There are many different factors that affect our well-being. The food we eat, getting enough sleep and exercise, minimizing stress, our overall mindset and outlook on life, and so much more.

And although these factors affect each and every one of us on different levels and to various degrees, I believe there is one thing that is just as important for everybody in order to experience good health. And, ironically, this one thing is what gets damaged the most in today’s society.

The #1 most important thing for our well-being is our gut health.

The gut, which is composed of the digestive and intestinal systems, has SO many important functions in the body. Besides the obvious roles of digesting food and absorbing nutrients, the gut also supports the immune system and even regulates our mood and helps with mental clarity and focus.1, 2, 3, 4

These amazing benefits are all thanks to the wonderful microbiota that resides in the gut. I’ve written about probiotics and their influence on health before; the bottom line is that having that good bacteria population in the gut is so important – so necessary – for good health and longevity.

Unfortunately, the sad truth is that almost none of us have a gut system that is functioning at a 100% optimal level. This is because the first thing to be affected by unhealthy choices is the gut. Everything from a poor diet to stress to lack of exercise to toxin exposure has a negative effect on gut health.

Over time, these insults on the body create an inner environment that just cannot support the growth of the good bacteria. The result? The bad microorganisms start to take over.

When the harmful microorganisms, which includes bacteria, yeast and parasites, take over the gut environment they damage the intestinal lining. This causes the intestines to become permeable (also known as “leaky gut”).

In a healthy gut, the intestinal wall acts as a barrier between the internal system and any food that passes through the intestines. Only once the food is digested and broken down into smaller particles is it able to get absorbed by the body.

But when the gut becomes permeable, there no longer is a protective barrier because the bad microorganisms literally pierce holes through the intestinal wall. As a result, large molecules of food, toxins, and whatever else can easily get into the internal system and reach other tissues. And as you can imagine, this wreaks havoc throughout the body.

Because so much extra stuff is getting in through the gut, the immune system has to go into overdrive to deal with it all, which results in even more problems. A leaky gut can be the cause of many different symptoms and diseases, including allergies, auto-immune disorders, acne, PMS, chronic fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, brain fog, frequent colds, food sensitivities, weight gain, and so much more! On top of that, the bad microorganisms also weaken the digestive system, which can cause indigestion, bloating, gas, and other discomfort.

The good news is that we can reverse these effects. We can restore the health of the gut and gain all the benefits that probiotics have to offer by healing the intestinal lining and creating a healthy internal environment that supports the growth of the good bacteria.

Before we get into the details, grab the handy checklist and timeline for healing leaky gut. You can download it by clicking the button below. It’s free!

How to Create and Support a Healthy Gut Environment

The first step is to create an environment in the body in which the good bacteria can survive and thrive. You do this by eating nourishing whole foods that promote the growth and survival of the beneficial microorganisms, which is actually the opposite of the environment in which the bad microorganisms thrive.

What you also need to realize is that as you’re eating a nutritious, wholesome diet (to create the right internal environment), the bad microorganisms will start to die off because they can’t survive in that environment. So there will be a buildup of toxins and waste that is released.

During this detoxification process, there may be negative symptoms such as headaches, lethargy, or flu-like symptoms, depending on the amount of toxins that have accumulated over time. These symptoms can last from a couple of days to about a week or so. As such, it’s important to cleanse the intestines during this process in order to relieve these symptoms and so that the new population of good bacteria have a welcoming clean environment to settle into.

Another important point to remember is that the intestinal lining is damaged to a certain degree, depending on your individual condition. The digestive process is also most likely weakened. So another critical step in healing the gut is to repair the actual intestinal walls with some nourishing and healing foods that specifically promote this healing process.

Now, the gut is ready to support the growth of the good bacteria. But just because you created the ideal environment in the body, it doesn’t mean that the good bacteria will automatically start growing again; you need to repopulate the gut by consuming probiotic-rich foods.

Once the good bacteria population is established in the gut and it continues to live in a healthy environment, the good bacteria will naturally keep the bad microorganisms at bay and prevent them from overgrowing and taking over again. It’s important to support the good bacteria in every way possible by eating the right foods to maintain the healthy internal environment, as well as by frequently eating probiotic-rich foods to continuously replenish the gut with healthy bacterial cultures.

So now that we’ve covered the basics on what’s involved in creating and supporting a healthy gut environment, let’s dive into the details of what types of food you should be eating to be successful in your healing.

The Healthy Gut Diet

Before we get into the four principles of The Healthy Gut Diet, grab the free healing leaky gut checklist by clicking the button below. It’s a free download!

1. Create a healthy internal environment to support the growth of good bacteria and promote the die-off of the bad microorganisms:

The principle of opposites and balance (sometimes known as yin/yang) applies to pretty much everything in life, including the foods we eat. Hot and cold; day and night; dryness and dampness; or when it comes to food – eating something salty makes us crave something sweet.

In terms of food, this is referred to as expansion and contraction. Some foods are more expansive, some are more contractive, and others are well-balanced in the middle. And depending on whether a food is expansive, contractive, or balanced, it will have a different effect on the body.

So in order to create the ideal internal environment for the good bacteria, we need to eat foods that are balanced – neither expansive nor contractive. When we eat too much of the foods that are on either extremes of the scale, we are bringing the body out of balance. The body tries to balance this out by craving something from the opposite extreme. Although it is important to balance expansive foods with contractive foods, the ideal is to eat foods that are already balanced.

Aim for 80% of your diet to be composed of balanced foods: vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains such as amaranth, quinoa, millet, oats and buckwheat. Fruits are borderline balanced, though slightly expansive so should be a bit more limited. However the rest of the balanced foods should be included in the diet as much as possible.

The remaining 20% of the diet can be composed of a mix of expansive or contractive foods. Animal proteins such as fish, poultry, beef and eggs are contractive. On the opposite end of the scale are foods like fruit (borderline balanced), dairy, tea, coffee, herbs, and spices.

2. Cleanse the intestines to remove toxins and waste produced from the die-off:

Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods such as dark leafy greens (like kale, spinach, swiss chard) and other veggies, legumes, flaxseeds and chia seeds. Fibre is needed to keep things moving through the intestines, allowing for elimination to occur regularly and helps with the detoxification process.

It’s also important to drink plenty of water and keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. This allows the intestinal tract to stay well-lubricated so that the fibre can do its job! Not drinking enough water can cause constipation and perpetuates a toxic environment in the colon.

Another way to support intestinal cleansing and detoxification, if you are open to it, is an enema or colon hydrotherapy. These are efficient methods that can be applied occasionally and are a great way to cleanse the intestines and get rid of the waste more rapidly. Note: frequently applying these methods can cause an imbalance of electrolytes, as well as weaken the colon muscles and lead to constipation.

3. Repair and heal the intestinal walls:

Bone broth is one of the most healing foods for the gut lining. The key to making a nourishing bone broth is to add apple cider vinegar (or regular vinegar) to the broth while the bones are simmering. This helps pull out the minerals from the bones to add more nutritional value. Bone broth is also a great source of the amino acids proline and glycine, which are incredibly healing for the gut. They also help decrease inflammation in the body and strengthen the immune system.

Freshly juiced cabbage is another great option to help repair and heal the intestinal walls. Cabbage is full of vitamins, anti-inflammatory nutrients, the amino acid glutamine, as well as glucosinolates, which promote the regeneration of intestinal cells and healing of the gut lining.

I recommend drinking at least a cup or two every day of either bone broth or cabbage juice, depending on how much time you have and whether or not you have a juicer. Bone broth is much easier to make and can be made as a large batch at one time and then frozen if necessary. If you have a juicer, then fresh cabbage juice is a great way to mix it up and add variety.

4. Repopulate the gut with good bacteria:

Fermented foods are the best food sources for the good bacteria. This includes foods like kefir, sauerkraut (cultured vegetables), kimchi and tempeh. Learn more about the food sources and benefits of probiotics here. I recommend eating probiotic-rich foods with every meal. Not only will it provide you with the beneficial bacteria to populate the gut, but it’ll also help you digest your food, especially if you have food sensitivities.

Think of The Healthy Gut Diet as a lifestyle change. The recommendations outlined here are easily sustainable and will always be beneficial by keeping you energized, strong, and most importantly, healthy. With that said, there isn’t really a time-frame for this diet in the sense that you have a start and end date. Rather, you can start implementing these principles by following the suggested timeline to help you adapt to the changes (found in the free download) and maintain it indefinitely for continued health and well-being.

If you feel a bit overwhelmed with information-overload from reading all that, don’t worry! I created a free checklist and timeline to help you heal leaky gut. Grab it by clicking the button below:

Got your checklist? Awesome. Now let’s summarize the steps!

Summary

  1. Create a healthy internal environment to support the growth of good bacteria and promote the die-off of the bad microorganisms. Aim to have 80% of your diet composed of balanced foods and the remaining 20% a mix of expansive/contractive foods.
  2. Cleanse the intestines to help detoxify from the toxins and waste produced from the die-off of the bad microorganisms.
  3. Repair and heal the intestinal walls with bone broth and fresh cabbage juice.
  4. Repopulate the gut with good bacteria by consuming probiotic-rich foods with every meal.

Now I want to hear from you: What’s your plan for applying The Healthy Gut Diet to your life? Have you noticed an improvement in your health since following these principles? Share below!

References

[1] Round, J.L. & Mazmanian, S.K. The gut microbiome shapes intestinal immune responses during health and disease. Nat Rev Immunol. 2009 May; 9(5): 313–323.

[2] Fujimura K.E. et al. Role of the gut microbiota in defining human health. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010 Apr; 8(4): 435–454.

[3] Neufeld K-A. & Foster, J.A. Effects of gut microbiota on the brain: implications for psychiatry. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2009 May; 34(3): 230–231.

[4] Selhub E.M. et al. Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry. J Physiol Anthropol. 2014; 33(1): 2.