Got digestive distress? Getting to know your gut bugs could help.
Do you have common gut health issues such as: digestive troubles, stomach aches, weight changes, fatigue, skin issues, emotional issues, or food intolerances? Our gut bugs influence everything from our weight, to our mood, to our cognitive ability. It can be the reason for our back pain, the root of our depression, and of course, the cause of our digestive issues. That's why getting to know our gut bugs is absolutely essential for improving our mental and physical health.
Get to Know Your Gut Bugs
It turns out that our guts are populated by all sorts of bacteria, fungi, and other unknown critters—these "gut bugs" are collectively referred to as the microbiota (You can test yours with the GI-MAP test).
Just like humans, our gut bugs have personalities which are affected by nature (their genes) and nurture (the environment they live in). As a result, some of them tend to be good guys, some tend to be bad guys, and some can be fickle, and end up being good or bad depending on the circumstances.
For example, some strains of the often-feared E. coli are good for us while other strains are bad. The potentially deadly bacteria, staphylococcus aureus (i.e., staff) is present in 25% of healthy people—it only hurts us when it overgrows. And even good bugs, when there are too many of them, can cause a world of hurt when they move up into the small intestine and overgrow (causing SIBO).
Why does it help to know your gut bugs? Well, because when we understand what leads to an unhealthy society of microbiota, we can take the right steps to create a healthy microbiota society and heal the gut.
Here's exactly how to do it.
It's best to start by gently supporting and encouraging healthy gut bugs, for example, by eating probiotic foods, reducing stress, and eating a rainbow of veggies and fruits. But if your gut is in a state of distress, then you'll likely need to ramp up slowly to the more harsh strategies, like taking herbal antimicrobials, to force your gut bullies in your microbiota to "get out!".
What to expect
If your gut is unhealthy, it's going to get worse before it gets better. You're almost guaranteed to get die-off (Herxheimer) symptoms at some point in the gut healing process.
What are die-off symptoms?
Die-off symptoms can include fatigue, brain fog, gastrointestinal distress such as nausea, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, low-grade fever, headache, sore throat, itching, muscle and joint soreness, chills, flu-like symptoms, lethargy, intense sweet cravings, rashes, and irritability.
Don't confuse die-off symptoms with a lack of calories or nutrients, which can also make us feel tired and weak. Die-off symptoms tend to come on suddenly (whereas insufficient calories can leave us feeling chronically tired and ill). Some people also find that they have die-off symptoms only at a certain time of the day—morning, afternoon, or evening.
How to minimize die-off
The die-off symptoms you'll experience will depend on the health of your liver, your gut bugs, and so forth.
If your die-off symptoms are making you feel miserable, then you're killing bad gut bugs too quickly. Slow down, support your liver (with supplements like Milk Thistle), take epsom salt baths to support your body's ability to get those dead gut bugs out of your body as quickly as possible, and eat foods with collagen (e.g., bone broth) to keep the bad stuff in your gut and out of your bloodstream.
If you feel fine one day and then complete crap the next, you might be getting die-off from parasites. It can be confusing because they have weird lifecycles, they die, reproduce, and create symptoms at weird times.
If your symptoms are consistently getting worse or staying the same over time, even though you haven't been adding new gut healing strategies, then it's likely NOT a result of die-off. See a doctor to make sure your symptoms are not a result of another health issue.
Working with your gut bugs can be tricky, but doing so can improve both your mental and physical health.