Healing Your Gut: How Long It Really Takes

March 2018, Xtend-Life Expert


Gut health is everything. Our digestive system is where we absorb all the nutrients from our food; nutrients we use to build new cells, hormones and enzymes and undertake essential healing and repair. It’s also an important detoxification pathway, allowing us to eliminate waste and toxins.

But the modern lifestyle can easily impair gut function, leading to a range of complex health conditions, from allergies and poor immunity to fatigue and skin conditions. Even if you don’t experience digestive symptoms, your gut could still be under distress. 

As we develop a greater understanding of the relationship between gut function and overall health, many of us are reaching for the kombucha and bone broth in an attempt to improve our gut health. But what if you’re following a gut healing protocol and still not seeing any results?

In this blog post, we’ll explain what you need to do to heal your gut, and more importantly, how long it really takes.

Getting to know your gut

Our digestive system is a sophisticated network of organs and muscles that runs from our mouth to our anus. Each part of the digestive system plays a vital role in the digestive process. The mouth is the first step, where food is torn and chewed by the teeth and mixed with saliva, which contains special enzymes to help break down food and make the job easier for the stomach and intestines. Chewing food properly (a minimum of 10 times per mouthful) is key to good digestion.

Food then passes down the oesophagus to the stomach, where it is churned and mixed with hydrochloric acid and enzymes to form chyme, a soupy mixture of gastric juices and partially digested food. An average meal lasts about 1.5 hours in the stomach[1].

This soupy mixture then moves from the stomach to the small intestine, where about 90% of what you eat is digested and absorbed – fats, proteins and simple sugars. This passes into blood vessels and is collected by the hepatic vein carrying its contents to the liver – where nutrients are converted into fuel and building blocks for new cells, enzymes and hormones.[2]

Digestive wastes and old cells are pushed into the large intestine. It absorbs water and electrolytes to produce faeces over 24-30 hours. Any fibre scours the bowel wall of damaged or cancerous cells. Billions of bacteria (about 2 kilograms worth) ferment any fibre contained in the meal. These bacteria produce chemicals that help destroy pathogens (viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic), as well as producing some vitamins (especially K and biotin) and short chain fatty acids (which are used to nourish the good bacteria and also play a role in controlling cholesterol levels by producing beneficial HDL cholesterol).

Finally, the faeces are pushed to the rectum for elimination.

So, what can go wrong with the digestive system?

Unfortunately, the modern lifestyle can easily interfere with good digestive function, leading to a range of symptoms including constipation, bloating, food allergies, leaky gut and candida overgrowth.

Almost everything about the modern lifestyle tends to upset the delicate balance in the gut, from sugar and smoking to stress, alcohol, antibiotics and lack of sleep. The refined foods we eat are particularly damaging to the gut, as they lack fibre to feed the good bacteria and are high in sugar and damaged fats to promote inflammation.

Over time, this can lead to the development of leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome describes a situation whereby the cells of the intestinal wall have become damaged and more porous, allowing things that normally shouldn’t pass through (eg undigested food particles and pathogens) to enter the blood stream. The presence of these food particles and pathogens in the bloodstream creates an inflammatory and immune reaction, leading to allergies, poor immunity and a range of other conditions. [3] Although the problem is centred in the gut, leaky gut syndrome may present with no digestive symptoms at all.

Experiencing unpleasant gut symptoms? Here’s our easy guide to correct them.


When our digestive system is functioning optimally, we should pass a stool at least once every 24 hours. For some people, twice a day is normal.

A change of routine (eg travelling) can cause a temporary bout of constipation and this is usually nothing to worry about, but if there is a recurring or long-term problem, it is important that it’s addressed, as it can lead to chronic health problems.


  • Slow moving stools or no movement at all for a couple of days to weeks or more.
  • Bloating
  • Stools that are dry and difficult to pass, or appear as small, hard pebbles.

How does constipation contribute to gut dysfunction and other health issues?

Prolonged contact time between faeces and the wall of the large intestine can cause a build up of toxins resulting imbalance in good and bad gut bacteria.

According to researchers at the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark “the longer food takes to pass through the colon, the more harmful bacterial degradation products are produced …Conversely when transit time is shorter, there are higher amount of the substances that are produced when the colon renews its inner surface, which may be the sign of a healthier intestinal wall. [4]

What causes constipation?

  • Lack of fibre in the diet
  • Insufficient fluids
  • Lack of exercise
  • Food intolerances
  • Ignoring ‘natures call’
  • Magnesium deficiency (magnesium stimulates the muscles of the gut, helping promote gut motility).

What can be done to avoid?

  • Drink 8-10 glass of water per day
  • Consume 7+ serves of fruit and vegetables per day
  • Reduce consumption of processed foods
  • Emphasise foods high in soluble fibre eg oats, rice bran, kiwifruit, prunes, lentils and chickpeas, mushrooms, psyllium, linseeds (flaxseeds), nuts and seeds and insoluble fibre (brown rice, wholegrain bread, fruit and vegetable peelings)
  • Exercise 4-5 times per week
  • Consume more prebiotic foods to encourage growth of good gut bacteria eg oats, rice bran, kiwifruit, prunes, fruit and vegetables, lentils and chickpeas, mushrooms, psyllium, linseeds (flaxseeds), cooked and cooled rice (sushi is a great source of prebiotics).
  • Add Kiwi-Klenz to your routine. Made from 100% natural New Zealand kiwifruit, Kiwi-Klenz is a simple way to increase your intake of soluble fibre and prebiotics. Taking Kiwi-Klenz regularly will help promote smoother, softer stools and encourage a healthier balance of good gut bacteria.
rebalancing gut bacteria

    Food Intolerances

    Food intolerances or sensitivities (not to be confused with severe food allergies which can cause anaphylaxis), are adverse reactions that occur either immediately after eating a food or within 3-5 days. Symptoms may be vague to severe.

    Food intolerances tend to develop with foods that you consume frequently, and may even be foods that you crave. Common food intolerances include gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, sesame, fish, chicken, nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, capsicums, zucchini, eggplant/aubergine), alcohol, coffee and chocolate.


    • Fatigue
    • Constipation
    • Bloating
    • Headaches
    • Itchy, dry skin
    • Dry pimples on the backs of the arm
    • Runny nose and/or post-nasal drip
    • Eczema, asthma or psoriasis.

    How do food allergies contribute to poor gut health?

    Food allergies can be both the cause and the symptom of poor gut health. Regularly eating foods that you are sensitive to will damage the gut wall over time, leading to the development of leaky gut syndrome. Conversely, the undigested food particles that pass through the gut wall with leaky gut syndrome can cause inflammatory and immune reactions that create allergies.

    Whether the symptom or the cause, food intolerances need to be identified and addressed in order for the gut to heal.

    What causes it?

    • Leaky gut syndrome
    • Dysbiosis (an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut)
    • Overeating the same foods – eg eating the same food every day
    • Hereditary or genetic disposition
    • A severe stomach bug or bout of gastroenteritis can trigger the start of a food allergy.

    What can be done to avoid it?

    If you suspect you have a food intolerance or sensitivity, it’s worth visiting a naturopath or holistic doctor for an allergy test. Once you have identified the sensitive food, it is important that you avoid it for at least six months. After that time some people can reintroduce the food occasionally (once a week or less), while others need to avoid the food for life.

    At the same time, it is important to follow a gut-healing protocol to repair the damage that the food intolerance has caused. This should include a high-quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, omega 3 fish oil and prebiotic, such as Kiwi-Klenz.


    Uncomfortable, unpleasant and sometimes embarrassing, bloating is the result of excessive gas in the intestines.


    • Discomfort after eating
    • A swollen or distended stomach

    What causes it?

    • Undiagnosed food allergies
    • Not chewing food properly
    • Chewing gum or drinking too many carbonated drinks
    • Poor eating habits – such as standing up when eating, drinking water with meals or eating on the run.
    • Inability to break down protein or carbohydrates properly (due to lack of digestive enzymes)
    • Poor food combinations. Certain food combinations can be difficult to digest eg meat and fruit or dairy and fruit, heavy carbohydrates such as pasta can be challenging to digest when combined with a large amount of fat or protein)
    • Low stomach acid
    • Dysbiosis

    How does bloating contribute to poor gut health?

    If bloating is caused by poor dining habits, lack of digestive enzymes or food allergies, over time this can damage the gut, leading to leaky gut syndrome. It can also be a symptom of either leaky gut syndrome or dysbiosis.

    What can be done to avoid it?

    • Practice good dining habits: serve food at the table, away from other distractions such as television and cell phones. Chew food properly (at least 10 times per mouthful) and avoid drinking water with meals.
    • Avoid challenging food combinations such as dairy and meat or meat and heavy carbohydrates. Eat fruit alone.
    • Identify and avoid foods you are intolerant to
    • Avoid carbonated drinks (eg soda water, sodas) and chewing gum
    • Increase your intake of fibre (25-30 grams per day)
    • Get active. Exercise helps the digestive system function optimally, relieving constipation, keep circulation going and move lymphatic fluid around the body, which can help relieve gas and bloating.[5]
    • Consume more pro- and prebiotics to help improve the balance of good bacteria in the gut. Kiwi-Klenz is a convenient way to get more prebiotics into your diet.

    Note: If bloating is constant, or is accompanied by pain in your abdomen or any other part of your body, trouble going to the bathroom, a constant feeling of fullness, irregular periods or haemorrhoids you should see a doctor.

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    Bad breath

    Bad breath is an unpleasant smell that comes from the mouth. Often the sufferer may be unaware that they have it.

    One-off bad breath for one day isn’t really something to be concerned about, but if it is happening regularly and you have ruled out an oral cause such as inadequate flossing or decay, it may be a sign of gut dysfunction. Chronic bad breath can be very distressing and can affect someone’s self-esteem.


    • Unpleasant smell emanating from the mouth
    • Metallic or unpleasant taste in the mouth
    • Burping
    • Flatulence
    • A white tongue.

    What causes it?

    • An imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut
    • Constipation
    • Food allergies
    • Low hydrochloric acid in the stomach
    • Not digesting foods properly, eg poorly digested protein[6]
    • Candida overgrowth.

    How does bad breath contribute to gut health and other issues?

    Chronic bad breath that does not have a dental origin is usually an indication that the digestive system is not functioning optimally. If bad breath is due to candida, dysbiosis, food allergies or low hydrochloric acid, it is really important that these conditions are addressed to prevent the development of leaky gut syndrome.

    What can be done to avoid bad breath?

    • Eat more raw fruit and vegetables. Raw foods are rich in enzymes which help break down protein.
    • Consume more prebiotic foods to help restore the balance of good bacteria in the gut.
    • Eat more fibre to reduce the risk of constipation. Kiwi-Klenz is a great source of both soluble fibre for gut motility and prebiotics to promote healthier balance of gut flora.
    • Identify and avoid food allergens. Common food allergens that may cause bad breath include gluten and dairy and eggs.
    • If candida overgrowth is a concern, try Advanced Candida Support. Made from 100% natural New Zealand Horopito (used by in Traditional Maori Medicine for centuries to treat a range of health conditions) 

    How long will it take to heal your gut?

    Healing the gut varies from person to person and depends on the severity of your symptoms, but studies seem to suggest it will take between two and 12 weeks.[7] If your symptoms don’t improve at all after three months, you should see your doctor or naturopath.

    If you’ve been following a gut healing protocol for a while and are feeling a little frustrated with an apparent lack of results, it’s important to remember that healing your gut is a huge job – as it literally means building an entirely new gut. Although it is tightly packed inside us, the gut has a huge surface area – if your large and small intestine were opened up, they’d be larger than a tennis court.[8]

    Fortunately, the cells of the gut lining regenerate themselves every three weeks, [9] so it possible to see some improvement with three weeks.


    [1] Middlestead, M. Your gut: All Physical and Mental Health may start here. http://www.mariamiddlestead.co.nz/tips/your-gut-all-physical-and-mental-health-may-start-or-end-here/
    [2] Middlestead, M. Your gut: All Physical and Mental Health may start here. http://www.mariamiddlestead.co.nz/tips/your-gut-all-physical-and-mental-health-may-start-or-end-here/
    [3] Dr Axe. Four Step to Heal Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Disease.  https://draxe.com/4-steps-to-heal-leaky-gut-and-autoimmune-disease/
    [4] DTU Food. National Food Institute. Licht, T. Food’s transit time is a key factor in digestive health. Monday 27 June 2016.
    [5] Dr Axe. Always have a bloated stomach? Here are ten reasons why.
    [6] Lopez, L. Natural Health, A New Zealand A to Z Guide. Bateman: 2002, Auckland, New Zealand.
    [7] Blisklager, S et al. Restoration of Barrier Function in Injured Intestinal Mucosa.  Phsyiol Rve 87:545-564, 2007. Doi:10.1152/physrev.0012.2006
    [8] Middlstead, M. Your gut: All Physical and Mental Health may start here. http://www.mariamiddlestead.co.nz/tips/your-gut-all-physical-and-mental-health-may-start-or-end-here/
    [9] Cole, W. Here’s how it actually takes to heal your gut. www.mindbodygreen/articles/how-long-it-reaally-takes-toheal-your-gut

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