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Why Gut Health Matters for Metabolism

What organ is the source of greater metabolic activity than the liver, supplies over 70% of the immune system, and consists of 10 times the number of cells than the whole rest of the body put together? The gut!

An amazing and surprising fact: 70% of Americans have digestive symptoms or disease, yet don’t think twice about its impact on their weight and health.

Gut health breaks down due to many factors in our lifestyles and environment. These factors can over-activate the immune system and ultimately cause internal havoc. Conditions such as migraines or chronic headaches, food or environmental allergies, autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, psoriasis, chronic fatigue syndrome and celiac disease have all been shown to correlate with digestive dysfunction.

Today, we'll discuss the roles of the gut, what factors disrupt its functioning, and tips for improving gut health to ultimately enhance metabolism, weight management and overall health.

What Does the Gut Actually Do?

The primary duties of the gut are as follows.

  • Break down food and absorb nutrients into the body to fuel metabolism and energy.
  • Supply over 70% of our immune system.
  • House a “barrier” to defend against foreign invaders, allowing the “good guys” in and keeping the “bad guys” out.
  • Provide its own nervous system (enteric nervous system), which produces important neurotransmitters and hormones like serotonin (the feel good chemical) and melatonin (the sleep hormone). The gut actually acts as your second brain, so when you say you have a “gut feeling,” you are absolutely right!
  • Coordinate the process of detoxification. The first exposure to toxins occurs in the gut, and if you're constipated, you're more apt to re-absorb these toxins back into your body.

When your gut is functioning optimally, you will likely enjoy a happy mood, clear and focused mind, good energy, clear skin, and daily bowel habits sans abdominal bloating, gas, pain, and heartburn. If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, you probably find yourself asking “why” is this happening and “what” does this mean?

There are many factors in our environments that can disrupt our digestive functioning.  

  • Frequent Antibiotic Use 
  • Oral Birth Control Use
  • Toxins – (chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals found in food and food packaging/storage, cleaning supplies, personal products)
  • Chronic Stress 
  • High Sugar Diet
  • Alcohol Intake

How to Heal the Gut

The good news is that we can heal the gut! Let’s look at some strategies you can employ to help you optimize your digestive function. In the “functional” world of medicine, this is better known as the 5 R Approach.

Remove allergenic foods plus environmental and psychological stressors.

  • Curtail or eliminate the most common foods that spur digestive inflammation, including cow dairy, gluten, corn, soybean, egg, peanut, sugar, alcohol, caffeine.
  • Work to reduce or eliminate existing stressors and environmental toxins from your lifestyle.
  • Know that Life Time’s D.TOX program has consistently produced positive results in our participants, such as improvements in energy, elimination, mood, clarity of mind and skin, weight and body fat loss.

Replace nutritional components that may be insufficient in the diet and/or supportive of optimal digestion.

  • Digestive enzymes and/or hydrochloric acid to assist with adequate digestion of consumed food
  • Fiber through vegetables, fruit and legumes to support daily elimination

Reinoculate (reintroduce) sources of “healthy” bacteria into the gut to support an optimal balance of the microflora.

  • Probiotic supplements with lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains
  • Fibers such as inulin, FOS (fructooligosaccharides), and arabinogalactans, which act as “food” for the healthy bacteria
  • Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, Kombucha, miso or tempeh (soy-based: make sure to opt for GMO free if you can tolerate soy), kefir or plain yogurt (opt for organic if you can tolerate cow dairy)

Repair the gut’s mucosal “barrier” wall with the right nutrients

  • L-glutamine has been found to be a perfect fuel source for the barrier wall.
  • Vitamins A, C, and D along with Zinc 
  • Omega-3 fish oils (EPA and DHA) act as anti-inflammatory agents.
  • Berberine supplementation

Rebalance lifestyle factors to best support digestive health

  • Eat mindfully, taking time to enjoy each bite. 
  • Incorporate relaxation and stress management practices, including meditation, deep breathing, massage, yoga, or prayer.

The gut plays a critical role in our health, metabolism, and weight management, yet we tend to disregard a little indigestion or the its role in our weight or health conditions. Let this information about the gut’s importance in your health and the 5 R Approach get you motivated to make the lifestyle changes that will help you optimize your metabolism and maximize your weight loss success.  

Thanks for reading. Would you like more information regarding metabolic health? Talk with one of our registered dietitians today. 

In health, Cindi Lockhart - Senior Program Manager of Health and Nutrition Coaching

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.


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