I don’t know many people who don’t struggle with at least one stomach issue. Whether it’s a dairy intolerance, bloating, gas, irritable bowel, leaky gut syndrome, or any other unpleasant feeling that comes right after a meal, poor gut health affects nearly everybody in today’s age.
I have had my fair share of gut health issues. So much so that my fiancé loves to put his head on my stomach so he can, “hear the ocean,” i.e. my stomach working hard to process all the dairy I just shoveled into my mouth, knowing darn well I’m going to die an hour later.
Focusing on creating optimal gut health isn’t a new trend. Gut health experts have been around for years, but with the rise of TikTok and #healthtok, people can receive information and solutions faster than ever.
While I love a good scroll through TikTok, I’m not naïve enough to believe that everything I see on the app is true, but the ease of TikTok’s informative platform has allowed #guthealth videos to skyrocket as millions of people give their advice to others struggling with tummy issues.
So this week, I scoured the internet to find the best gut health advice and, hopefully, cure my rumbly stomach for good.
What is the Gut?
In order to understand gut health, you need to first become familiar with the gut itself. The gut is also known as the second brain. It controls the majority of the body and its functions. That’s why what you eat has such an effect on your mood. Your source of serotonin is found in your gut, so being mindful of what you put in your body is of utmost importance when you begin your journey to gut health. The term ‘gut health’ describes the function and balance of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. Many gut experts suggest implementing yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and other probiotics that provide healthy bacteria to the gut.
A part of why gut health is so important is not only due to its functions but also its size. The small intestine is a massive organ that feeds and nourishes the rest of your body. When stretched out, the small intestine measures approximately 21 feet. So when your gut is affected by bad gut health, a huge section of your body is also hit.
You’ve heard that you are what you eat, and it’s very true. The foods that fuel you can make or break your health. Your gut works to break down all the food you eat into a simple form that can then enter the bloodstream as nutrients and get delivered through your body. That’s why gut health experts put such an emphasis on eating fruits and veggies.
How Do You Know Your Gut Needs Healing?
A study done in 2020 found that 40% of the world’s population struggled with gastrointestinal issues. What’s more, according to Monash University, approximately 1 in 7 people suffer from constipation. The high number of issues stems from poor diets, stress, infections, and inflammation. Another possible reason why so many people in today’s age suffer from poor gut health is due to the cell damage throughout the body and in the gut that’s only aggravated by today’s modern technology, pollutants, and our constant use of electronics.
Gut health can also manifest itself in specific forms. Leaky gut syndrome is one of the most prominent and dangerous signs of poor gut health. Leaky gut syndrome occurs when the openings of the gut stretch and become wider than they should, allowing whole food particles to pass through the bloodstream. So, instead of the gut working to balance the good and bad bacteria in the body and distribute the proper nutrients to the organs, everything is allowed to pass through, and the filter is broken. The side effects of a leaky gut can lead to chronic fatigue, cloudy thinking, and chronic indigestion, among other symptoms.
But if almost half of the Earth’s population struggles with gut health, how bad is it? Not shockingly, the gut is pretty powerful. It controls the majority of the body without people realizing it. Most people will experience some symptoms linked to poor gut health, but they’ll rarely automatically connect the dots that the root of the problem is poor gut health and then they’ll never fix it.
Why Heal Your Gut?
So many people struggle with an unhealthy gut that the signs and symptoms are almost pedestrian by now. If you suffer from stomach discomfort, fatigue, food cravings, skin irritation, unintentional weight changes, migraines, or mood issues as a result of your diet, you’re more than likely suffering from an unhealthy gut. Other signs that are more telltale of an unhealthy gut are bloating, loose stools, heartburn, and nausea.
Yes, these issues could be a myriad of other things, but I am interested to see what this week’s plunge into healthy gut practices does to alleviate some of my issues.
Take a Shot of Olive Oil
@mandanazarghami this summer we’re getting SNATCHED💅🏼 #summer2022 #oliveoilshot #guthealth #healthtips ♬ original sound – Amahree
I have seen this all over the internet and now I have to try it out of curiosity, if nothing else.
The ‘TikTok experts’ say that a daily shot of olive oil on an empty stomach coats the walls of your stomach, making it easier for food to flow out of the colon and allowing for smoother bowel movements.
While olive oil shots are a new idea, olive oil to aid with gut health isn’t new at all. The oil is a superfood that contains anti-inflammatory qualities, supports the growth of healthy bacteria in your stomach, and even improves brain function. Don’t you love it when one shot can honestly be your cure to everything?
I tried this today and I think I failed. I took the shot and did not appreciate it. It’s olive oil, so it’s not bad, but of all the things I want a shot of first thing in the morning, olive oil is not one of them.
That being said, it might have worked. I say ‘might have’ because I rinsed down the olive oil with four cups of coffee, a Krispy Kreme donut, and pickle-flavored potato chips.
While I like to enter these challenges slowly, I might have to modify my diet a bit more this week if I want to see any results. That being said, everything that entered my body came out pretty smoothly…but that might have been the coffee.
I took my second ‘shot’ this morning and I don’t think I’ll do it again. I understand that I might have been reacting to my not-so-balanced meal from yesterday, but I felt like crap all day and I held my bloat. If the olive oil tasted better, I’d be more willing to do it to start the challenge every morning, but it’s just not enjoyable and doesn’t seem to be yielding any results. I think it was the four cups of coffee that did me in, and those were much more enjoyable than the shot of olive oil. So, I’m going to say no to this hack.
Drink Peppermint Tea at Night
I swear by my peppermint tea. I used to drink it religiously — at least a cup a day to finish my night. This was at the height of my intermittent fasting phase and while my skin was at its worst. Peppermint tea is a lifesaver, for sure, and I cannot argue with that.
While most teas have amazing health benefits, peppermint tea is my personal favorite. It’s known to aid in weight loss, prevent bloating, promote sleep, and boost your immunity among other benefits.
I always feel a shift (no pun intended) when I drink peppermint tea. It’s not something immediate, but I do instantly feel cleansed and calmer. I merged this day with the second shot of olive oil in the morning, so I had been feeling bloated and gross all day, but once I had my tea, my mood improved. Again, I’m not sure how much it did, but it made me feel better.
Boil Your Apples
No, this isn’t a Cracker Barrel recipe article (though I wouldn’t be opposed to that), this is in the name of science!
Perhaps an apple a day can keep the doctor away — especially when you boil them. Apples contain pectin, which is a huge source of fiber. When you boil or stew apples, they release the pectin that’s stored inside of the skin and the process can help to regulate your bowel movements.
I was so excited to try this hack. I loved the idea of swapping my olive oil shot for some tasty cinnamon apples. I think I took the apples off the burner a little too early because they still had a slight crunch to them, but they tasted amazing. I felt lighter all day, but I’m not sure exactly why. In the end, if you start your day off eating fruits and vegetables, you are going to feel better and get more nutrients. While I’m uncertain if the boiled apples continued to help heal my gut, they did leave me more energized than I’d felt in a bit.
Choose to be Active
If you haven’t hopped on the hot girl walk trend by now, where have you been? Every summer, this trend reemerges and I’m a huge fan of it. The idea stems from TikTok and the challenge is to walk 45 minutes a day. There are a ton of benefits to going out and getting active and gut health is one of them!
Walking is one of the all-around best things you can do for your body and health in general. The quick, low-intensity workout prevents heart disease, type two diabetes, and irritable bowel syndrome. What’s more, going on a walk will help activate your digestive system and allow food to pass through you quickly.
If a 45-minute walk sounds daunting (especially in this heat), choose to be active whenever you can. Walk to your neighborhood pool rather than drive. Do the house chores that require a little extra elbow grease. Pick a basket rather than a cart when you go grocery shopping. Don’t have a toxic mindset about it, but be mindful when you’re choosing your activities for the day.
I am attempting to do a hot girl walk in some form every day this summer. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and it is devastatingly hot. But I never regret my walks. I always feel energized, cleansed, and toned after my walk, and it doesn’t take too much effort! Plus, it’s a great time to catch up on podcasts.
Sleep On Your Left Side
@osilashealth SLEEP ON YOUR LEDT SIDE 🛌💤 #badsleep #guthealth #snoring #ibs #guttok #insomnia #health #nutrition ♬ original sound – OSILAS Health
Yes, you can get better gut health in your sleep! I’m all for making gut health and good health as easy as possible. Going to sleep on your left side is something I’ve only heard about recently, but it’s sweeping health TikTok.
Among the many benefits of getting those snoozes on your side are reducing the risk of acid heartburn and reflux. It also ensures that all your digestive organs will work the way they need to.
I thought this would be one of the easier hacks, but it is a bit difficult to go to sleep knowing you have to be on one side. But after I got past that, it was as easy as shutting my eyes and my brain off. I didn’t feel this magical alignment in the morning, but I think this hack is one of the easier ones I can continue to do and get used to, eventually.
Eat at Regular Times
@heal.with.fifi Reply to @heal.with.fifi lemme know if you want a part 3! #ibs #sibo #hashimotos #hypothyroidism ♬ original sound – Fifi
Sometimes it’s the simplest things that have the biggest effect on your overall health.
Creating and maintaining a predictable eating schedule is one of the best things you can do for your gut health.
Just like you cannot function optimally on an unreliable and ever-changing schedule, neither can your digestive system. If you start to eat at the same time every day and leave at least 90 minutes between meals and snacks, your gut issues and bloating will slowly go away or become lessened.
This new regulation will activate your migrating motor complex or MMC. Nutritional therapist and pharmacist Deborah Grayson says, the MMC “is a cyclical process of muscular contractions within the digestive system that ensures undigested food particles, enzymes, waste, and bacteria are flushed through and removed from the body in the stool.”
She suggests waiting four to five hours between eating, instead of 90 minutes. I’m not sure how successful I’ll be with that time frame, considering I only eat between 12-7 already, limiting the time I can eat severely.
I practiced the 90-minute rule, as well as only eating when I was hungry. This hack did help with my bloating because I wasn’t constantly eating. Because I work from home, the majority of my day is spent no more than 500 feet from my kitchen. So I’ll eat breakfast, then go back and get another bagel, then go back and get some chips, then kombucha, then something sweet, then it’s time for dinner, and I haven’t given myself the proper time between snacks to get hungry or digest the fuel I’ve already put into my body.
I loved implementing a snack pause (not a real-food pause) because it made me more mindful of the portions I was giving myself initially. I’ll often make half the food I want and then go back and get more. This wasn’t the case today and the mindfulness of stacking my plate with good food helped me be conscious of what I put into my body and the effect it had on me.
My Gut Health Now
I knew I wasn’t going to have a healed gut by the end of this week. It took me years to create an unhealthy gut and I’d be silly to think I could heal all that damage in seven days. But I do feel cleaner after trying all (or most) of these hacks.
The beautiful thing about this challenge was that nothing was too unsustainable. Most of the practices TikTok proposed reflected its videos — short, understandable, and accessible. I didn’t feel the need to go out and purchase hundreds of complicated ingredients or tools in hopes that they would cure my gut.
While I didn’t see immediate results, I’m more than likely going to continue with most of these practices after this week. Nothing made me uncomfortable and the only one I didn’t love was the shot of olive oil. I’d love to heal my gut, and all of these hacks seem to be an easy way to achieve that.
Are you focused on gut health? What are some practices you’ve tried to alleviate that? Comment below!
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