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4 Most Common Mistakes People Make When They Try To Heal Their Gut

Jan 26, 2023

At first glance, healing your gut seems like a pretty straightforward process. Don’t eat junk. Maybe take some supplements. Drink more water. And sure, those things work for a while. But it doesn’t last. And you’re left wondering what to do next… What went wrong? It must be you, right? It’s certainly not the plan. Yep, it was definitely the few bites of your partner’s cheeseburger that you ate while on your elimination diet. Ugh. You must’ve messed up. You’ll just restart it in a few days. No big deal, you remind yourself. In this post, we will discuss the four most common mistakes people make when they try to heal their gut. 


Mistake #1: Skipping the fundamentals 


Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room. Oh, you didn’t realize? Let me explain. We are talking about eating hygiene here. The simple things are so easily forgotten. Things like sitting down to eat, chewing your food, and drinking water. So many of my clients, and even clients who I see in family practice who are patients of another functional medicine provider, admit that they are skipping the basics. This is a form of shiny object syndrome. You’re missing the fundamentals. It’s so easy to throw your energy at a supplement regimen or elimination diet. But sitting down to eat? How dare you!


Do not disregard the power of stomach acid paired with chewing. If you are running around and not prioritizing meals, then you likely aren’t making enough stomach acid or chewing your food really well. This means that you aren’t able to extract the nutrients from your food (hello, possible nutrient insufficiencies) and you are possibly setting yourself up for issues down the road with that undigested food being shuttled through your intestines.


Mistake #2: Deprivation mindset 


Let’s keep moving. Mistake #2 is all about the elimination diet focused mindset. An elimination diet is an important part of any gut-healing protocol. Removing foods that are perpetuating inflammation allows the gut to heal and the immune system to calm down. But the problem is that most people assume removing potentially problematic foods is the whole answer. I would argue that the real magic occurs when you begin promoting gut-healing foods instead of simply removing gut-irritating foods. 


It’s a mindset shift, right? You’re not simply minimizing exposure to toxins and allergens but you’re also maximizing exposure to anti-inflammatory foods and microbiome-supporting foods. Foods like berries, salmon, olive oil, broccoli, and kale help to reduce inflammation and promote detoxification. Foods like sauerkraut, grass-fed plain yogurt, and kombucha can encourage diversity in the gut microbiome. While prebiotic foods such as root vegetables, onions, garlic, and flax help to nourish and feed the microbiome. This brings me to mistake #3.


Mistake #3: Thinking probiotics will actually change their gut microbiome


So I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that probiotics don’t actually change your gut microbiome. Think of them more like placeholders. They keep the bad guys in check and help to “domesticate” the terrain. The prebiotic fibers you eat - that’s what actually changes the microbiome. That and fecal transplants, but that’s a talk for another day! 


If you want to change your microbiome, you should have a plan to incorporate a wide variety of fiber-rich foods in the mix. Sure, probiotics are great. We love probiotics. But prebiotics are the unsung heroes of the gut. The fiber you eat travels down the GI tract. The bacteria eat the fiber. Then, the bacteria make short-chain fatty acids, and in this weird symbiotic circle-of-life moment, the short-chain fatty acids act as fuel for the cells lining the colon. Want a healthy colon? Then you must have a healthy microbiome because that’s the farm where the food for your colon cells is produced. Mind Blowing, right?


Mistake #4: Disregarding the gut-brain connection 


Speaking of the mind… This reMINDs me (sorry, couldn’t help myself), the single most important missing piece of nearly all gut protocols is honoring and restoring the gut-brain connection. What is the gut-brain connection? It’s the highway that connects the mind and the body. This is the portal whereby what you think affects how you feel and what you physically feel and encounter affects how you think (and paradoxically, also how you feel emotionally). 


The gut-brain connection consists of the central nervous system, the vagus nerve, the gut microbiome, and the enteric nervous system or “second brain,” in the gut, named so for its ability to function independently of the brain. The enteric nervous system is underrated because nothing else in the body can act independently of the brain like this!


After working with hundreds of people on gut healing, I have found most people avoid addressing the gut-brain connection. To be fair, it does involve a certain amount of inward reflection and contemplation. Most people are completely blindsided when they realize that their trauma or stressors or issues that they have been dodging may be perpetuating their bloating, fatigue, and constipation issues. Encouraging them to start therapy and a gratitude journal can seem like quite the leap. 


But here’s the funny part. They are transformed when they do. The people who dig in and actually do the work are transformed. There is no other way to explain it. You can see it on their face and hear it in their voice. They feel happier. Not just better. Happier. Because they worked on complete healing - mind, body, and spirit. If you think that you can run from your mind and avoid dealing with your own baggage, then heed my wisdom: the body knows and it doesn’t forget. 


What about you? Are your signals promoting your body to maintain health or are your signals promoting breakdown and impairment?


Have you been on the hampster wheel of elimination diets and remission of symptoms? If you want different results, you’re going to have to do something different. We are here to help!


If you are looking for a proven approach to solving your long lasting gut problems, then consider applying to work with us. We help adults and children who live in Virginia get to the root cause of their gut issues.