Gut Healing and Gut Health Are Not the Same

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, old nuance circles back around to show us our initial analysis didn’t quite hit the mark, even if it got us close.

The gut microbiome has been wedging its way into public discourse and medical materials for the last few years – in Western culture, of course. There are plenty of cultures around the world where gut health is prioritized in less deliberate ways, and without even using the word “microbiome.” 

Think of places in the world with largely plant-based diets, where the people eat a lot of fermented foods, and fast food joints are minimal if present at all, and most meat is caught fresh and local.

There’s not a huge emphasis on gut healing in those places, because there doesn’t have to be.

Gut healing is a consequence of the civilized world. And it strives to reach a place of gut health, where all that will be required of you is maintenance. 

However, the distinction must be made between the two. 

In order to determine how you should be treating your gut – maintaining its health or repairing its wounds – you need to know where your gut health stands as it is.

There are a few ways to do this…

How to Know Where to Go

You may know for a fact your gut health isn’t ideal. Perhaps you have celiac’s disease, IBS, SIBO, or a functional medicine doctor has diagnosed you with leaky gut syndrome.

Maybe you just have a feeling something isn’t right down there. You feel uncomfortable most of the time, eating makes you tired, your weight fluctuates seemingly without your input, your cravings for salt and sugar are all over the place, you take all these vitamins and nutrients but you don’t seem to feel any better, you’re developing adult acne…

Dysbiosis of the microbiome manifests in so many different ways, it can be hard to know which group of symptoms specifically points to tummy troubles.

Your best bet, rather than relying on Dr. Internet and trying various bits of (valuable when applied correctly) advice, hoping to see a tangible difference although one may be occurring microscopically without your knowledge…

Is to see either a gut specialist or an integrative medical specialist. They’ll give you a stool test which will reflect how well your gut absorbs nutrients, whether or not there is a microbial imbalance, if macronutrients are making their way out of the intestines through compromised and leaking joints, and more.

Once you have an idea of the state of your gut, you can move forward.

Gut Health Vs. Gut Healing

Now that you know you’re either in decent shape or in drastic need of help, you can change your diet, include exercise, focus on improving nutrient absorption, adopt intermittent fasting, start making your own bone broth, and more, as needed.

Because fundamentally, you want to reach “gut health”, or a state of being free from maladies and injuries. 

Before you reach that state, a lot of the things you’d be doing to promote good “gut health” would be largely ineffective on a gut with unsolved problems.

It’s important to remember that if you follow advice at the wrong stage, and get discouraged because you can’t see results, the advice you followed wasn’t bad or wrong.

It just wasn’t timed correctly.

For example, pre- and probiotics can be very helpful for preventive maintenance or simply regulating dysbiosis.

But depending on the state of your gut, simply adding them to your regimen might not go a long way towards healing – it’s possible your gut needs more localized attention, like taking digestive enzymes to ease the process of meal time and prevent further damage.

While you’re healing your gut, you may need to participate in elimination diets, excluding any foods you’re experiencing an intolerance towards. This helps to prevent crises and inflammation during the healing process, as does intermittent fasting.

As your gut heals and becomes stronger, it may not be necessary to eat strictly bone broth and vegetables. It may not send your body into a panic to indulge in a hot dog at the ballpark the way it would have while your gut was still damaged.

Even a decision about when to eat complex carbs depends on where your gut is in its healing journey. If your gut isn’t functionally optimally, and is misusing the huge quantities of energy that digestion draws, complex carbs might be too much for it to handle. 

However, we know that for a healthy gut, complex carbs are ideal! 

Healthy is as healthy does – but individualized healthcare should go beyond not only treating our bodies as our genomes and environmental factors dictate. 

It should even extend to giving our bodies what they want at each specific time they want them.

Before you do anything else, find out for sure where your gut is in its health cycle. 

And then treat it accordingly!

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.