Gut Health & Probiotics: Everything You Need To Know

By Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle Consultant, Lisa Holowaychuk, of Life by Leese
Certified Nutritionist and Holistic Practitioner

When it comes to your appearance, your GI tract may actually play a bigger role than your genes, because without a healthy gut, it’s really hard to have glowing skin or thick, shiny hair. Your digestive tract is like the soil, and your hair and skin are like the plants: if the soil isn’t healthy, the plants won’t bloom properly. Nourish your inner soil with tons of plants and you’ll glow from the inside out. Nourish your inner soil with fermented foods, which contain both probiotics and prebiotics to nourish the good bacteria in your body. You see, what you eat, your gut microbes eat. And when you don’t feed them what they need—think fiber, probiotics and greens—they eat you. A little creepy? Maybe. But it’s true. When your gut flora turns on you, it can cause a condition called leaky gut, in which food particles and bad bacteria to sneak into your bloodstream, leading to inflammation. And inflammation shows up in your skin in the form of acne, rosacea and eczema. Fermented foods are one of the best remedies for your microbiome and your heavenly glow.

Some of my favorite fermented foods + ways to re- populate your microbiome: 

- Sauerkraut - Look for unpasteurized and organic. If it is not in the fridge section, do not eat it!
- Kimchi - Look for brands that do not contain any sugar, as this will make your microbiome turn on you in the form of lots of gas. This also needs to be found in the fridge section to keep the enzymes alive. Kimchi is spicy so make sure that your gut can handle the high spice factor.
- Kombucha - A fermented probiotic drink that helps repopulate the good bacteria in your gut. It's very healing, and is as powerful as taking a probiotic capsule. IF you do notice bloating, bad gas or an uncomfortable it most likely means that your gut needs some healing.
- Organic Tempeh - Fermented soybeans. Two things - make sure it is organic and again make sure its in refrigerator. I only eat this maybe once or twice a month! I actually like it raw or sautéed lightly in coconut oil + spices.
- Organic Miso - Organic miso broth is very healing and soothing to the gut! Have it before a meal to get your digestion fired up. TIP - Make your broth by simmering your veggies, take the broth off the stove and then add the miso or you will call the enzymes with the super high heat.

As you can see from above, digestion is the cornerstone of everything in your body, as your microbiome hosts trillions of bacteria and out numbers any other cell in your body.
Think for a minute about your gut health. Do things run smoothly? Do you get bloated constantly? Are you constipated? Are you regular? Do you get stomach pains? How do you feel after you eat?

Take your time and get to know your body. It’s telling you something. Always. Tune in, and take notice. When a digestive system is unhealthy it is most definitely giving us the signs. The trouble is, we hardly recognize them. For a system that can affect our mood, skin, energy and immunity, spending a little time to get to know it will do a world of good. Getting your gut in order can literally change your overall daily life.

What does a healthy digestive system look like? And does your looks like this?
A healthy digestive system is brimming with life. Trillions of bacterial colonies co-existing in harmony and enjoying the nutrients they need to thrive.

There is no inflammation or irritation of intestinal walls and food moves through your stomach and intestines with ease. Well-formed motions are passed at least once per day and the experiences of gas, bloating and indigestion are absent. If yours does not look or feel like this it is time to get it into line. With over 60% of our immunity residing in our guts, and 80% of our Serotonin aka Our Happiness it must be working smoothly to achieve optimal health.

Gut health is paramount to your entire experience of wellness. These are a few non-negotiables In addition to the fermented foods I recommend above, I believe people can go even further in healing their gut and creating a happy and healthy microbiome: 

Probiotics: these are the beneficial bacteria that form your gut flora or microbiota. The best sources are fermented foods, listed above, or a reputable brand of probiotics. My favorites are Health Force Naturals, Genestra and Raw Code.

Prebiotics: these act as food for the probiotics, promoting their growth. Fibrous plant based sources are ideal, such as green vegetables, apples, cruciferous veggies (Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli) and aromatic veggies such as onion and garlic.

Soothing foods: if your gut is irritated and inflamed, nature offers some lovely soothing options such as slippery elm, marshmallow root, and bone broth (My favorite).

Fiber: daily fiber is crucial to provide the ‘intestinal broom’ to keep things moving along nicely. Soluble fiber, which absorbs water, is ideal. Include plenty of chia and flax seeds, a little psyllium hulls, and lots of fruits and veggies.

Good fats: good fats provide essential lubrication for your intestines and omega-3 fats offer anti-inflammatory properties. Emphasize omega-3 sources in your diet: chia seeds, flax seeds, dark leafy greens and sustainable fish oils (salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring). Consume moderate to large amounts (depending on your body and its needs) of avocados, olive oil, coconut oil for saturated fatS, omega-6 and-9 fatty acids.

Hydration: people tend to recognize the importance of staying hydrated, but don’t always put into practice. A bare minimum of 1.5 liters of water daily is necessary to provide your digestive tract with the lubrication it needs and support your general vitality.

Now for what to consume in moderation or completely eliminate if you are experiencing extreme distress, discomfort and imbalances.

I am a big believer in individuality when it comes to our diet, especially when looking at digestive health. Everyone’s experience is unique, and even if symptoms are similar they may often be from different causative factors. There are, however a few known triggers to be wary of if you are sensitive:

Gluten: Studies have shown a gluten-free diet to positively influence immunity, support gut bacteria and reduce intestinal permeability (leaky gut).

Alcohol: Sensitive stomachs can struggle with the acidity of alcohol. Regular consumption or binge drinking can impair liver function, governing entire wellbeing. It’s also important to be conscious of both the sugar content of alcohol and the fact it is a diuretic. (Have a drink, than a glass of water, etc.… always hydrate as alcohol is extremely dehydrating).

Sugar: Processed sugar should be off everyone’s radar; however if you are quite sensitive even some sugars found in natural sweetener and fruits should be limited. Sugar also acts as food for Candida, a common cause of digestive imbalance.

Dairy: We grew up with dairy (unless you are allergic like Amanda), and were taught that it provides us with lots of calcium for bone strength, but this is not the truth. Greens contain much more calcium and minerals, and our body is readily able to absorb them. When it comes to traditional dairy, it can actually cause us great gut distress, due to it igniting inflammation, and creating a lot of mucus in our gut lining and walls, which I’m sure you can guess causes lots of problems that even probiotics have a hard time addressing. 

Food additives: The chemical cocktail of colors, preservatives and flavor enhancers can trigger food sensitivities. Being a conscious consumer of packaged foods and simply avoiding any highly processed foods is the best solution here!

I hope this helps some of you who are many struggling with your gut. I truly believe once we get this into gear, a whole heap of other things start to fall into place.

The holidays are also just around the corner, so it’s important to start addressing this now, as I know you will be met with many occasions, treats, temptations, indulging, and celebrating! If you have a healthy gut than a small treat here and there will be welcomed. But with an imbalanced and unhappy microbiome could leave you in distress for days, weeks and even months.