6 Simple Steps for Getting Your Gut to Heal

Including excerpts by Donna Gates of Body Ecology

Did you know that your gut — your digestive system — is considered your second brain? Makes complete sense though, doesn’t it? Just think back to the last time you laid awake at night as your belly did battle with some tenacious foe you’d thrown down there a little too late in the evening. You can hardly think straight until your tummy finally stops threatening to spill out of one end or the other … and you’re not certain which end will win out!

Besides obviously poor dietary choices such as pizza and beer at midnight, there are actually many reasons for a lack of strong digestive juices and the belly bloat and foggy thinking that is often the end result.

The use of antibiotics, chlorinated tap water, antacid pills, alcohol, refined sugar, processed foods, etc. all knock out essential digestive juices, which naturally tend to slow down and steadily decline anyway after the age of 30. And this all leads to your body’s inability to absorb nutrients from the foods you eat in order to feed your cells so you can live a long, healthy and vibrant life!

The six strategies I’m going to share with you are key to getting the gut to heal  — and I do mean actually heal — or better yet, prevent a mess of other health problems.

STEP #1:   Support Your Stomach Acid

Taking a pharmaceutical grade antacid won’t provide long–term heartburn relief. Even worse, it will increase your risk of developing a bacterial infection in the small intestine by 50%!

Rather than muting the acidity of your gastric juices, which is the function of many antacids, do the opposite. In other words, if you want relief, take a hydrochloric acid (HCl) supplement.

Won’t taking an HCl supplement make the burn worse? Not so fast …

Gastric acid is formed in the stomach and has a low pH of 1.5–3.5 (think battery acid). This level of acidity is crucial. In addition to unraveling proteins and activating enzymes, it is also one of the body’s first lines of defense against disease–causing microorganisms.

Additional HCl can rev up your stomach’s ability to break down food and fight infection.

Assist Dairy & Protein contains HCl and other enzymes to help along the digestive process. As we age, or after eating a vegan or vegetarian diet, the body will naturally produce less stomach acid.

A collection of herbs known as Digestive Bitters will also encourage stomach acid production. Bitter herbs have been used traditionally in several cultures to improve digestion.

Stop treating the symptoms.

Getting rid of heartburn may be an ongoing process, depending on the state of your gastrointestinal system. Healing the gut may take several months, if not more, depending on the depth of the imbalance.

Pharmaceutical antacids are overprescribed and overused, not to mention ineffective for such a large population. They only treat the symptoms, not the root cause of the heartburn.

The solution to painful heartburn flare-ups? Put together an HCl supplement with a specific diet and fermented foods. When we learn how to nurture our inner ecology and get to know trigger foods, we do more than heal heartburn. We safeguard our overall health and wellbeing.

STEP #2:   Change the Foods You Eat

It turns out that the inner ecology of the gut plays an important role in whether or not heartburn develops.

Sometimes, the stomach itself is infected with a bacterium called H. pylori. Other times an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine can lead to heartburn. Either way, the inner ecology of the gut is out of balance.

Studies have found that H. pylori infection is more common in patients with acid reflux. (1) In order to survive, it is theorized that H. pylori reduces the acidity of the stomach.  If this is the case, is there really anything an antacid can do with an H. pylori infection? Unfortunately, since most patients that are prescribed an antacid are not tested for infection, the real issue of infection is never addressed.

Reduced stomach acid, whether from an H. pylori infection or an antacid, makes the rest of the gastrointestinal tract susceptible to bacterial overgrowth. This is why removing foods that feed infection is essential.

These are foods like:

  • Grains: Grains, especially those with gluten, feed bacterial overgrowth. While getting rid of heartburn, it is best to avoid all food made with grains.
  • Sugar: Sugar, even fructose, can feed an infection. Get to know the hidden sugars in foods and monitor the amount of fruit you eat.
  • Fiber and Carbohydrates: A certain percentage of fiber and carbohydrates that we consume escapes absorption, becoming food for bacteria. Fibrous vegetables fall into this category. While it isn’t necessary to avoid all fibrous vegetables, it is a good idea to pay attention to those that may ignite a burning sensation in the center of your chest.

Other foods and drinks to avoid:

  • Coffee
  • Dairy/Milk
  • Juice (unless fresh–made green vegetable)
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

Also consider the size of your meals. If you lie down within a couple of hours of a large meal, you could set yourself up for reflux. Plan to go to sleep 4 hours after eating, for optimal digestion.

STEP #3:   Include These Food and Supplements

  • Garlic is one food that you should be eating every day. Fresh is best, but I also trust the benefits of the odorless varieties by Kyolic™
  • Drink about one gallon of pure water (not tap — chlorinated water kills health gut bacteria) per day with high doses of good quality probiotics.
  • Take adequate amounts of Vitamin D3*. Vitamin D3 is found in eggs, organ meats, animal fat, cod liver oil and fish. *Avoid Vitamin D2 — it is the synthetic form of vitamin D and has been shown to be toxic at the higher dose ranges.
  • Cayenne pepper and spices like cumin and curry often lower inflammation, build the health of your stomach and digestive tract, and improve peristaltic action. Though you might think that you should avoid spicy things like cayenne, it can actually help!
  • Essential oils can improve digestion and ease stress at the same time. Consider frankincense and myrrh.

STEP #4:   Balance Your Hormones

From a hormonal standpoint, the level of cortisol (a stress hormone) in your body can impact the function of your intestines.

Cortisol is essential for your fight-or-flight response, but with too much chronic stress, elevated cortisol triggers the brain’s release of corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH), which has been shown to impair the function of your pylorus. It has also been shown to effect motility of the small intestine and colon. 

STEP #5:   Reduce Stress Naturally

Try these techniques to help you cope with the stress of life AND reduce chronic stress:

  • Acupuncture. One study discovered that stimulation of acupressure points may maintain normal esophageal sphincter pressures and thus prevent acid reflux.
  • Exercise. Exercise is proven to reduce stress and has myriad health benefits. Add some movement to your routine, and your GERD symptoms may ease up. If you need more reasons to exercise, be sure to read 9 Resolutions to Commit to the Most Beneficial Exercise.
  • TAP your way to happy & healthy*.  EFT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture but without the invasiveness of needles — instead simply tapping with the fingertips inputs kinetic energy onto specific meridians.
    • For releasing troubling emotions, few things are easier than the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or Tapping Technique) to free stress and painful emotions
    • *Nattacia Mantei, founder of Courage to be Healthy™ is trained in this technique and is available to teach you, over the phone or Skype, to do this method on yourself.

STEP #6:  Rely on Nature rather than Supplements

If you are going to take supplements and avoid certain foods, you will eventually want to get to the point where you can eat whatever you like without relying on a supplement for proper digestion.

Eating fermented foods on a daily basis gets you to this point.

While fermenting food at home may seem like a lost art, the reality is that traditional ferments are becoming more and more popular. High-profile culinary wizards are rediscovering the flavors (and benefits) of cultured foods, while families interested in nutrient-dense meals are turning their attention to old-fashioned fermentation crocks.

If you are interested in culturing your own food at home, you may want to begin with a starter culture like Veggie Culture Starter. A starter ensures that the final product will be full of healthy, beneficial bacteria rather than questionable wild strains.

Try making coconut water kefir or purchase probiotic beverages in order better digest your foods, build the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract, and keep pathogenic bacteria under control.

The good bacteria available in fermented foods and probiotic beverages keep aggressive colonizers in check. This means that H. pylori and other microbes are not totally eradicated from your inner ecosystem. Instead, good bacteria that have a knack for cooling inflammation and healing the gastrointestinal lining are enlisted to control any overzealous microbes.

Begin by implementing just one of these strategies and then week-by-week add one and then another. Just think, in six short weeks you’ll actually be getting your gut to heal.