If you're reading this, you probably know that your digestive system is a fundamental factor that contributes to your overall well-being.
But does your gut microbiome need a reset?
You may be asking certain questions, such as:
"I've just come out of the holiday season and overdone it with sweets and alcohol, how do I rebalance my gut biome?"
Or, "I've undergone a round of antibiotics and want to restore my microbiome, how do I do that?"
Perhaps you're already eating well and simply want to gain an edge by optimizing further.
In this article, we'll provide principals for how to reset your gut microbiome in 5 steps we call the 5 R's, they are: Remove, Replace, Reinoculate, Repair and Rebalance.
Why is gut microbiome health important?
Believe it or not, nearly 80% of your immune system resides in your gut!
A healthy gastrointestinal (GI) tract houses approximately 100 trillion bacteria, the majority of which are beneficial. Together, they form your gut flora (or microbiome) which plays a crucial role in maintaining your health goals.
The benefits don't just stop there! These bacteria go above and beyond to keep us in good shape. They facilitate digestion, extract energy from food, produce essential vitamins, reduce inflammation, detoxify harmful substances and even produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our feeling of happiness.
However, the opposite is also true. Any disturbances of the gut environment can lead to a wide range of symptoms. It's essential to keep your gut microbiome healthy and balanced to reduce the chances of experiencing these adverse effects on your overall health.
So, let's take care of our gut microbiome!
The best way to do this is by incorporating healthy lifestyle habits like a balanced diet rich in fiber, regular exercise, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep. With proper care and attention, you can maintain a healthy gut and enjoy optimal health and well-being. Remember, a healthy gut equals a healthy you!
Signs of Gut Microbiota Dysfunction or Gut Dysbiosis (1)
Below are some potential signs that you're experiencing disfunction of the gut or gut dysbiosis, which is defined as an imbalance in gut bacteria composition, changes in bacterial metabolic activities, or changes in bacterial distribution within the gut.
Digestive issues like constipation, bloating, diarrhea, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut & gas
Skin conditions like eczema & psoriasis
Autoimmune diseases and conditions like Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, or type 1 diabetes
Depression & anxiety
Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
Are Gut Health Tests Important?
If you’re one of the 70 million Americans struggling with chronic digestive problems, we know it can feel overwhelming and isolating.
With increased awareness around gut health, there have been numerous microbiome testing measures created to help us understand our digestive health better. These tests include stool and fecal testing, breath tests, blood tests, and microbiome tests. Your test results focus on different aspects of gut health, such as gut bacteria balance, inflammation, and gut permeability.
Advances in testing have made it possible to identify specific bacteria and pathogens that may be causing digestive issues. By taking a test, you can identify your unique digestive needs and create a personalized plan to optimize your gut health.
These tests can play a crucial role in improving one's health and wellbeing. Knowledge is power.
The good news is that today its easier than ever to take a relatively affordable test within the privacy of your own home. Reputable sources of at home tests that we'd recommend are from companies such as Thorne (less than $200) or Viome, which offers a subscription plan (no, we're not affiliated). These tests can give you an indication of where you're starting so you can measure and track your results.
Let's introduce the 5 R Approach - a step-by-step formula rooted in functional medicine that has helped countless individuals restore their digestive health.
The 5 R’s for a Healthy Gut Microbiome
Remove, Replace, Reinoculate, Repair, and Rebalance. Let’s break down how each step works to give you an understanding of how to restore balance to your gut.
Step 1: Remove
The first step towards reseting your healthy gut flora is the removal of irritants, stressors, and infections that are negatively impacting the gut.
Inflammatory foods such as alcohol, coffee, sugar, processed foods, and food additives must be eliminated to allow the gut to heal. Moreover, certain medications such as NSAIDs and antibiotics can damage the gut lining and destroy beneficial gut bacteria, making it crucial to avoid them while healing the gut.
Other common irritants are chronic infections such as yeast overgrowth, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or parasitic infections that can disrupt the balance of gut flora and damage the gut lining. It's essential to treat these infections using appropriate herbs or medications while identifying them through stool testing. Be sure to see your health care provider for the right plan.
Stress is another major factor as it increases cortisol, causing gut inflammation. Therefore, reducing stress through environmental changes and other stress-reducing methods is crucial.
Lastly, food sensitivities or intolerances can create inflammation in the gut, leading to GI symptoms. The biggest offenders are what we call 'food villains' which include gluten, sugar, and soy.
To pinpoint foods causing issues, elimination diets like the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP) or food sensitivity testing are recommended. Olive My Pickle is proud to be a Whole30 Approved brand.
Whole30 is a well known, community-based approach to eliminating potential trigger foods within a 30 day period (and following up with a reintroduction period), so you can specifically determine which ones may be problematic for you.
It's important to note that elimination diets are temporary, usually lasting between 1-3 months, and reintroducing one food at a time every 2-3 days after the elimination period can help identify any reactions.
For more tips read our blog article on: How to Improve Gut Health: 9 Everyday Habits for Better Gut Health
Step 2: Replace
The second step to reset your gut is to replace anything that's missing, and some vital nutrients to support digestion include digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid (HCL), and bile support.
If you're lacking digestive enzymes, you will struggle to break down your food and absorb vital nutrients. Common signs of enzyme deficiency include gas, bloating, and undigested food in your stool. A simple way to ensure you absorb these nutrients is to take a digestive enzyme supplement while you heal your gut. These are extremely affordable and easy to find on Amazon.
Did you know fermented foods are enzyme rich? Eating ferments with very meal aids digestion. We talk about fermented foods and their plethora of enzyme benefits in our article, When should I eat fermented foods? Click to read.
Stomach acid helps you digest your food and absorb nutrients. Plus, low stomach acid can lead to bacterial overgrowth. Bloating, burping, diarrhea, and acid reflux are all signs of low stomach acid.
Finally, bile is essential for digesting fats and escorting toxins out of the liver. If you have weak bile production, you may suffer from digestive issues, including difficulty digesting fats and detoxifying.
Fortunately, there are various ways to support bile production, including herbs like dandelion, milk thistle, and turmeric, as well as foods such as dandelion greens, artichokes, ginger, lemons, and limes. By taking these natural remedies, you can help your body produce enough bile and support healthy digestion.
Step 3: Reinoculate
The third step to achieving this is to reinoculate your gut by repopulating it with friendly bacteria that can thrive in your GI tract. Prebiotics and probiotics are two key elements that can help you achieve a healthy gut microbiota balance.
Prebiotics are essentially indigestible fibers found in certain foods that serve as food for your friendly bacteria. Examples of prebiotic foods include dandelion greens, chicory root, and asparagus. By consuming these foods, you are essentially nourishing the good bacteria in your gut, encouraging them to flourish. Different types of friendly bacteria require different types of prebiotics, so it's important to consume a variety of prebiotic foods.
Probiotics, on the other hand, are foods or supplements that contain live cultures of beneficial bacteria. Consuming probiotic foods like fermented sauerkraut, pickles, olives, kimchi, kefir, and yogurt can help promote good gut microbiota by introducing helpful microbes into the gut.
Additionally, you can take probiotic supplements to provide extra support but here at Olive My Pickle we prefer to eat our probiotics in whole food source form. When you consume fermented foods regularly with a variety - you are creating a healthy gut lifestyle - not just passing through a fad or a phase.
Understanding the basics of dietary fiber intake is foundational for anyone seeking to improve gut health. Learn more about fiber, prebiotics, probiotics and how they all come together, here in our article: The Best Fiber for Gut Health.
Step 4: Repair
Maintaining a healthy gut is paramount to overall health. If the lining of the gut is damaged or weakened, it can lead to the entry of toxins, bacteria, and partially digested food into the bloodstream, causing food sensitivities and chronic inflammation. Repairing the lining of the gut is, therefore, crucial, and the fourth step in achieving optimal gut health.
To repair the integrity of the intestinal wall, the body must be flooded with essential nutrients and herbs. Collagen, for instance, is vital in strengthening the intestinal lining. It is rich in amino acids like proline, glycine, and glutamine, which help reset your gut. You can obtain collagen by consuming bone broth.
Aside from collagen, nutrients such as vitamins C, A, D, and B vitamins also play critical roles in digestion. Deficiencies in any of these can lead to compromised gut health. Supplements such as L-glutamine, aloe vera, slippery elm, marshmallow root, immunoglobulins, deglycyrrhizinated licorice root (DGL), and omega-3 fatty acids can also support gut healing. Incorporating fish oil into your diet can also help in calming gut inflammation, and it can be obtained by consuming omega-3 rich foods such as salmon or taking a fish oil supplement.
It is crucial to note that healing your gut is a gradual process, and it requires consistency and patience. Thus, it is important to seek guidance from a qualified medical professional and adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes stress management, exercise, and a balanced diet to support gut health fully. Embracing these practices can lead to optimal gut health, drastically improving overall health and wellness.
Step 5: Rebalance
Our gut and brain have a close relationship that goes both ways. This means that stress and sleep can affect our gut health, just as our gut health can affect our stress and sleep.
To prevent future gut dysfunction, step five of gut healing is all about creating a lifestyle that supports whole body health. This involves practices such as good sleep hygiene, exercise, and a healthy diet.
One of the foundational elements of a healthy lifestyle is good sleep hygiene. For example, sticking to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding blue light from electronics in the evening, and having a relaxation ritual can all help improve the quality of our sleep.
Exercise is also crucial for a healthy gut, as it has been shown to enhance microbiome diversity. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week to support overall physical and mental wellbeing.
Eating a nutritious diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats is also key to maintaining a healthy gut. When we heal and strengthen our gut, we need to maintain that health by avoiding junk foods and sticking to a balanced diet. Finally, stress management is crucial for gut health since stress weakens the microbiome.
Engaging in relaxation practices such as meditation, breathwork, yoga, spending time in nature, or listening to music can help us manage stress and support gut health. By incorporating these foundational elements into our lifestyle, we can support our overall health and prevent future gut dysfunction.
Read about The Connection of Gut Health and Sleep Quality here and find out what pickles and sleep actually have in common. Spoiler alert: the answer is that they can both have a huge impact on gut health.
By incorporating the 5 R Approach into your daily routine may take some time and effort, but the payoff can be life-changing in affect your health goals!
By committing to healing your gut, you can alleviate chronic digestive issues, boost overall health and well-being, and regain your quality of life.
At Olive My Pickle, we're here to help. With over 35 delicious probiotic foods to choose from, you're guaranteed never to get bored! We also have many related gut health articles you can read to learn more about fermented foods and their benefits to the gut.
Here are some recommendations to get started:
The Ultimate Gut Health Bundle packed with a variety of delicious as well as best selling favorites:
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