As a registered dietitian and someone passionate about helping individuals optimize their gut health, I have noticed recurring themes and frequently asked questions about gut healing that deserve attention. So in today’s blog, I will shed light on some of those burning questions, demystifying common misconceptions, and provide evidence-based guidance on restoring gut health. 

How long will it take for me to heal my gut? 

Unfortunately, there is no fixed answer to this question. Restoring gut health varies significantly from person-to-person and depends on many factors, including: 

  • Underlying conditions
  • Root causes
  • Individual health status
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Approach taken for healing

Gut healing is a gradual process that requires patience and consistency. Our digestive system is constantly working every day while it is healing and may take some time to feel better. But to give you a ballpark idea, it often takes about one month of healing for every year of being unwell. Remember, every individual is different and has a unique gut microbiome. So when it comes to restoring gut health, following a one-size-fits-all approach may not work for you and your unique needs. I would encourage you to work with a qualified dietitian to develop a personalized gut healing plan and monitor progress. 

What are probiotics and should I be taking probiotics to heal my gut?

Probiotics are live microbes that can be found in foods, such as yogurt, kimchi, fermented foods, or in the form of dietary supplements. Probiotics help to:

  • Support digestion
  • Maintain a diverse gut microbiome
  • Restore and optimize microbial composition
  • Enhance immune function
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve nutrient absorption
  • Maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria
Letter tiles spelling out the word "probiotic" to demonstrate tips for restoring gut health.

Taking probiotics is one piece of solving your gut health puzzle and they certainly do help, but probiotics alone will not heal your gut one hundred percent. The most important thing in the earlier stage of restoring gut health is to treat the root causes of your digestive issues. Probiotics should be used to maintain gut health once it is already fixed and healed.

Does an elimination diet heal my gut completely? 

An elimination diet is used as a valuable tool for identifying and eliminating potential triggers of gut issues. However, It is important to understand that food sensitivities are a symptom and not a root cause for your gut problems. So even though eliminating foods can help you manage your symptoms  you are not addressing the underlying issues and dysfunctions.

It is also important to note that an elimination diet should be followed only for a short term to help reduce inflammation. However, because elimination diets can restrict nutrient intake, long-term use of an elimination diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Therefore, It is very crucial to ensure that the elimination diet is nutritionally balanced and that any eliminated foods are adequately replaced with alternative nutrient sources.

How does stress affect my gut? 

Stress can significantly impact gut health through various interconnected pathways. The gut and the brain communicate bidirectionally through what is known as the gut-brain axis, allowing stress to influence gut function and vice versa. 

Negative Impacts of Acute Stress on the gut 

  • Disrupts the balance of beneficial gut bacteria
  • Affects movement of the digestive system increasing risk of diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain
  • Interferes with the proper digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • Disrupts the communication between our brain and gut

Negative Impact of Chronic Stress on the Gut 

  • May harm gut lining making it more permeable and prone to inflammation
  • May compromise immune function in the gut

To support both your gut and overall well-being, It is important to regularly practice stress management strategies through different practices such as: 

  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Regular physical activity
  • Deep belly
  • Breathing
  • Yoga 
  • Journaling

What is the difference between feeling full and feeling bloated? 

Understanding the difference between feeling full and feeling bloated is important to determine whether the sensation is a normal part of digestion or a potential symptom that requires further investigation. While feeling full is a natural sensation that indicates satisfaction and satiety, frequent and persistent bloating can be uncomfortable and a sign of underlying issues that need to be addressed. 

Signs of Feeling Full 

  • Typically occurs after consuming a meal 
  • Not usually accompanied by discomfort or abdominal distension
  • Subsides as digestion progresses and the stomach empties

Signs of Feeling Bloated 

  • Abdominal tightness, swelling, or distension
  • Can occur even with small amounts of food 
  • May persist for an extended period
  • Abdominal distention and discomfort 
  • May be accompanied by other symptoms like gas, belching, or changes in bowel movements

Common Causes of Bloating

Understanding the underlying causes of bloating is important in order to address the issue, as persistent or severe bloating may indicate an underlying digestive disorder that requires medical attention. Bloating can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Excessive gas production
  • Impaired digestion
  • Water retention
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Overeating
  • Swallowing air
  • Consuming gas-producing foods 
  • Food intolerances
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Gastrointestinal disorders like celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease

What are some easy tips to reduce bloating? 

The first and most important step is to identify the root cause for your bloating in order to take appropriate actions for restoring gut health. Here are some tips to create more awareness of causes of bloating and how to prevent symptoms.

Maintain a Food Diary:

Keep a record of your meals and subsequent bloating symptoms to help identify specific foods that may be the culprit behind uncomfortable bloating. Common culprits include gas-producing foods like beans, lentils, broccoli, cabbage, onions, processed foods and carbonated beverages. 

A yellow food diary with a pen on top as a tool to determine causes of bloating in order to restore gut health.

Eat Mindfully and Chew Thoroughly:

Slow down while eating and chew your food thoroughly to help break down the food particles. This helps to support digestion and reduce the likelihood of bloating. 

Avoid Engaging in Other Activities While Eating:

Multitasking while eating, such as working on your computer or watching TV, can lead to mindless eating and result in swallowing more air which can contribute to bloating. Instead, make mealtime a dedicated and mindful activity by focusing solely on your food and the act of eating.

Manage Portion Sizes:

Overeating can strain your digestive system, leading to bloating. Practice portion control by listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Stop eating when you feel comfortably satisfied, rather than overly full.

Avoid Trigger Foods and Beverages:

If you’ve identified specific foods or beverages that cause bloating, try to eliminate them from your diet. If you can’t identify the trigger foods, a food sensitivity test may help you identify the foods that are possibly causing bloating

Manage Stress Levels:

As mentioned, stress can affect digestion and contribute to bloating. Engage in stress-reducing activities or hobbies that help you relax and unwind.

Can acid blocking medications impact my gut health? 

The long-term use of these meds may have implications for gut health as antacids decrease stomach acid which may allow the “bad” bacteria to flourish. Your stomach acid is essential for digestion and keeping gut bacteria balanced. However, long term use of Antacids prevent both of these functions from occurring and what you end up with is poorly digested food with an overgrowth of bad bacteria. In fact, acid-blocking medications have been associated with an increased risk of C. Diff infection, Helicobacter pylori, as well as SIBO.

Blue and white tablets against a hot pink background.

With that said, taking acid-blocking medications for a prolonged period of time can be a roadblock for restoring gut health. Instead, implementing lifestyle modifications, such as dietary changes, weight management, and stress reduction techniques, may help reduce the need for long-term medication use and support overall gut health.

Final Thoughts

Remember, gut health is a puzzle with many interconnected pieces. It’s not just about what you eat but also how you eat, as well as how you manage stress, and prioritize sleep and physical activity. By taking a holistic approach, you can optimize your gut health and improve your overall well-being. Your gut health journey is an ongoing process, and every small step you take towards better digestive well-being is a step towards a healthier and happier you. If you’re struggling with digestive issues, are looking for answers and unsure how and where to start, I have a free guide called Fix Your Gut that you can download today. This guide provides a step-by-step framework to start your gut healing journey the right way.

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