Welcome to Part 2 in our series on how to improve gut health! It’s not a glamorous subject, so if you’re reading this, I know you care deeply about your family’s health.
That’s my guy in the picture above, about 6 years ago. He looks so happy and vibrant! Just looking at the picture, you’d never guess we were in the middle of restoring his gut flora to heal from eczema and a dairy intolerance.
It took a little over a year, but with persistent care, I was able to heal him from the inside out. I want to share what I’ve learned with you because many families are unaware that gut health is the foundation of general health!
You may already know that we live symbiotically with the beneficial bacteria that populate the length of our GI tract. Did you know that they also live on the surface of our skin? They protect our gut lining and skin, increase our immunity by supporting white blood cells, and allow us to digest & absorb nutrients efficiently.
In Part 1 we discussed how gut flora is established, how it can be damaged, and what gut dysbiosis looks like. Avoiding or reducing the triggers we listed in that post is the first step toward healing the gut. Now, we’ll focus on rebuilding the gut lining and increasing beneficial bacteria to boost your family’s general health.
How to Improve Your Family’s Gut Health
Fermented foods & drinks
Everyone can benefit from including fermented foods and beverages in their diet. This is because lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, and grains supply our bodies with a good dose of beneficial bacteria.
Here’s an informative video from Sarah Pope, The Healthy Home Economist, on the value of fermentation. (The ginger-ale recipe she introduces at the end is awesome!)
People who just had a round of antibiotics/vaccinations, are on a high sugar diet, or under severe stress, can benefit greatly from a probiotic supplement. All of these experiences diminish gut health drastically, so probiotics are needed for repopulation.
A good probiotic:
- Contains a large variety of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces (beneficial yeast) species
- Contains a large concentration of species, measured in Colony Forming Units (CFUs)
- Includes prebiotics or oligosaccharides, necessary for probiotic propagation
- Is well tested by the manufacturer and the results are published
For infants, giving them a powder form with at least Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium infantis and at least 3 million CFU per day is best. Simply place 1/4 teaspoon on a wet finger and into baby’s mouth.
Toddlers and children can take powder form or tablets, with a higher dose of 10-20 million CFU, and a larger variety of species.
There are specific products for men and women too that you may want to check out. Good quality brands include Klaire Labs, Douglas Laboratories, Orthomolecular Products, and my favorite dōTERRA’s PB Assist & PB Assist Jr..
Some people will need a therapeutic dose that is much higher than the more conservative “maintenance” suggestions listed here. You can work with a qualified professional who can advise you on this and help you with the “die-off” reaction that may occur.
When the body seriously needs nutrients, bone broth is one of the best foods to supply them. The simmered bones and cartilage release easy-to-absorb forms of:
- trace minerals
- chondroitin sulphate
All of these nutrients can help seal the intestinal lining and therefore improve immune system function. This article describes it’s benefits beautifully and includes recipes for chicken, beef, and fish broth.
Redwood City’s own Food Foundation guru Jessica Campbell has a great article and quick video on how to prepare bone broth as well.
GAPS and SCD diets
GAPS is an acronym for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, a diet developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. This diet focuses on restoring health in children diagnosed with neurological issues such as autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, A.D.D/A.D.H.D., depression, and schizophrenia.
Dr. Campbell-McBride’s diet is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) developed by Dr. Sydney Valentine Haas. It was popularized by Elaine Gottschall in her book Breaking in the Viscous Cycle which focuses on healing Chrohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and chronic diarrhea.
Both women have successfully treated a large population of children and adults with severe psychological and bowel disorders. However, the indications for this diet extend beyond what’s addressed in the books. People experiencing autoimmune disorders, allergies, food intolerances, chronic respiratory infections, ear infections, and skin disorders can also benefit.
I’ve tried both diets to deal with my autoimmune illness and gut dysbiosis, but have had the most success with GAPS. It is the newer book of the two, with a more modern approach. Campbell-McBride discusses the triggers of gut imbalance in great detail and what to avoid in our increasingly toxic environment. She emphasizes the importance of having fermented foods in every meal. I also appreciate her sharing detoxification methods like epsom salt/baking soda baths and probiotic enemas for stubborn cases.
Campbell-McBride has a thorough chapter on supplements, but says…
“I cannot emphasize enough that an appropriate diet has to be the number one intervention in successful nutritional management of the GAPS child or adult. No pill in the world is going to come close to the effect of the diet on your patient’s condition.”
It’s wise to work with a qualified professional to determine if this diet is appropriate for you. They can also help you with the supplement protocol and detoxification methods.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) & Herbs
Acute and chronic stress negatively impact gut microorganism populations. Therefore, any method of relaxation has a positive effect on the healing process.
The Chinese Medicine methods of acupuncture, acupressure, and tuina massage can help you manage stress and treat the emotional and energetic roots.
Chinese herbs affect physical imbalances directly. There are certain herbs that help rid the GI tract of opportunistic, pathogenic bacteria and some that can help rebuild the gut lining too.
Chinese medicine practitioners are studying leaky gut and gut dysbiosis more and more. In fact, I’m taking a course on TCM and Leaky Gut Syndrome from a very experienced Herbalist this weekend. I’ll be filled to the brim with more information on this come Sunday!