Here's How Long It May Actually Take To Improve Your Gut Health
Gut health is everything. Underlying microbiome and gastrointestinal problems such as SIBO and candida overgrowth can be linked to just about every modern health problem. From weight gain and fatigue to anxiety and depression to autoimmune conditions and cancer, there are many consequences of having an unhealthy gut.
You may be thinking, "I go to the bathroom just fine, gut problems aren't an issue for me." But the truth is that you don't need to have gut symptoms to have underlying gut problems. Many are asymptomatic as far as digestive symptoms go but manifest as downstream symptoms somewhere else in the body. In fact, around 22 percent of people with gut problems can have significant damage to their small intestines but not suffer any gastrointestinal symptoms at all.
Many of you health-savvy mindbodygreen readers know this, and you're already doing tons of healthy stuff—like drinking kombucha, popping probiotics, and sipping on bone broth—to support your gut health.* But how long does gut-health improvement actually take? Well, I am glad you asked.
Improving your gut means supporting your whole body.
To answer this important question, we have to go down to a cellular level. First of all, the surface area of your gut is around 300 square meters, which is the size of a house. These super important gut-lining cells, called the enterocytes, are constantly regenerating and in a normal healthy gut, you have an entirely new gut lining every two to three weeks. The gut-improving time of people who don't have autoimmune conditions, food sensitivities, or other inflammatory health issues varies, but studies suggest that it's somewhere between two and 12 weeks.
Another study found significant changes in the makeup of the gut bacteria just days after a dietary change1. This demonstrates the amazing power of the foods we eat, but in reality, most people interested in supporting their gut have other health issues that make progress more complex and a lot slower. If you have one or more of these health issues, gut health will definitely be a journey: chronic inflammation, Lyme disease, chronic viral infections, blood sugar issues, adrenal fatigue, SIBO, an autoimmune condition, histamine intolerance, or candida overgrowth.
Taking food allergies and sensitivities into account.
Researchers are now finding what we've been saying for decades in functional medicine: food reactivities like gluten sensitivity are just one end of a larger inflammation spectrum, with autoimmune diseases like celiac disease (CD) on the opposite side. There needs to be significant destruction of your intestinal microvilli to be officially labeled as having celiac disease (CD).
Moreover, only about one-third of people with CD have obvious GI symptoms; others experience seemingly unrelated symptoms like anxiety, depression, or skin problems. This leads to only 5 percent2 of celiacs ever being diagnosed. This means that there are around 3 million Americans with celiac disease who have no idea that they have it and gluten sensitivity in up to 6 percent3 of us. For these people, it can take up to4 six months just to bring down the autoimmune-inflammation antibodies of eating a gluten-containing food just one time. This is not even taking into consideration any other food sensitivity or health problem slowing down the gut-nourishing process.
Most of my patients are dealing with one or more of these gut health, inflammation, autoimmune issues. I find clinically that while health improvements are seen monthly, it's really around the two-year mark that we see sustained and noticeable changes. If you have more complicated gut health issues, I encourage you to get a proper functional medicine work-up and appropriate labs to get an idea of what you're up against and to make sure you're addressing everything you need to on your unique gut-supporting journey.
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian,The Inflammation Spectrum, and Gut Feelings.