Featured

Understanding your gut as a gateway with Dr. Mark Hyman

Whole Self Science helps to reveal just how connected your gut is to the rest of the body and to your overall health.

Published:

September 21, 2022

Written by:

KT Heins-Nagamoto

Managing Editor

Medically Reviewed by:

Published:

September 21, 2022

Lifestyle
Lifestyle
Clinical Advisory Board
Clinical Advisory Board
Mind-Gut Connection
Mind-Gut Connection
Microbiome
Microbiome
Research
Research
Movement
Movement
Sleep
Sleep

If you follow Dr. Mark Hyman on any of his social media platforms, or perhaps his podcast, then you’re no stranger to his comprehensive approach to treating chronic gut conditions. Dr. Hyman is a leading functional medicine practitioner, and a member of Salvo Health’s Clinical Advisory Board. He advised our team on functional medicine practices that can make a big impact for those with GI conditions, enabling us to incorporate these practices into our signature model of care Whole Self Science.

Whole Self Science combines functional medicine treatments and strategies with the best of conventional healthcare, to help our doctors identify the root cause of and treat chronic GI conditions. At the same time, Whole Self Science helps to reveal just how connected your gut is to the rest of the body and to your overall health, and how to take better care of your gut through nutrition, supplements, sleep, movement, and more.

How your gut impacts all your other body systems 

Dr. Hyman says, “The most important system in your body is your gut” and we couldn’t agree more. The gut contains your microbiome, sends direct signals to your brain, can impact your cognitive and emotional wellbeing, and houses 70% of the cells that make up your immune system in its walls. Not to mention, “It’s what helps you digest your food, and makes vitamins and minerals, things that your body needs.” 

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, “Your gut health and the bacteria that make up your microbiome impact your brain chemistry, immune system, sure, but also your weight, risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s, autism, ADHD, depression. You name it, everything is connected to your gut.”

“Your gut health and the bacteria that make up your microbiome impact your brain chemistry, immune system, your weight, risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s, autism, ADHD, depression.”

What you feed your gut, and how it shapes the bacteria, or gut flora, in your microbiome matters a lot, or as Dr. Hyman would say, “Your gut grows an inner garden of bugs–good bugs, bad bugs–and these bugs impact your body in a big way.  So learning how to tend your inner garden is such a huge piece of your basic health maintenance. How do you feed those bugs and keep them happy? How do you take care of them?” 

This understanding of the gut as inherently linked to the rest of your body systems is something that we teach our members through our app. Salvo Health members typically learn more about their condition than what they might learn during a brief doctor’s appointment. While Salvo Health provides relief from gastro symptoms through testing and medication and/or supplements, members also understand how important it is to take care of their gut in the long-term by making lasting lifestyle changes. 

What balancing your lifestyle with your gut health looks like…

With so much of your overall health riding on your gut health, it seems absolutely critical to adjust one’s routine to ensure that your gut is being fed the right stuff, and that other factors that impact your microbiome, such as sleep and movement, are also being prioritized. And yet… Dr. Hyman reminds us that “The number one reason for doctor's visits in America is digestive problems, irritable bowel, reflux, heartburn, bloating, constipation.” 

So how do you get the nutrients, sleep, and movement you need? Start by focusing on what you put in your body, do with your body, and how you treat your body currently. Then think of mindful, actionable ways to make changes:

  1. Focus on eating real food. This isn’t easy for everyone, especially those living in a food desert or experiencing poverty. Instead of a complete diet overhaul, try adding more whole foods as much as you can. Instead of highly processed, packaged foods (like a bag of chips or cookies), try to reach more often for whole fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (like nuts, avocado, salmon, carrots), and whole grains like quinoa or brown rice. Get 15 IBS-Friendly Snacks from Salvo Health
  2. Identify what foods you are sensitive to. Food sensitivities can be major disruptors, and they can cause inflammation of the gut, among other symptoms. Not sure what your “trigger foods” are? Salvo Health can help, walking you step-by-step through an elimination process.
  3. Supplements including vitamins, minerals, and pre- or probiotics can help you make up for nutrients which may be lacking in our diets. Modern agricultural practices have reduced the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C in our crops, so it may be best to pair a bioavailable multivitamin with a diet rich in whole foods. 
  4. Modify your sleeping habits, to maximize the quality of your sleep as well as the quantity. This means minimizing screen time during the hour before bed, and trying to wake up to natural sunlight as often as you can.
  5. Try to fit in daily movement or activities such as a vigorous workout or even going for a walk, a couple of push ups, or taking a break to stretch. We understand that work schedules vary, so you don’t have to fit in the gym when you can’t. Even small changes can go a long way. 
  6. Reduce stress, and we know this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Mind-gut therapies such as diaphragmatic breathing or a body scan can help to calm down your nervous system and even improve your gut health through interactions with the vagus nerve.
  7. Oh, and hydrate. Many people are chronically dehydrated, and taking in enough  water and electrolytes may be linked to increased diversity of bacteria in the gut, which means a more resilient and healthier gut overall.

What are the benefits of making these changes? 

Breaking your current habit cycles isn’t exactly easy, but relief from symptoms and chronic disease is worth the effort.

When Dr. Hyman works with patients at The UltraWellness Center, he documents and watches improvement in real time after advising lifestyle modifications. “Most people within 10 days of shifting their diet experience 70% reduction in symptoms.” He tells us, which is very meaningful especially for those experiencing painful gastro symptoms, or other chronic conditions. “Food is so powerful and focusing on the root causes, like nutrient deficiency, over processed food, or even something outside of diet, can have immediate and profound effects.” 

The benefits to balancing your nutrition and identifying other lifestyle changes to make also include: 

  • Longevity. Eating healthier and finding ways to reduce stress and improve sleep can help you live longer, which might seem obvious, but studies have found that eating an average of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is linked to a reduced risk of death from heart and respiratory diseases.
  • Improved mental health. While we understand the role of medications like antidepressants and seeing a qualified provider for continuous mental health care, what you put in your gut can directly improve your brain chemistry and help you feel better long-term. 
  • More energy. Eating a wholesome diet rich in foods with a low glycemic index (meaning foods that won’t cause huge glucose spikes) may be the best way to avoid energy crashes throughout the day. 
  • Better skin, hair, nails, even oral health. Certain foods, supplements, and vitamins have benefits for strengthening nails, hair, and helping the microbial diversity in your mouth too. 

With the benefits so numerous and so effective, there seems to be good evidence that behavioral changes can make a major difference for your gut health, but also your overall health. However, we know that change is tricky and that just because we recommend a few ways to feel better in this blog, it doesn’t mean that one list of recommendations is going to fix your gut overnight, especially since everyone’s gut is different. That’s why our team first conducts testing to help identify the underlying cause of your condition, before trialing a number of recommendations to help you on your gut health journey. 

If you’re interested in learning more about making lasting behavioral changes to improve your gut health, consider signing up for Salvo Health, created with help from the nation’s leading gut experts like Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Emeran Mayer, Dr. Mark Pimentel, Dr. Megan Oser, Dr. Laura Reigada, Dr. Frank Lipman, and Chris Kresser of the Kresser Institute.

Share this article

Written by:

KT Heins-Nagamoto

Managing Editor

References: