A Holistic Approach to Gut Health: Where to Start?

We now know that a healthy gut (or microbiom) is linked to a healthy body and mind. Many wellness experts now refer to our gut as our second brain, because it is so closely tied to the way our entire body functions from moment to moment.

In order to have a happy, healthy gut it takes a balance of commensal bacteria—that is, billions of bacteria that live in harmony in our gut without harming us. Achieving this balanced symbiotic relationship requires the ability to effectively digest, absorb and assimilate the foods we eat, combined with consistent healthy elimination (yep, that’s part of it, too)—and the best way to get there is through, you guessed it, diet.

But what types of foods and best practices lead to a healthy gut? There’s a lot of information out there, with some advice contradicting others: Raw veggies or cooked? Avoid all dairy or eat some healthy forms of dairy? Go completely plant-based or incorporate some grass-fed, wild-caught proteins? Are grains okay or are they the devil?

With so many mixed messages and rogue information floating around, it makes it hard to connect the dots on a holistic approach to gut health.

And, we have to admit, we really want to get behind this approach to wellness. Not only have people seen improvements in a host of ailments, ranging from eczema, fatigue, ADD/ADHD, arthritis and autoimmune disorder, but studies are starting to unearth even deeper connections between the gut and brain health on a long-term basis, including links to depression, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease.

If improving gut health means keeping us feeling great now, and warding off lots of unwanted stuff later down the road, count us in.

To get some answers, we talked with Colorado-based Functional Nutritionist Mindy Pellegrino, who helps her clients by looking at the whole body and its functions as interconnected. By digging into ongoing problems, Pellegrino is able to identify the root cause.

“Instead of the Bandaid effect, it’s taking a step back, looking at the whole person and figuring out what initiated symptoms in the first place,” Pellegrino tells us. “A lot of times, it’s a combination of lifestyle, nutrition and stress—factors that a lot of the time we don’t pay close attention to or take into consideration.”

Suffering from chronic gut-related issues since she was a kid, Pellegrino is particularly passionate about the topic.

“What I’ve found from my own and other people’s experiences, is that with almost any symptom or chronic illness there is a link to gut health,” says Pellegrino. “I’ve helped a lot of people rebalance and fortify their gut. It relates to so much more than just gut symptoms; it’s pretty far reaching.”

It may seem like an overwhelming task to rebalance an internal system in your body that has been on cruise control without much of a second thought. But if you approach it as creating balance in your nutrition and mind-body relationship, then it becomes more manageable. Pellegrino shares her top tips on how to do just that—and squashes some of the diet trends and misinformation currently circulating about how to achieve and maintain gut health.

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