I’ve written lots of articles about probiotics, microbiota, and the health of your gut, especially in relation to things like heartburn, mental well-being, and simple overall health. As I’m currently nine months pregnant, I’ve been dealing with quite a few unpleasant gut changes, which led me down a fascinating road of gut types. Who knew that there were actually different types of gut that present physically, mentally, and emotionally!
Each human body is individual and therefore requires individual attention and this goes for your gut too. While probiotics, a plant-based diet, and a physically active lifestyle are all great places to start when boosting your gut health, discovering the exact type of issues going on within your gut will help to tailor the food you eat, the type of exercise you take part in, and what type of supplements may help to alleviate any digestive discomfort.
Let’s take a little explorative session into the digestive system, the microbiome, the different types of gut, and how we can care for ourselves as individuals!
What is the Gut?
When you talk about the gut, you’re actually referring to an incredibly complicated system that extends between your mouth all the way to your rectum. This system is the main source of nutrient absorption and storage, it’s how we energize, and how we get nourishment. Alright, so what makes up your digestive system?
The digestive system includes your mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (also called your colon), pancreas, liver, gallbladder, rectum, and anus. As you can tell, the digestive system isn’t just located in your mid-section — generally where you feel most digestive discomfort such as bloating, gas, or upset stomach — but it’s an entire body, top to bottom, network.
On top of that, your “gut” or digestive system is riddled with good and bad bacteria — called microbiota — that make up the microbiome, yet another incredibly complicated ecosystem within your body. Yet, this microbiome has been found to play an integral role in not only your digestive health but also your mental health, the efficacy of nutrient absorption, energy level … pretty much your overall bodily health.
A Journey Through the Digestive System
Each part of the digestive system has an important part to play! Let’s take a look at how your food is processed through this amazing network. Digestion begins in the mouth as your “salivary glands get active” when you “see and smell” food. Your saliva then “mixes with the food to begin to break it down into a form your body can absorb and use.”
Next, your esophagus “receives food from your mouth … [and] … a series of muscular contractions within the esophagus called peristalsis delivers food to your stomach.” Finally, we’ve made it to the stomach! This “hollow organ … holds food while it is being mixed with stomach enzymes [and strong acid] … [that will] … continue the process of breaking down food into a usable form.”
From there, this new conglomeration of enzyme, acid, and nutrients moves into the small intestine where the work really starts! Your small intestine is a “22-foot long muscular tube” made of three segments — “the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum” — where your food is further broken down “using enzymes released by the pancreas and bile from the liver,” as well as peristalsis, which aids the food to move through and mix with “digestive juices from the pancreas and liver.” The first segment of your small intestine — the duodenum — is “responsible for the continuous breaking-down process,” while the lower sections — the jejunum and ileum are “responsible for absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream.”
The resulting semi-solid mixture — water, bile, enzymes, and mucus — passes into the colon (of the large intestine). The colon is a “6-foot long muscular tube that connects the small intestine to the rectum” and its primary goal is to separate the necessary from the waste. While the colon may be shorter than the small intestine, its made up of more parts including “the cecum, the ascending (right) colon, the transverse (across) colon, the descending (left) colon, and the sigmoid colon, which connects to the rectum.” Once all the nutrients and water have been removed from the mixture, you’re left with waste matter, which is “stored in the sigmoid (S-shaped) colon until a ‘mass movement’ empties it into the rectum once or twice a day.”
While we don’t really want to talk about waste, it’s important to note that there’s a lot more going on there than meets the eye. Your waste — or stool — is “mostly food debris and bacteria.” It’s the bacteria that you want to focus on. These good bacteria “perform several useful functions, such as synthesizing various vitamins, processing waste products, and food particles, and protecting against harmful bacteria.”
I covered, very briefly, the difference between microbiota — referring to the “collection of microbes that live in and on the human body” — and microbiome — referring to the “complete set of genes within these microbes.” One is talking about the entirety and the other refers to the individual or more detailed version of the former. In another of my gut-related articles — Understanding the Gut-Hormone Connection – I break down the microbiome:
“The microbiome is very similar to a ‘mini-ecosystem’ in which microscopic organisms thrive. These microscopic organisms, also called microorganisms, create a symbiotic environment called the microbiome and they include ‘bacteria, pathogens — infections agents, — archaea — prokaryote microorganisms, which lack a nucleus, — and eukaryotic microbes — microorganisms that have a nucleus.’ Your microbiome is built from your personal environment and lifestyle, such as ‘geography, health status, stress, diet, age, gender, and everything you touch,’ therefore every human’s microbiome is special and unique to them.”
Your Gut and Your Diet
When it comes to the health of your gut — or digestive system — there are lots of factors that play an important role including exercise, stress, and medication. Yet, one of the most influential factors is your diet. The effects of diet are probably what you would expect.
A diet that’s loaded with highly processed and ultra-processed foods — which include refined carbs, sugars, hydrogenated oils, and trans fats — is severely detrimental to your gut health, while a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods is linked to a healthy gut. This isn’t just hearsay, there have been multiple studies conducted at different institutions and within different parameters that come to similar conclusions such as this study published in the European Cardiology Review or this multi-institutional study entitled The Effects of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets on Gut Microbiota.
So, what is it about a plant-based diet that improves gut health? A lot of it has to do with the fact that plant-based diets are naturally anti-inflammatory, yet the other large part is due to the fact that plants are rich in a “variety of gut-sustaining nutrients such as dietary fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats, and a diverse range of all the vitamins and minerals.” For instance, dietary fiber is known to promote “the growth of beneficial bacteria that reduce inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk,” as well as “increases short-chain fatty acids linked to improved immunity and improved intestinal function.”
While fiber is important, it’s also about incorporating a balanced intake of the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients, while excluding the toxic ingredients of processed foods and high amounts of added sugar. All of these play a factor in your gut health!
Different Types of Gut Health
Alright, now that we know as much as we can about gut health — in as short a period as possible, that is! — it’s probably a good idea to take stock of your own gut health. Digestive issues are a pervasive issue in the states. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22.4 million people were diagnosed with a digestive disorder or disease by their physician, while 8.3 million people were separately diagnosed in the emergency room. And this doesn’t account for physician or emergency room visits for less severe digestive disorders such as painful gas, diarrhea or constipation, excessive bloating, or upset stomachs.
Most likely, everyone reading this article has one or two gripes about their digestive system! Where do you start? Figure out what type of gut you’ve got and learn how to properly care for it so you can balance out that microbiome and avoid products and foods that may cause disrupt.
1. Candida Gut
Candida is a “genus of yeasts” that is typically found in “small amounts in the mouth and intestines and on the skin.” It’s actually quite normal to have small amounts of candida throughout your life, yet when that amount “begins to grow uncontrollably, it can cause an infection known as candidiasis,” which happens to be the “most common cause of fungal infections in humans.”
This condition can manifest in “weight gain, phlegmy coughs and sniffles, and a white coating on the tongue. Those with a candida gut generally desire foods rich in sugar, dairy, and wheat and are generally incredibly worrisome, anxious, and obsessive.
If you’re looking to heal yourself, it’s recommended to eat a lot of “soups, stews, and warm starchy veggies,” — such as this Chickpea Miso Noodle Soup or these Cinnamon Turmeric Sweet Potatoes — fermented foods, — such as these Potato Kimchi Pancakes or this Homemade Raw Sauerkraut — and incorporate a good probiotic such as this Garden of Life Whole Food Probiotic Supplement, this Florastor Daily Probiotic Supplement, or this Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotic. On the other hand, make sure to avoid “dairy, sugar, refined grains, raw foods, and yeast.”
2. Gastric Gut
A gastric gut is directly linked to your lifestyle, self-care routine, and a slow-moving digest system. In particular, it means that you’re overworking and overexerting yourself. This mixture — overworking and a slow-moving digestive system — leads to habits that cause poor digestion such as “not chewing properly, overeating, and taking antacids.”
This condition manifests with issues such as “gas, bloating, and acid reflux,” as well as habits such as eating your food too fast. If you’ve got this gut type, you most likely are a fiery, passionate, and reactive personality type as well!
If you’re looking to heal, try to “eat several small meals and stop before you’re full, load up on bitter veggies, herbs, and citrus, drink mineral water, [and] supplement with digestive enzymes,” — such as this Pure Vegan Digestive Enzyme Complex, these Mary Ruth’s Vegan Digestive Food Enzymes, or this Garden of Life Organic Chewable Enzyme Supplement. On the other hand, you’ll want to avoid alcohol, caffeine, fried foods, and spicy foods. Try a few of these plant-based recipes that are rich in bitter veggies, herbs, and citrus: 10-Minute Seitan ‘Beef’ and Broccoli, Braised Kale, Cilantro Lime Tacos, Alkaline Green Juice, or this Avocado Grapefruit Jicama Salad.
3. Stressed Gut
You may think that a gastric and stressed gut are the same thing and while they may have similarities, they’re actually quite different! A stressed gut is caused by the constant circulation of stress hormones, which diverts blood flow away from your gut and “impairs the growth of good bacteria and digestive enzyme production.”
The condition usually manifests in “adrenal fatigue, which causes sleep issues, decreased libido, and trouble focusing.” These folks tend to consume too much coffee and/or too much alcohol and generally have a type-A workaholic personality.
If you’re looking to heal, incorporate “salty, dark-colored foods,” — such as this Vietnamese Purple Yam Soup or these Homemade Dark Chocolates — supplement with B vitamins, and look into getting some adaptogens into your life such as these Nature’s Way Astragalus Root Capsules, these Pure Mountain Botanicals Holy Basil Capsules, or this NaturaLife Labs Organic Maca Root Black, Red, Yellow.
Make sure to avoid alcohol, caffeine, refined grains, and sugar.
4. Immune Gut
One of the main culprits behind an immune gut is food sensitivities — most commonly, gluten and dairy. Unfortunately, there are a few factors that are somewhat unavoidable that can cause an immune gut including “longtime use of antibiotics, birth control pills, and steroids.”
An immune gut is treatable, but “at its worst results in autoimmune disorders and inflammatory bowel diseases.” Those with this type of gut generally have a habit of going for the antibiotics on a regular basis and are usually perfectionists, insecure, and detail-oriented personality types.
If you’re looking to heal an immune gut, it’s a bit more complicated than other types. First off, you’ll want to pair up with your doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian in order to work out an elimination diet in order to find out exactly what you’re sensitive too. Next, it’s recommended to focus on reestablishing the health of your gut through supplemental “digestive enzymes, soil-based (SBO) probiotics, and L-glutamine.” Also, think about incorporating healthy fats on a daily basis — think avocado, nuts, seeds, and coconut oil! On the other hand, steer clear of alcohol, dairy, raw foods, and packaged foods.
Find the perfect probiotic and digestive enzyme for your body using the following guide articles 10 Vegan Digestive Enzyme Supplements and Vegan Probiotics: How To Get Them From Supplements and Food
And then try out some of these healthy fat-filled recipes: Garden Green Soup, Peach, Raspberry and Coconut Yogurt Chia Pudding, Brussels Sprouts Salad with Macadamias and Apple, Avocado Pesto Pasta, or this Super Quick Chocolate Porridge.
5. Toxic Gut
Last, but not least, the toxic gut!
This type of gut is actually caused by the Standard American Diet — basically, “eating processed or fast food.” As mentioned earlier, processed and ultra-processed foods are incredibly detrimental to your gut microbiome, so much so that eating too many are referred to as “toxic.” By eating processed foods, you’re actually eating unhealthy fat, “sugar, and chemicals.”
This condition manifests in an “inflammatory chain reaction from our liver to our intestines, leading to symptoms ranging from gallstones to rosacea to neurological distress.” People who suffer from toxic gut generally are impatient, frequently frustrated, and quick to anger personality types. If you’re looking to heal a toxic gut, incorporate an “abundance of raw, green, and/or sour foods, drink dandelion or milk thistle tea, [and] get more sleep.” On the other hand, avoid “alcohol, non-organic produce, fried foods, nut butter, [and] oils.”
Try some of these recipes that are rich in raw, green, and sour foods: Raw Cranberry Coconut Energy Bars, Carrot Ginger Soup With Curried Raisin Relish, Spinach Potato Soup, Thai Tempeh Collard Greens Wraps, Fizzy Pink Grapefruit Lemonade, or these Super-Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles.
Learning everything you can about gut health is an excellent step towards a better functioning body! From boosting energy to smoothing out digestion to absorbing more nutrients and even conquering mental health issues, starting with the gut is a great idea!
- Plant-Based Fiber-Rich Recipes to Feed Your Gut
- How an Anti-Inflammatory Plant-Based Diet Can Boost Your Gut Microbiome
- 5 Steps to Build and Maintain a Healthy Gut
- 7 Natural Ways to Boost Your Gut Health at Every Meal
- Study Finds Plant-Based Diet is Amazing For Your Gut!
- Understanding the Gut-Hormone Connection
- How Exercise Improves Gut Bacteria
- How a Plant-Based Diet Naturally Supports Your Microbiome
Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health, and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer and has many side effects.
For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
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