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At the Heart of a Healthy Inflammatory Response

Published on July 29, 2023


By Gaia Herbs

Gaia Herbs

You’ve probably heard of inflammation before, so you know how inflammation can affect the body. But what contributes to inflammation, and how does it work?

Even more, how is inflammation connected to gut health? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more.

How Does Inflammation Work in the Body?

Your body activates your immune system when you become ill or suffer an injury.REF#2409 Your immune system then sends out inflammatory cells and cytokines, a substance that triggers the creation of more inflammatory cells.* This process helps to trap bacteria and other offending agents so your body can heal.

While some inflammation can be helpful for overall health, chronic or excessive inflammation can do more harm than good. While many things can contribute to inflammation in the body, one of the more common causes of inflammation in the body is an imbalance in gut bacteria, which can result in inflammation.

What Causes Inflammation in the Gut?

Like many other areas of your body, your gut can be affected by inflammatory processes.REF#2410 A few factors that can contribute to gut inflammation include:

  • Lifestyle choices: A diet high in omega-6 fatty acids and processed food can contribute to gut inflammation.REF#2416 Smoking can also contribute to poor gut health.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics and birth control pills, can contribute to inflammation in the gut.REF#2415
  • Imbalanced gut bacteria: The gut consists of 100 trillion microbes. Most of these microbes are helpful as they help us to digest our food and fight off harmful bacteria.* However, when the balance of gut bacteria is altered (a condition called dysbiosis), it can trigger an inflammatory response.
  • Genetics: Doctors have identified specific genetic variants, also known as mutations, that can predispose a person to gut inflammation.REF#2408

    What Are the Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut?

    Because the gut is so interconnected with other bodily systems, it can be hard to pinpoint the exact cause of your symptoms. However, if you have any of these symptoms, you should discuss the possibility of a microbiome imbalance with your primary healthcare provider.REF#2411

    Upset Stomach

    If you are experiencing stomach issues such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn, these can all be signs of an unhealthy gut.* This happens because your gut microbiome normally helps with digestion — if it is out of balance, it can affect your digestive system and cause some discomfort.

    High-Sugar Diet

    When your diet is high in pro-inflammatory foods such as processed foods and artificial sugars, it can minimize the number of good gut bacteria (lactobacillus) in your gut.* When this balance is out of whack, it can lead to sugar cravings, which can damage your gut even more.

    Unintentional Weight Change

    If you are gaining or losing weight without trying, this can also be a sign of an unhealthy gut. When the human gut is imbalanced, it can inhibit the body from properly absorbing nutrients, regulating blood sugar, and storing fat.* 

    Intestinal inflammation can contribute to intestinal permeability, which means you may lose nutrients during digestion. This can also affect your weight.

    On the other hand, gaining weight can be linked to insulin resistance, which can also be a side effect of nutrient deficiencies or a high-sugar diet.

    Trouble Sleeping

    Your gut microbiome produces much of the serotonin that circulates around your body. While serotonin is most commonly known as the “happiness hormone” for its effects on mood, it’s also a metabolic precursor to melatonin.REF#2423

    Melatonin is one of the hormones that regulate the sleep/wake cycle, so a deficiency in serotonin can cause difficulty sleeping.*

    Food Intolerances

    A food intolerance happens when your body has trouble digesting certain foods. While some food intolerances are simply part of our genetics, sudden food intolerances or worsening food allergies may indicate an imbalance in the gut microbiome.REF#2424

    Food intolerances can cause discomfort while digesting food and can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea.*

    What is the Gut Microbiome?

    Your gut microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms (called gut microbiota or gut microbes), which include bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses.REF#2407 When the microbiome is working properly, these bacteria coexist harmoniously. 

    The largest concentration of these bacteria is found in the small and large intestines, but they are found in other places in the body as well. Every person has a microbiome unique to them. 

    Our first exposure to microorganisms is as a baby when we travel through the birth canal during delivery. We’re also exposed to microorganisms through breastfeeding. Later in life, our microbiome can change due to environmental factors and our diet. These changes can either positively affect our health or be detrimental to it.*

    When our microbes get out of balance, typically due to infections, certain diets, or the prolonged use of antibiotics, this can make us more prone to illness.

    How Can You Support a Healthy Gut Microbiome?

    There are certain things you can do to promote a healthy gut microbiome. For instance, you can implement foods that can support gut health, such as prebiotics, fiber, carbohydrates, probiotics, and fermented foods.REF#2412

    Also, minimizing foods that are detrimental to your gut health, such as fast food, sugar, processed foods, and excessive alcohol consumption, can also make a big difference.* To support your gut microbiome, try adding the following foods to your diet.

    Fiber and Prebiotics

    Adding some of these non-digestible foods can help support a healthy gut, as they feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut.REF#2422

    These foods include:

    • Fruits (bananas and berries)
    • Vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, leafy greens, onion)
    • Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
    • Grains (flax, oatmeal, rye, wheat)

      Fermented Foods and Probiotics

      Incorporating fermented foods and probiotics into your diet can help support your digestive tract.REF#2422 

      These foods include:

      • Buttermilk
      • Fermented vegetables
      • Kefir
      • Kimchi
      • Kombucha
      • Miso
      • Sauerkraut
      • Sourdough
      • Tempeh
      • Yogurt

      If you’re having difficulty eating enough probiotics, you can incorporate more probiotics into your diet by taking a dietary supplement. When choosing a supplement, check the amount of colony-forming units (CFUs), as these will tell you how many probiotics are in each capsule.

      Butyrate

      Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid created when the good bacteria in your gut help your body break down the fiber in your large intestine.REF#2413 Playing an essential part in your digestive system, butyrate provides the primary source of energy for your colon cells and may also help support your immune system.*

      You can get butyrate from foods such as:

      • Apples
      • Apricots
      • Kiwi
      • Pears
      • Broccoli
      • Carrots
      • Chickpeas
      • Potatoes

        Get More Sleep

        Getting inadequate sleep has been linked to a higher chance of obesity, which can affect your gut.REF#2414 Plus, poor sleep can cause hormonal imbalances that can also affect your gut. Namely, not getting enough sleep can cause your cortisol levels to rise, which can cause stress in your gut.

        If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, try some mindfulness exercises like deep breathing or yoga to settle your system.

        Get Daily Exercise

        Incorporating exercise into your daily life is another way to help support a healthy gut. Exercising regularly can help you to maintain a healthy body weight, which allows your body to maintain a healthy digestive system.*

        What Are Some Herbs That Can Support Gut Health?

        If you want to naturally support your gut health, we have a few herbal supplements you can try. Here are some herbs that can help.

        Turmeric

        Turmeric has been used traditionally to support healthy digestion, encourage cardiovascular health, and support a healthy immune system.REF#2421 Our Turmeric Supreme Adult Daily Gummies are a great way to get more turmeric and support your body, as they can help support a healthy immune system so you can lead a healthy, active life.

        These gummies consist of 3.4 grams of Turmeric, which is equivalent to 60 milligrams of curcuminoids per serving. This formula is made with no added sweeteners and offers full-spectrum support for your active lifestyle.*

        Hawthorn

        Of all the herbs that support heart health, Hawthorn has the most storied history. Traditionally used to support the heart during times of grieving, Hawthorn is a symbol of the heart dating back to first-century Rome.*

        Research has shown that Hawthorn can help support the heart muscle, encourage exercise tolerance, and support a normal heart rhythm.REF#2420

        That’s why we’ve featured this powerhouse herb in our Hawthorn Supreme supplement. Hawthorn Supreme includes the Hawthorn berry, leaf, and flower to help keep your heart functioning at its best.* With your heart well-supported, you can focus on getting some exercise to support your gut.

        Black Walnut

        Used by many cultures to help support a healthy intestinal environment, Black Walnut is known for its rich omega-3 essential fatty acids, vitamin C, and stringent flavor. This herb can also help support a healthy immune response and encourage a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.REF#2419

        That’s why we’ve incorporated it into our Wormwood Black Walnut Supreme for those who are looking to promote a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

        Wormwood has been used as a digestive support aid for over 2,000 years, and this tincture is easy and convenient to use when you’re traveling or overseas.*

        Ginger

        In numerous studies, Ginger has been shown to help support a healthy immune system and can also support gut health.REF#2417 Ginger can help encourage gastric motility and digestion, as well as support a wide variety of bacteria in the gut.REF#2418

        Try Ginger Supreme to help support healthy digestion..

        Containing a soothing blend of Ginger and Turmeric, this supplement can support your digestive system and relieve occasional bouts of indigestion.

        The Bottom Line

        It’s proven that our bodies are an interconnected system, with one function often relying on another. It should come as no surprise that our immune health and gut health are also intertwined.

        Taking the necessary steps to ensure you have a healthy gut, including eating a diet high in probiotics and prebiotics, implementing physical activity to support your physical and mental health, getting a good night’s sleep, maintaining your stress levels, and adding the necessary supplements can help support your overall health by soothing irritation and supporting your gut microbiome.

        REFERENCES:

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        • 13. Ho, K.-V., Lei, Z., Sumner, L., Coggeshall, M., Hsieh, H.-Y., Stewart, G., & Lin, C.-H. (2018), "Identifying Antibacterial Compounds in Black Walnuts (Juglans nigra) Using a Metabolomics Approach", Metabolites, 8(4), 58..
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