Gut Rebalancing, What It Means And How To Start
Nov 24, 2023
Gut health has taken centre stage for health enthusiasts and the scientific community alike, with a key focus on rebalancing your gut microbiome, but what does that actually mean and how do you go about doing it?
This guide will help you understand the importance of your microbiome and gut health and the steps you can take to improve it. In particular, the article will cover the following topics:
- What is gut rebalancing?
- Where did the idea of gut rebalancing come from?
- What does an unbalanced gut feel like?
- The benefits of getting your gut back in shape
- Are there any drawbacks?
- How to rebalance your gut (step-by-step)
- Using supplements and formulas to kickstart your rebalancing
What is gut rebalancing?
To put it simply, rebalancing your gut is the process of restoring the natural balance of bacteria in your digestive system. It looks at ways you can naturally intervene to ensure that your gut microbiome is in optimal condition to support your overall health.
The bacteria in your gut perform and contribute to important functions in your body, including your immune system, mental health, and digestion. When there is an imbalance, these functions cannot perform so well and this leads to wider health concerns.
Our lifestyle choices, including diet, sleep, stress levels, and exercise all impact our microbiota, so this is precisely what we need to address to restore our gut health.
Ready to start rebalancing? Jump ahead to our step-by-step guide covering how to rebalance your gut.
Where did the idea of gut rebalancing come from?
While medical science has only recently begun investigating the extent to which gut health impacts our wider health, the concept has been around for millennia. The ancient Greeks believed that good digestion was important to overall health and they coined the phrase “asebeia” which meant ‘impiety to the digestive gods’.
Fast-forward a few thousand years to 1907, a Russian microbiologist named Elie Metchnikoff hypothesised that gut health protects the body from disease and it even plays a role in various conditions like cancer, heart disease, and mental health. He observed that Bulgarian peasants who have a diet rich in yoghurt and fermented foods lived longer than those in other developed Western states.
Although Metchnikoff was awarded a Nobel prize for his contribution to the understanding of immunity, his work was largely ignored until very recently, but since then, there have been several studies supporting the wider impact of gut health on other conditions and many medical professionals have written books arguing the impact of diet and gut health on wider health.
- Perlmutter, D. (2013). Grain brain: The surprising truth about why gluten and carbohydrates are destroying your brain.
- Hyman, M. (2015). The blood sugar solution: The ultimate guide to achieving optimal blood sugar levels for life.
- Bulsiewicz, W. J. (2017). The plant paradox: Why the plant-based diet may be the worst thing for your health.
- Campbell-McBride, N. (2004). Gut and psychology syndrome: Natural treatment for autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and the wider spectrum of gut-related disorders.
What does an unbalanced gut feel like?
An unbalanced gut can feel different for different people. Sometimes it feels like pressure on your tummy caused by bloating, and or a sudden need to use the toilet (diarrhoea), or the reverse, you can feel blocked up due to constipation.
When we talk about the human gut, we are essentially referring to the digestive system, which is a complex network of organs, muscles, and nerves working together to break down food and absorb nutrients.
When things aren’t working as they should it can feel very uncomfortable and for some people, it can be debilitating. Symptoms of an unhealthy or problematic gut related to food intolerances are well documented and it is commonly referred to as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. There are also other conditions like coeliac disease, and Crohn’s disease, where the gut becomes very inflamed and causes an unhealthy immune response, sometimes resulting in your body attacking itself.
The symptoms of these conditions often overlap. They include:
- Stomach cramps and abdominal muscle spasms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Moderate to severe bloating
- Either diarrhoea or constipation, sometimes both
- An urgent and uncontrollable need to use the toilet
- Blood in your stool (Crohn’s disease)
- General inflammation (especially with coeliac disease)
The benefits of getting your gut back in shape
The benefits of rebalancing your gut health are numerous and entwined. A healthy gut ensures a healthy body and mind more generally, but a healthy body and mind also promote a healthier gut. More specifically, a healthy gut helps with the following areas of your health:
- Your immune system
- Your mental and emotional health
- Your skin
- Your oral health
- Your energy levels
- Your sleep
- Your weight
A good example of how your gut health interacts with other areas of your health is your sleep. Your gut and sleep have a bidirectional influence on one another.
That is to say that a healthy gut promotes good sleep, but poor sleep has been shown to disrupt your gut microbiota. Poor sleep has also proven to lead to poor dietary decisions which further compromises your gut health. When your gut health is compromised it affects your mental health because 90% of your serotonin, the feel-good hormone, is produced by your gut. Serotonin also aids your sleep by producing melatonin.
A continuous cycle of poor sleep and poor dietary decisions will undoubtedly result in an imbalanced gut, which will inevitably lower your mood and resilience to life’s challenges. The stress you experience releases cortisol and adrenaline which further compromises your gut and before you know it you are on a downward spiral of sickness and poor health.
More than 90% of your immune system is regulated by your gut, but a disrupted gut means that your body isn’t as able to absorb the nutrients it needs, especially if you are making poor dietary decisions owing to a lack of sleep.
Can you see why it’s important to strive for a balanced gut?
Are there any drawbacks?
Improving your gut health is an important goal but the journey won’t always be easy. For some people, it may mean eating a very restrictive diet, at least for a while.
One of the most effective diets known to relieve IBS symptoms is the FODMAP diet, which was created by Monash University. It looks at ingredients that are high in fermentable olygosacharides disacharises monosacharides and polyols (FODMAP), which are short-chain carbohydrates that your gut finds difficult to break down and absorb.
These ingredients typically ferment during the digestion process and produce gasses that cause bloating. Because your gut finds it difficult to digest them, it can make going to the toilet more uncomfortable for some people and this results in constipation. In others, the body tries to absorb more water to aid digestion and this results in diarrhoea. In either case, it is unpleasant so the FODMAP diet seeks to eliminate high-scoring FODMAP ingredients from your diet, even if for a while to identify which foods cause a reaction and to increase your tolerance.
For more information on how to isolate your gut issues using a FODMAP diet, check out our 30-day guide. It is important to consult a medical professional or a qualified dietician before making extreme diet changes as there could be other consequences.
Thankfully, JUVIA offers an alternative to dietary restrictions such as FODMAP because JUVIA breaks down carbohydrates before they reach your gut, so you don’t experience any of the nasty ‘side-effects’. With JUVIA, everyone should be able to enjoy the foods they love, without cutting them out due to gut issues.
How to rebalance your gut (step-by-step)
To rebalance your gut you will need to make some lifestyle changes.
This will invariably include dietary changes, but several other changes will support better gut health. This is because your gut is a living organism and it responds to both internal and external influences, so you must take a holistic approach to looking after it. These include the following:
- Mindfulness and other relaxation practices
Diet has an obvious impact on your gut health. To have a healthy gut you must avoid highly processed foods because they contain ingredients, additives and preservatives that disrupt your gut and cause dysbiosis (imbalance). A simple rule to follow where possible is to make your food from fresh or select organic options that have only 2-3 natural ingredients and no preservatives.
Also, foods high in sugar are to be avoided because they feed the unfriendly bacteria. You will find that most processed foods are very high in sugar too, so that is another good reason to avoid them.
Having a diverse diet with lots of fruit and vegetables is good for your gut because they introduce a variety of bacteria strains. A diverse diet means there is lots of diversity within your gut and that ensures balance. A good way to ensure that your diet is diverse enough is to select fruits and vegetables by their colour. Make sure to get a good mix and alternate the colours each time you go shopping. One day, stick to red and purple fruit and veg, so red apples, peppers, aubergines, purple lettuce, etc. Next time, go for green and yellow, so courgettes, green apples, yellow peppers and mangos, etc.
Sleep is super important. It’s essential to prioritise high-quality sleep and make sure you get enough of it. Sleep is proven to have a direct impact on your gut health and as mentioned earlier, it affects your food choices because you are much more likely to gravitate toward high-calorie and processed foods when you lack sleep, and both of these influence your gut health.
Having good sleep hygiene practices will help you get a better night’s sleep. For example, avoid using digital devices 2-3 hours before bedtime because the blue light hinders your body’s natural sleep-wake cycles by tricking the brain into thinking it is still day and it won’t release the hormone melatonin, which induces sleep. It can be helpful to dim the lights or use candle lights after 8 p.m., so your body naturally prepares for sleep.
Having a cool or warm (not hot) shower just before bed also helps because your body naturally lowers its temperature in preparation for sleep. Going to bed at the same time each night also helps your brain to create a sleep routine, which becomes habitual.
Avoid eating heavy meals or exercising too close to bedtime because both stimulate your metabolism, which can disrupt sleep. Eating two kiwi’s 2 hours before bedtime has proven to aid sleep because kiwi’s aid serotonin production. Supplements can help you too, so try things like valerian & hops, as they are known to support deep sleep. There are many sleep-tracking devices, which help you to make sleep a priority and they are worth checking out.
Exercise is not only good for your body overall, but it also promotes better sleep and it has a direct impact on your gut health. Exercise also stimulates bowel movements and encourages hydration, so there is a domino effect of good effects that follow from exercise.
Try to get three to four 30-50 minute sessions of moderate to intense exercise each week. If you have any underlying health conditions make sure to speak to a medical professional first and also seek the advice of a qualified personal trainer who can assist you in understanding how to perform or modify exercises to suit your condition.
Hydration is very important to human health and in particular gut health. Our bodies are largely made of water and we lose a lot when we breathe, exercise, sweat and sleep. Your body also uses water for processes that you cannot see, like digestion and ridding toxins from the body. Whenever you pass your stools (do a poo) your colon absorbs water to make the passage smoother.
That said, it is important to replace the water we use, so make sure to drink enough. Tea and coffee do contribute to water intake but remember that they also stimulate the use of the toilet, so it is better to drink natural water. Having electrolyte supplements also helps because they contain the natural salts and sugars that your body needs to retain the water. When your body lacks water your blood volume decreases and this results in less plasma, the fluid part of your blood that transports electrolytes and nutrients around your body. It means that your heart has to work harder to circulate your blood and maintain your temperature. Additionally, your gut will produce more mucus in an attempt to retain water and the mucus lines the intestinal wall, blocking nutrient absorption.
If that wasn’t enough, science has proven that water intake also directly impacts the microbiome because water naturally carries microbes. The takeaway here is to drink more water, lots more.
Mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga are great tools to improve your mental and emotional health, but they also have a direct impact on your gut health. Remember, there is a strong bi-directional connection between your brain and your gut. Whenever you become distressed hormones are released that disrupt your gut microbiota. By the same token, when you are at peace, your gut microbiota thrives.
There are many relaxation practices out there, but sometimes these are not enough. If you are experiencing emotional difficulty, consider alternative therapies alongside your mindfulness practices. Talking therapies and Cognitive Behavioural Therapies are proven to reduce anxiety and improve mental health. You can access these services both privately and through the NHS if you speak with your GP.
Using supplements and formulas to kickstart your rebalancing
Supplements can be a useful shortcut to improved gut health, but make sure you don’t get caught in the hype as many overstate the benefits or make claims based on the inclusion of ingredients that are not proven to be effective when administered orally. Like most things, it is a case of trial and error to see what works for you.
Probiotics can be effective for a short while, however, this depends on which strains you take and whether you have inadequate volumes of those particular strains, but you won’t know that unless you undergo a thorough examination which can be expensive as they are not routinely provided by the NHS or health insurance.
The unfortunate truth about taking probiotics is that the volumes provided in capsules are inadequate compared to the amount available in food, so it is easier and cheaper to adjust your diet. When compared to the volumes in food it is hard to see how they will make a meaningful difference, particularly because very little survive the journey to the gut because they are completely exposed to the acidity in your stomach, unlike those hiding in food particles.
To learn more about how to get the most out of supplements, check out our free guide.
We hope this article illustrates the importance of rebalancing your gut as a path to improving overall health and well-being. The wide reach of the gut’s influence on other areas of your health and wellbeing is astonishing and the research is mounting up every year, debunking beliefs of old and paving the way for new approaches to treatment and health.
One thing is for certain, your gut health cannot be overlooked, especially if you are faced with uncomfortable symptoms just for eating your favourite foods. This is your body’s way of signalling to you that something is wrong and it’s time to listen to your body’s cries.
Here at JUVIA, we are passionate about helping people live longer, healthier, and happier lives, without missing the joys of food and good company at social gatherings because of an inflamed bowel.
If you haven’t tried JUVIA yet, give it a go with our 6-week money-back guarantee. JUVIA is entirely plant-based and has only one natural ingredient, so it works in harmony with your body. Unlike prebiotics or probiotics, it works by supporting your existing microbiome by depriving the unfriendly bacteria of their food source, which helps your good bacteria to survive and thrive.