It’s estimated that nearly 100 million women struggle with gut health. Whether you’re dealing with irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, allergies, mood swings, or all of the above, then chances are you fall into this category. In this article, we’re compiling a list of foods, prebiotics, probiotics, and lifestyle changes to help support thriving gut health. Consider this your gut health for women guide.
Why Gut Health is Important
Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria (good and bad) necessary for digestion, hormone regulation, and immune function. Without a healthy gut, you can experience a long list of symptoms ranging from acid reflux to depression. If you want to feel your absolute best, you must get gut health right. Before we dive into our best advice for fostering a thriving gut, let’s talk about the symptoms and impacts of poor gut health.
Hormones: As we mentioned, your gut is in charge of regulating hormone production and synthesis. Your gut microbiome directly influences estrogen, progesterone, cortisol levels, and more. Bad gut health? You may experience hormonal issues like: increased PMS, weight gain, fatigue, loss of libido, and hair loss.
Mental Health: More neurotransmitters go from your gut to your brain than from your brain to your gut. That means that what you eat and what you eat ate, directly impacts how you think and feel.
Physical Health: we covered a bit of this above, but it’s important to also touch on the fact that the health of the gut also impacts energy levels. Yes, this is a hormone thing, but it’s also a food sensitivities thing. If your gut lining is messed up (ahem, leaky gut), then food travels into your bloodstream, nutrients aren’t absorbed needed for energy, and you can feel wiped out after a meal. Not to mention this will also result in acne, joint pain, etc.
What Negatively Impacts Gut Health?
Stress plays a major role in gut health. Do you know the sayings “I feel like theirs a pit in my stomach?” or “my stomach is in knots”? Well, that’s all thanks to the physiological response that stress adheres to the body. When we get stressed, cortisol and adrenaline are released, and digestion is sent to a halt. We are in survival mode, and staying alive is more important than pooping.
Unfortunately, in today’s modern world, anything sets off the stress alarm: a text, an email, the news, or social media. We are in constant fight or flight, and what we need to do is move over to rest and digest, where we can properly digest.
Processed sugars (and even chemical sugar alternatives) feed bad gut bacteria and tear up the gut lining. They also send blood sugar levels skyrocketing, causing stress and throwing hormones out of whack.
Conventional gluten is also one of the most common culprits of food sensitivities and allergies. Even if you don’t have celiac disease, gluten can negatively impact the integrity of your gut lining. When gut lining loses its integrity, chemicals, and toxins can seep into your bloodstream and result in breakouts, acne, causing bloating, fatigue, brain fog, etc.
Antibiotics, while necessary sometimes, are overprescribed. These meds burn up gut lining and kill both good and bad gut bacteria.
Signs and Symptoms of Poor Gut Health
- Poor digestion
- Acid reflux
- Food sensitivities
- Mood issues
- Brain Fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Increased PMS
- Low libido
How to Improve Gut Health for Women
First and foremost, a diet that promotes good gut health is number one. There are a few keys to this:
1 – Fermented and Cultured Foods: think sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, and kimchi. These foods are loaded with beneficial bacteria that can help repopulate your gut with the probiotics it needs to properly digest food, absorb nutrients, and repair the gut lining.
2 – Bone Broth: packed full of rich collagen and amino acids that help heal inflammation and knit permeable holes in the lining back together.
3 – Collagen: the building blocks necessary for a strong gut lining. Try our favorite here.
4 – Food diversity: to repopulate the gut with diverse prebiotics and probiotics, you need to eat a diverse diet! Switch it up and add in a few fruits and veggies you don’t typically eat.
5 – Foods high in prebiotics: broccoli and broccoli sprouts, dandelion greens, garlic onions, artichokes, bananas, whole oats, apples.
6 – Opt for Organic: less toxic heavy metals, antibiotics, and chemicals that bad bacteria feeds off of and destroy gut integrity.
7 – Cut out unhealthy gut diet foods: processed foods, conventional sugar, conventional dairy, and wheat, as well as GMO foods and canola oil.
Take a Good Probiotic
In order to restore healthy gut flora, probiotics should be a must. They help to crowd out bad bugs and recolonize the gut with live bacteria that will help you thrive. We wrote a whole article on how to choose the best probiotic and our favorites that you can check out here.
1 – look for 1-10 billion CFUs or colony-forming units
2 – look for multiple strains of bacteria, the more diversity the better. Keep your eye out for these: lactobacillus rhamnosus and lactobacillus acidophilus
3 – Make sure the brand you get has a 3rd party certification. Supplement purity is so important.
Take Gut Lovin’ Supplements
- Slippery elm bark
- Linden tea
- Collagen (bonus if it has stress-fighting adaptogens in it like this one!)
Always consult with your physician or licensed herbalist before taking any supplements or making any significant changes to your diet.
Prioritize Stress Management
We talked earlier about the impact that stress has on the gut. If you want to really heal at the root, I suggest finding a stress management practice that is practical and works for you. This can be breathwork, yoga, meditation, taking a bath, journaling, drawing, and dancing. Whatever it is, make it a priority.
How Long Does it Take to Restore Gut Health in Women?
Research has shown that the cells that line your gut can regenerate every 2-3 weeks, so making sure you are eating right and taking supplements is so important! There is not a ton of research that shows how long it takes to improve dysbiosis or a leaky gut – but some experts say it takes at least 12 weeks to 6 months for a full recovery. It’s important to stay consistent.
I hope this article has given you a guide to healing your gut. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.