These days I see so many people in my clinic with gut problems, way more than ever before. The good news is that we’re constantly learning about how to maintain (and restore) gut health amidst our fast-paced modern lives.

There might be gut-lining irritations, or problems with the population of bugs you have living there. In today’s Top Tip Tuesday post, I will share my thoughts as to how to keep the gut happy and healthy.

Of course gut health and gut problems are very individual and if there are problems, there is not one fix for everyone, but there are some common pointers that may help those in need.

But first, some facts about the bugs:

We have more bugs that live in our gut than we do human cells – which means we’re actually more bug than human! Plus, these bugs are not just visiting – they’re there to stay. They can cause both health and harm, so we need to look after them and learn to keep them happy.

These bugs make up about ¾ of our immune system, when they’re happy they promote normal healthy gastrointestinal function, a well-regulated metabolism, and protect you from infection. When they’re riled up, they’re likely to play a role in the development of certain health conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, even obesity and cancer.

The way I see it, it’s a little like relationships: if they’re happy, you’re happy, if you aggravate them, they’ll aggravate you back – both in the short and the long term. The difference is you’re stuck with them so you’re going to need to find a way to work it out so that you can live together, harmoniously, in one body. Here goes…

Don’t aggravate them. These things will:

  1. Drugs: Antibiotics and other medications like anti-inflammatories
  2. A diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrate and processed foods
  3. A diet high in omega-6 rich industrial seed oils
  4. Refined flour cereal grains and wheat (in some people)
  5. Chronic stress – YES you’re reading this right, stress.

Keep them happy. These things will:

  1. Eat a wide variety of whole unprocessed foods
  2. Remove / reduce the refined sugar and carbs, and processed oils
  3. Aim for natural anti-inflammatories (turmeric + black pepper; lots of fatty fish for omega 3s)
  4. Grow your good bugs: Eat fermented foods like unsweetened natural yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, keffir (probiotic fermented milk drink).
  5. Drink bone broth
  6. Feed them: Include some fermentable fibre in your diet (e.g. sweet potato, artichoke, yams, leeks, onion, garlic, radish, cruciferous vegetables, cold potato).
  7. Create a lifestyle low in stress or make sure to have strategies to manage your stress.

In turn they’ll keep you happy.

If your gut health is already riled up (be it a combination of unhappy bugs or just an unhappy gut lining i.e. leaky gut), and you need to restore happiness, the first thing you need to do is to heal the gut by removing the aggravation (this might be wheat / sugar / dairy / oils or a combination).

Note when your gut is angry, it might react to foods that don’t usually cause problems. Dairy is a great example of this. So remove the range of aggravating foods initially, and give your gut a good chance to heal; then you can start re-introducing some of these foods (if you want to), slowly and carefully, one-at-a time.

Once you have restored gut health happiness, make sure that you keep them happy by following the top 7 points above. And if you need to take any pills to help – take actual bugs, not drugs!

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Jarryd says:

    Hi Caryn,

    I have a problem with my gut. I’m not confident enough to go to a doctor about it so here it is. When I was young I was quite sickly and so much parents took me to a naturopath and he put me on a no dairy no sugar diet. It worked great and all my ailments went away.

    After a few years I went back to a normal diet and had no problems at all (although through my teen years it would be normal for me to go to the toilet once a week and still feel fine). I could eat whatever I wanted with no problems whatsoever. Even spicy food which I loved/love so much!!!

    Once i got to my early mid twenties my gut has been playing up again. I f I have a lot of Dairy it sets it off and also if I have spicy food. This limits what I can eat (in terms of spicy food) and how much I can eat (in terms of dairy).

    What can I do to get myself back to normal again?!


    Man who just wants to get back to enjoying food and going out again.

    • What The Fat? says:

      Hi Jarryd,

      I’ll see if Caryn has a more detailed response but I think you might be dealing with a FODMAP intolerance (lactose is a FODMAP, fructose can be); it’s possible that as you have aged you’ve got a bit more adventurous in the types of fibre you’re eating (for example, xylitol is in many things, including our sweet recipes, and that’s a FODMAP that was rare just a few years ago). Have a look at a list of FODMAPs online and see if this makes sense in terms of your reactions. Some dairy products are low in lactose, such as cream, butter, cheeses, but many such as yoghurt can have added thickeners etc that can also cause problems for gut bacteria.

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