Gut Health: What does ‘healing’ your gut mean?

It is nearly impossible to avoid the never-ending chatter about gut health on social media these days. 

Even with the emphasis on self-care, it’s hard to discern what “healing” the gut pertains to when there’s limited to no context or even questionable data. A healthy gut is significant, as it can impact many facets of overall well-being. 

Keeping your microbiome in balance requires consuming ( actually! ) accurate information. Here’s Ali Rezaie, MD, a gastroenterologist and co-author of The Microbiome Connection, and the author of Low Fermentation Eating, to set the record straight on what having a healthy gut entails and how to make sure the measures you take to get there are appropriate to your body’s specific needs [1].

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A healthy gut can be defined in a variety of ways

First, Dr Rezaie points out that defining a “healthy gut” isn’t as simple as you might think because it’s not a one-size-fits-all concept There is no such thing as a “normal” microbiome, Dr Rezaie says. You have a unique microbiome, and there’s no established magic mix of bacteria.

Despite the fact that we all have different microbiomes, there are classic patterns found in good gut health. The microbiome exists in other parts of the body. However, the most extensive microbiome by far is in the gut. 

Microbiomes in the gut are considered independent organs in the body. It contains over 1000 species of bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa, each of which can play a different role in the body.

Moreover, external factors can also affect how the gut microbiome is formed, so no two microbiomes are the same: diet, environment, medications and genetics influence your microbiome. Even your pets can impact it. In addition, unlike our DNA, one type of microbiome composition is not superior to another.

Rather than categorizing gut health into one bucket, Dr Rezaie stresses the necessity of always fact-checking content on the topic, particularly on social media. Apply the findings only as needed, if reliable, and adapt them to your specific needs. 

As with other fields of medicine, it can be difficult to determine which sources of information are credible and which are untrustworthy on social media. Look for information generated or written by academics and professionals.”, advises Dr Rezaie. Microbiome studies are a young discipline, and conflicting information is not uncommon because our understanding is rapidly advancing, he adds.

That said, Dr Rezaie recognizes that even experts have yet to learn about the gut. Our understanding of the microbiome is rapidly evolving.

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How do you determine whether your gut even needs “healing”?

A wide range of plant-based foods and nutrients are the best way to support a healthy microbiome, according to Dr Rezaie. It is important to eat a well-balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats and protein if you are healthy, he says. He adds that an imbalanced microbiome can lead to several uncomfortable symptoms, including bloating, constipation, diarrhea and alternating bowel habits.

Gut Health: What does 'healing' your gut mean?

As an example of a microbiome imbalance, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when there are excess amounts of bacteria in the small bowel. These bacteria ferment food, causing excess gas and bloating.

The solution? You can reset your gut bacteria with what you eat. According to Dr Rezaie, microbes in the gut can change drastically based on what we consume. 

Different foods can alter the gut environment in a positive or a negative way. To manage SIBO, you need to follow a low-fermentation diet.

In addition, it emphasizes that gut-healing remedies should not be applied to all microbiome imbalances. According to Dr Rezaie, gut remedies must be tailored according to your specific needs. Depending on the disease, modifying your diet can be incredibly beneficial, but this depends on your doctor.

The concept of “healing your gut” is yet another reminder to understand your gut health needs before incorporating what you read on the internet [2].

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[1] https://www.cedars-sinai.org/provider/ali-rezaie-3261477.html
[2] https://www.wellandgood.com/what-is-gut-health/

Photograph: YuriArcursPeopleimages/Envato
The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.