You’ve probably received lots of different advice about how to heal your gut. From taking probiotics and avoiding gas-forming foods to following a low FODMAP diet and taking digestive enzymes, there’s a lot of conflicting information about gut health. But for holistic gut health, you need to pay attention to what’s causing your gut imbalance.
If you just focus on taking probiotics or eating more fiber, you won’t achieve complete, long-term results. As I always tell my clients – spot-fixing doesn’t work. There are physiological processes that take place in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and all these processes need to be evaluated to achieve long-term results.
Your GI Tract as a Railway Track
To visualize the digestive process, imagine that your GI tract is a railway track and your food is a train. This “food train” makes stops at various stations for digestion. These physiological steps must happen correctly for your gut to work properly. When trying to achieve holistic gut health, figuring out which steps need to be fixed is essential.
Once you identify which steps aren’t working correctly, you can work to correct them. The best way to do this is by working from top to bottom.
Holistic Gut Health Starts in the Mouth
Eating is an intricate, dynamic event, and the digestion process is complex. It involves the body’s entire nervous system. Digestion begins before food even enters your mouth. The sight, smell, or even the thought of food triggers signals in your brain. These signals drive the digestion process.
For example, when you think about eating something sweet, your pancreas releases insulin, and your mouth produces saliva. Your stomach starts to secrete hydrochloric acid and other digestive enzymes before you even take a bite of food. This phase of digestion gets your track ready before the food train enters the tunnel.
Next, you take a bite of food, and the food train makes its first stop in your mouth. Your train ride is smooth if you’re chewing your food well (to an applesauce consistency). Enzymes break down the starches, proteins, and fats you’ve eaten.
But what if you’re a fast eater? If you finish your meal in less than 10 minutes or are always eating on the go, the digestion in your mouth doesn’t happen properly. This can make your gut very unhappy. When you don’t chew properly, the unchewed food particles end up in your intestine and become a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria to grow.
To avoid this breeding ground for harmful bacteria:
1. Slow down.
2. Avoid eating and doing other activities (like watching TV or talking on the phone) while eating.
3. Focus on chewing your food to an applesauce consistency.
The Small Intestine
The next stop the food train makes is the small intestine. Here, dozens of tasks that allow for proper digestion are completed.
One of the critical jobs of the small intestine is breaking down food into molecules that you can absorb. The small intestine can tell the difference between molecules you can absorb (like nutrients, fats, and proteins) from molecules you can’t absorb (like non-digestible food particles and pathogens).
When food reaches the small intestine, digestive enzymes are released from several organs (like the pancreas and gallbladder). The small intestine also has small projections called microvilli, which help absorb nutrients.
To achieve optimal holistic gut health, the small intestine must work properly. If not, it could lead to an unhealthy gut and unpleasant GI symptoms.
The Large Intestine
The last stop in the journey of the food train is the large intestine. While no digestion as such occurs in the large intestine, it’s still an essential part of the digestive process. The large intestine is where your gut microbiome (the friendly microorganisms that live in your gut) starts to feed.
What do they feed on? The undigestible carbohydrates, also known as fiber. When focusing on holistic gut health, one of the best things you can do is eat more fiber. This keeps your gut microbiome strong and healthy to perform its functions properly.
When pursuing holistic gut health, you must evaluate every digestive process step. If any of these steps are impaired, it could create a roadblock to optimal digestion. For example, eating too quickly could be a problem. Or, maybe you’re chewing correctly, but your body needs to produce more gastric juices and pancreatic enzymes. Chronic inflammation can also be a problem, causing damage to the microvilli in the small intestine, leading to impaired absorption of nutrients.
It’s important to evaluate all these physiological steps and work from top to bottom to heal your gut. If you need help figuring out which steps aren’t working correctly, my gut healing program can help. Click here to book a complimentary 15-minute health discovery call to learn how my gut healing program can help you achieve holistic gut health.