you have enough good gut bacteria, it actually helps protect you against the bad stuff. Here are the other ways gut bacteria impacts your health and skin:
How BAD bacteria harms our health (and skin:)
- Certain bacterias cause illnesses (ex: certain strains of E. Coli) and can contribute to inflammation
- Bad bacteria can interfere with the production of vitamins in the gut (including those necessary for skin health like B vitamins)
- An abundance of bad bacteria can interfere with the absorption of nutrients important for overall health and skin health.
How GOOD bacteria supports healthy skin:
- Good bacteria helps your body absorb skin-loving nutrients
- Helps the gut produce vitamins
- Protects against harmful bacteria that can promote inflammation and/or lead to disease and acne
I think by now you understand that gut health is pretty important, yeah? So now the moment you’ve been waiting for…
An integral part of “healing the gut” has a lot to do with repairing the gut lining – also known as the walls of the intestines. Over years of consuming inflammatory foods, excessive alcohol intake and stress, the gut lining can become damaged. This can cause issues such as “leaky gut“, where small permeable holes in the intestinal lining can cause undigested food to sneak through and cause an inflammation response.
Repairing the gut lining is something I work on with my 1:1 clients as it is an integral part of repairing gut function.
Another important part of gut function is how well we digest the food we consume. This is why I focus on mindful eating practices with my 1:1 clients and why certain digestion-supporting supplements are recommended in The Acne Protocol.
How to heal your gut
1. Address stress
I touched on how stress can negatively impact gut bacteria and digestion earlier, but how do you just stop being stressed? We all know that telling someone to calm down is the worst thing you can do to help them relax, so I’m not going to tell you to chill, but I am going to tell you how you can chill.
- Clear your mind with meditation, exercise or a walk
- Talk therapy
- Find time for yourself to do something relaxing like reading
- Support your body with stress-managing herbs
Sleep actually has a direct impact on gut health (and many other things) so if you’re not sleeping well, you’re probably not doing your gut any good. Here are my favourite ways to improve sleep:
- Take magnesium before bed – magnesium is a calming mineral that helps your nervous system relax for a more restful sleep. Speak to your practitioner about integrating the right form of magnesium for you.
- Have a bedtime routine – even if it’s short, take a bit of time to wind down before your head hits the pillow. Try reading or light bedtime yoga.
- Improve your sleep environment – try an eye mask for maximum darkness, a weighted blanket to promote relaxation or keeping your room extra cool when you sleep if possible.
Plant foods act as prebiotics to probiotics, which means that they feed the good bacteria in your gut. Foods that are high in fibre are amazing prebiotics. Focus on foods like:
- Leafy greens
- Oats and whole grains
- Chia seeds
- Fruits, especially berries
But don’t worry, all plants have fiber! So get in your fruits, veggies, grains and nuts wherever you can.
In addition to feeding the good bacteria in your gut, you can also add good bacteria to your gut by consuming probiotics. You can do this in supplement form or by consuming fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh and miso.
Try this gut-loving Miso Edamame Power Bowl recipe!
Water is SUPER important for digestion, absorption and elimination. Meaning that if you want to properly use the nutrients in the foods you’re eating and eliminate the waste efficiently, you need to drink up!
Follow all of these tips and you are well on your way to a healthy gut and clear, glowing skin!
And if you’re ready to dive deep and clear your acne naturally, check out The Acne Protocol HERE.