7 Ways to Optimize Gut Health

Did you know that 70 to 80% of your immune system resides in your gut[1]? That’s right; your digestive tract is responsible for a lot more than simply breaking down the food you eat and absorbing it into circulation. Read on to discover more about your gut health and how to improve it.

One of the biggest challenges I face when attempting to improve a client’s health are addressing the many factors working against gut health (and therefore immunity and absorption). 

We’ll explore the top strategies I use to improve gut health and immunity in this article. 

You’ll also learn:

  • Why gut health is crucial for immunity
  • How the cells in your gut communicate with your immune system
  • What to eat and what to avoid for optimal gut health
  • The detrimental effect of stress on your gut
  • How heavy metals are a big contributing factor to poor gut health, digestion and immunity
  • Why it’s vital that you take a high-quality probiotic to protect your body from disease

The interplay of your gut and your immune system begins at birth as your gut microbiota interacts with and shapes your immune system, and synergistically your immune system shapes and interacts with your microbiome[2]. 

This gut-immune crosstalk is one of the hottest subjects in research these days, as more and more we’re learning that the health of our gut microbiome is directly correlated to overall health[3].

And as the wonders of the gut microbiome continue to be uncovered, researchers are discovering the profound impact that your microbiome plays in regulating immune homeostasis[4].

For a little perspective on how impactful your microbiome is, research shows that we have at least an equal proportion of bacteria cells living in and around our body as we do human cells (if not more)[5].

What’s more, the genome of the bacteria in your gut is 150 times larger than the human genome[6]. All this to say, your gut bacteria have a significant impact on the health and function of your body.

Gut Health: the Microbiome — Immune Connection

So how do the cells and bacteria in your gut work together to affect immunity? It all begins in the lining of your gut.

The lining of your gut is one of the most active tissues in your body. It’s responsible for separating your gut environment from internal circulation and keeping out foreign compounds like bacteria, toxins, and antigens.

The cells lining your gut (epithelial cells) communicate with the bacteria in your gut and receive messages that upregulate their immune activity.

Examples would be upregulation of antimicrobial responses, destroying pathogenic cells, eliminating intestinal infections, and balancing the gut microbiome — it goes full circle[7]. 

In addition, your gut bacteria produce metabolites that support your epithelial gut lining by feeding the cells of your gut and strengthening the integrity of the gut lining[8].

Intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut) can occur due to decreased adhesion between adjacent desmosomes in the gut. A desmosome is a specialized structure of the cell membrane especially of a gut epithelial cell that serves as a zone of adhesion to anchor contiguous cells together.  

This breakdown in gut cell wall adhesion is caused by a reduction in energy production due to the presence of toxic metals in the body that interfere in mitochondrial energy production. Desmosomes in the lining of the gut are very ATP-dependent. 

Poor mitochondrial function and low energy makes one susceptible to leaky gut. What metals cause this? The main culprits are aluminum, arsenic, tin, thallium and cesium. When one has one of more of these very common metal toxicities, they can suffer all the symptoms of leaky gut. 

When you experience inflammation in your gut, and this lining becomes damaged, it can lead to intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut). This creates openings in your gut lining that allows large molecules and microbes into your internal circulation that would normally be blocked by your intestinal barrier. 

This results in an altered immune response as your immune cells identify and target these “foreign” compounds. Along with the initiation of food sensitivities, leaky gut is a precursor to and associated with the onset of autoimmune disease[9].

But your bacteria don’t need to enter your internal circulation to create issues with immunity. In fact, low levels of healthy gut bacteria are associated with an increased rate of obesity, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and inflammation[10].

Therefore, for optimal immune function, it’s crucial to not only maintain the barrier function of your intestinal lining, but you must also maintain a healthy balance of beneficial gut bacteria. Let’s look at strategies to accomplish that. 

How To Optimize Gut Health

#1 Detox Heavy Metals

Heavy metals are one of the worst toxic offenders you’ll find in the environment. When metals make their way into your body, they can cause significant changes to your gut microbiome, and decrease the populations of beneficial bacteria. And alter your digestive ability in many ways. 

Arsenic and cadmium have been shown to specifically affect gut bacteria and metabolites, causing changes in your gut that can lead to type 2 diabetes[17].

Mercury is a natural antimicrobial and is used in 400 medications[30]. Well, it does this in your gut too, decimating healthy gut bacteria. 

There are a myriad number of ways heavy metals impact the gut, which ultimately impact immunity:

  • Mercury and lead can cause an inhibition of gastric HCL and Pepsin biosynthesis[31][32].
  • Cadmium exposure results in a reduction in pancreatic and brush border enzyme production – Chymotrypsin & Enterokinase[33].
  • The effect of heavy metals on the cells in your gut can impair mitochondrial function, leading to malabsorption of nutrients, minerals and amino acids due to impaired energy supply[34][35][36].
  • Mercury and copper exposure can lead to reduced numbers of beneficial bacteria (Lactobacilli & Bifidobacter), while increasing harmful bacteria  like E.coli[37][38].
  • Copper and mercury can fuel the overgrowth of yeasts (e.g. Candida) and commensal bacteria e.g. Citrobacter, alpha and gamma-hemolytic streptococci, hemolytic E.coli[40][39]
  • Lead, cadmium, and mercury may lead to the overgrowth of parasitic organisms such as Blastocystis hominis, Entamoeba, Dientamoeba, Cryptosporidium[41].
  • Heavy metals, in general, can lead to the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria like Pseudomonas, Campylobacter, Klebsiella, Clostridia[42].

Heavy metals are impossible to avoid. Everyone has some level of them. They are found in the air, water, food, personal care products, and even the soil that your food is grown in. Therefore, one must add detoxification to their daily health regime to maintain good gut health, immunity and digestion[18]. 

For an effective heavy metal detoxification program, you need to make sure you’re offering your body nutrients that not only neutralize the toxins but that bind and remove them from your body as well. 

CitriCleanse is a 3-in-1 detox product that I formulated that targets heavy metals in your body, and accelerates their removal in a safe and effective way. It works by promoting detoxification in your gut, absorbing toxins immediately throughout your digestive tract and gently removes metals that would otherwise compromise your health and immunity.

My Ageless AF formula is an ideal choice to remove metals that cause fatigue and could lead to leaky gut if your energy levels are hindered by the presence of toxic metals. The main culprits affecting gut lining mitochondrial energy impairment are aluminum, arsenic, tin, thallium and cesium. These metals wreak havoc on the gut, but are easily removed by taking Ageless AF on a regular basis with a binder like CitriCleanse

#2 Avoid Antibiotics

To optimize your gut health, you need to focus on both what you put into your body and what you avoid. While there is certainly a time and a place for medications like antibiotics, you should really only use them as your absolute last resort. 

Antibiotics do a great job killing off bacteria; the problem is, they don’t care what kind of bacteria they kill. That means that a significant amount of your good bacteria can get wiped out along with all the harmful bacteria you’re attempting to eliminate[11]. 

This is the reason that so many people find themselves needing to take antibiotics whenever they get sick. They are causing a disruption to their immune system by cleaning out their bacteria, which leaves them more susceptible to illnesses in the future[12].

Exactly how long it takes your gut microbiome to get back on track will vary from person to person. Some research shows, however, that even six months after a course of antibiotics, certain strains of beneficial bacteria may still be missing from your microbiome[13].

Natural antibiotics like silver or oregano and others can be just a problematic. Any natural antibiotic must be taken only as needed to avoid negative side effects. 

#3 Take Probiotics

After taking a round of prescription or natural antibiotics, you want to be sure to do several rounds of probiotics or probiotic-rich fermented foods to repopulate the gut. But even if you haven’t taken antibiotics, probiotics offer a direct way to enhance the health of your gut and support your immunity[15][16].

Probiotics, which are basically beneficial gut bacteria in a capsule, can help to restore the composition of your gut microbiome and reintroduce the beneficial functions of your gut bacteria[14].

It should be noted, however, that not all probiotics are created equally. So be sure to find a high-quality probiotic, or else you may be flushing your money down the toilet (more on this later). Most of them honestly are a waste of money – you’re buying dead bacteria. More on that in a second. 

#4 Consume Nutrients From Soil

Your ancestors consumed a lot more soil then you do today. While it may sound a little funny to see this as a good thing, soil is much more than just “dirt.” It carries within it several compounds that offer nutrient density to the food you eat, and the land in which your food is grown. 

One of these compounds is called fulvic acid. Research shows that the consumption of fulvic acid can shift your gut microbiome, and enhance the amount of beneficial flora up to 30%. In doing so, fulvic acid supplementation can support the health of your gut.

Some research even suggests the fulvic acid could be used in place of fecal transplants for obesity and severe gastrointestinal disorders[29].

#5 Watch Your Sugar Consumption

It’s well understood that carbohydrates act as a source of fuel for the bacteria in your gut. However, the source and quality of the carbohydrates that you consume can have very different impacts on gut health[19]. 

While certain types of fiber can feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, diets that are high in sugar have been shown to cause gut bacteria imbalance and induce inflammation[20]. Sugar feeds the bad guys, causing them to overgrow. 

Increased levels of harmful bacteria with the addition of inflammation is a recipe for leaky gut.  Therefore, to maintain the health of your gut and your immune system, it’s vital that you watch your intake of refined sugars.  

#6 Consume Adequate Fiber

As mentioned above, certain types of fiber can act as food for your healthy gut bacteria. These food fibers, also known as prebiotics, are a crucial aspect of gut health. 

Just as sugar can feed the harmful bacteria in your gut, fiber can feed the beneficial bacteria. 

Great sources of prebiotic rich foods include

  • Sunchokes or jerusalem artichokes
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Onions and Garlic
  • Leeks

Research shows that the bacteria in your gut have the ability to break down many different types of dietary fiber. Therefore, a diet that’s rich in a variety of fiber sources is optimal if you want to give your gut bacteria the full spectrum of fuel that it needs[21].

In your diet, this translates into a variety of different plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. I accomplish this by making sure that at every meal two-thirds of my plate is covered with vegetables and a scoop of fermented foods. 

#7 Manage Stress

By now, you’ve likely heard about the gut-brain connection. Much like the gut-immune connection, these two systems are intimately tied to one another and work synergistically to balance each other. 

Often referred to as the gut-brain axis, when your gut health is off, there is a direct impact on the health of your brain function, and vice versa. This shows up in a myriad of ways but is best exemplified by the consistent connection between irritable bowel disease (IBD) and depression and anxiety[22].

Stress is incredibly common and is, in fact, a regular part of many people’s lives. Research shows that stress can alter the composition, function, and metabolic activity of your gut bacteria[23]. 

The solution? While it may be impossible to eliminate every source of stress in your life, you can find ways to minimize the impact of stress. Some research-based strategies for stress management include[24]:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Proper sleep habits
  • Exercise

Some unorthodox methods that have worked better for me because they reduce the underlying root causes of stress and trauma include:

It doesn’t matter how you relieve your stress; it only matters that you make an effort to reduce the impact it has on your emotional and physical well-being and gut health and immunity. 

The Issue With Most Probiotics (And Your Gut Health)

While probiotics can be incredibly impactful for gut health, it’s important to know exactly which types of probiotics you should be investing your money in. 

Unfortunately, not all probiotics out there are made with the same level of integrity. There is plenty of research showing the optimal storage and delivery methods for probiotics, but some companies choose to cut corners (to cut costs).

The problem is, if probiotics aren’t manufactured properly, they’ll be as good as dead — literally. Most of the refrigerated probiotics are also dead even though they are far more expensive than products on the shelf. And if you buy a probiotic at a drugstore or chain vitamin shop, you might as well flush your money down the toilet.   

When searching for probiotics, the number one thing to look for is a spore-based probiotic. What does this mean?

In order for a probiotic to make it to your gut to colonize, it needs to first pass through your stomach. The problem is, your stomach is highly acidic, and most probiotics you’ll find on the market won’t make it alive past your stomach acid. 

Spore-based probiotics, however, protect the bacteria from the acidic environment of your stomach and provide a protective vehicle for the bacteria to reach your gut and make a home there[43].

By far, the most potent and bioavailable probiotic I’ve found on the market is MegaSpore Biotic

This probiotic formula is not only spore-based, but the strains of probiotics it contains have been specifically studied for their ability to enhance immune function, improve digestive health, strengthen the lining of your gut, and reduce inflammation[25][26][27][28].

From an immunity standpoint, you really can’t get better than that. 

Takeaway: Your Gut Is The Hub Of Your Immune System

It’s been well-understood for thousands of years in Eastern medicine that maintaining the health of your gut is the key to maintaining the health of your immunity and your body. While it’s still taking Western medicine too long to catch on this phenomena, we can thank Donna Gates, Sally McFallon and others, for leading the charge in the alternative health community for teaching us that the microbiome is so crucial for a healthy immune response. 

Detoxing your body of heavy metals that kill gut bacteria, reduce digestive juice secretion and negatively impact mitochondria energy production are crucial for immune health as these toxins can hinder every aspect of digestion, gut health and disrupt your immune response.

I have several products I formulated that I always recommend for anyone looking to boost the health of their gut; Ageless AF and CitriCleanse

Ageless AF will remove toxins that hinder gut health and poison the mitochondria. CitriCleanse contains fulvic acid along with targeted nutrients like grapefruit citrus pectin and cilantro extract that pull heavy metals out of your tissues and eliminate them from your body. 

Practices like managing stress, and eating a diet high in fiber and low in sugar are crucial, but not enough by themselves to counter all the many stressors and sabotaging toxins our gut and immunity face today. 

Due to the fact that we no longer eat off the land like your ancestors, getting in healthy bacteria from probiotics, fermented foods and consuming nutrients like fulvic acid is essential. 

With up to 80% of your immune cells residing in your gut, caring for this vital system is essential if you want to maintain a strong immune system.

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Wendy Myers, FDN-P, is a detox expert, functional diagnostic nutritionist, NES Bioenergetic Practitioner, and founder of Myersdetox.com. She is the #1 bestselling author of Limitless Energy: How to Detox Toxic Metals to End Exhaustion and Chronic Fatigue . Additionally, Wendy is the host of The Heavy Metals Summit, the Myers Detox Podcast, and the Supercharged Podcast. Passionate about the importance of detox to live a long and healthy life, she created the revolutionary Myers Detox Protocol , and Mitochondria Detox kit after working with thousands of clients, as well as a range of supplements to help you detox from everyday living and maintain a healthy lifestyle!