Gut Health: The Eight Pillars You Need To Know About


The first few months of the year tends to reignite motivation. We see an influx of weight loss and gut health resolutions, a surge in gym memberships, and I’m sure the diet industry makes a whole lot of money.

Last year I challenged my community to DROP their weight-related and resolutions and proposed a different challenge.

Over the first weeks of 2020, we dove into what I refer to as “The 8 Pillars of Health”. These are the things that create lifelong, optimal health. Side effects are not limited to, but can include healthy weight loss, improved energy, better quality sleep, sex drive, less bloating, constipation, and brain fog – for starters.

This is what we’re after, am I right? 

So again for this year I’m bringing it back and I want you to focus on the following starting now and beyond:

…The things that move the needle forward.

…That move you towards optimal health- away from dis-ease, nagging symptoms, frustration, and guilt.

More than the number on the scale…

the latest restrictive diet trend…

counting every calorie or morsel of food that passes your lips…

In case you didn’t join us for last year’s challenge, continue reading to dive into each of the 8 pillars and my proposed action steps that will move you towards your ultimate gut health goals.

Pillar 1: Sleep 

Yes, that important. I’d argue perhaps the most important for your gut health and your overall health. 

But so easily overlooked and is usually the first thing to be affected by our busy lifestyles.

Sleep is crucial for healing and rejuvenating the body.

A lack of sleep can seriously impact the body’s ability to detoxify. And we want the gunk out.

There is a system that takes place in deep sleep responsible for clearing buildup in the brain.

Melatonin (the sleep hormone) has powerful anti-cancer properties.

Stabilizes blood sugar which benefits mood, cravings, energy levels.


  • Optimize circadian rhythm.
  • Promote melatonin production naturally.
  • Create optimal sleeping space.


  • Try to wake up and go to bed around the same time each day.
  • Expose your body to the sun within 20 minutes of waking.
  • Keep the lights low after 6pm.
  • Remove tv and phones from bedroom.
  • Avoid eating heavy meal before bed, especially crappy carbs.
  • Sleep with a face mask and ear plugs if possible.
  • Get black out curtains for your bedroom.
  • Where do you currently measure up? What could you begin to implement today?

Pillar 2: Handling Stress Well 

3 of 4 doctor’s visits are due to stress-related ailments.

Stress causes the body to lose its ability to regulate inflammation.

Cortisol (stress hormone) reduces the brain’s ability to function properly.



  • The foods we eat
  • Moving the body
  • Learning how to reset the nervous system


  • Search ‘tapping for stress’ or ‘guided meditation’ on #Youtube and try it for 5 minutes.
  • Create a budget you can stick to which will help keep yourself out of debt and minimize money stress.
  • Move your body. Exercise boosts the feel good hormones and reduces stress hormones.
  • Set boundaries – work to fill your space with things and people that make you feel good. Reduce the ‘need’ to say ‘yes’ to everything and everyone. They will be OK – you can’t pour from an empty cup.
  • Take a social media break. Need I say more?
  • Carve out ‘me’ time. Scheduling it allows it to act like an appointment.

Pillar 3: Eat a Diverse Diet 

When it comes to gut health nutrition and dieting, we tend to get stuck in a rut or eat the same things over and over.

Our guts, genes, and health goals require a range of foods.

Some studies even argue eating diverse foods is more important than the quantity.



  • Provides different arrays of nutrients and build a varied population within our guts. We want this.
  • Decreases risk of food allergy/sensitivities
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Promote array of antioxidant & nutrient support – all with different jobs/disease-fighting ability.


  • Pick 2 NEW fruits or vegetables you can add to your cart this week. Share a pic!
  • Utilize in-season produce.
  • Try a new variation of a staple food. Example: colored potatoes, squashes, different lettuces.
  • Keep your plate colorful. The more color, the more diversity!

Pillar 4: Exercise


  • Helps burn calories.
  • Helps lower blood sugars by increasing insulin receptor sensitivity
  • Turns on 500+ genes (hello #Superhuman)
  • Helps body filter waste
  • Helps control cravings, hunger cues
  • Positively alters bacteria in the gut microbiome after only six weeks (without changing your diet)

So what holds us back?






What helps me:

  • Scheduling it.
  • Good music.
  • Using it as part of ‘me’ time.
  • Being accountable -grab a buddy!


  • Schedule in 3 sessions of exercise into next week’s calendar.
  • Try a new class at the gym.
  • Grab a buddy and go for a walk in the morning, on your lunch break, or after dinner.
  • Aim for 10,000 steps a day.

Pillar 5: Exercise the Brain 

Protecting the brain is more important than ever as we watch Alzheimer’s climb the ranks to #6 leading causes of death, killing more people than breast & colon cancer combined.

What’s happened?

Increased environmental toxins, heavy metals.

Continual rise of chronic diseases (we refer to Alzheimer’s as Type 3 Diabetes now).

Poor diet & lifestyle.

Also, consider how much time we do brain-mush activities like scrolling – I know, I’m guilty too.

The brain wants to learn new things. When it is bored, it begins to atrophy. It’s never too early to start.



  • Switch things up:
  • Take a new route home.
  • Take a cooking class.
  • Brush your teeth with your opposite hand.
  • Physical exercise – there’s that guy again. Exercise turns on the BDNF gene that stimulates new brain cell formation.
  • Read physical books, papers.
  • Utilize motor skills often- coloring, drawing, painting, knitting, making a puzzle.
  • Keep blood sugar balanced.
  • Consume healthy fats.
  • Consider nootropics- brain boosting supplements like L-theanine (found in green tea) or curcumin.

Pillar 6: Maintain Intimacy 

When we think about gut health, we typically think of food and exercising first.

We take a linear approach: if I eat healthy and workout = I will be healthy.

But those are only 2 of the pillars…


One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is failing to address their relationships and the importance of intimacy, connection, and purpose.


1 – There is a direct pathway that connects our brain and emotions to our nervous system.

2 – We are wired to be intimate.


A study was done that showed sex may keep our brains sharp as we age.

Your personal beliefs and connections with others will move you towards optimal health.


How can we boost this area?

  • Identify your purpose.
  • Strike up a conversation with someone new.
  • Inner-child journaling.
  • Deepen a conversation with a loved one.
  • Love makin’
  • Read/pray/meditate with someone.
  • Express gratitude towards a person.
  • Join & participate in a group of like-minded people.
  • Send a hand written note to someone.

How do you deepen intimacy in your relationships?


Pillar 7: Provide Body with Nutritional Support for Immunity 

Our immune system is our defense and protectors.

For optimal gut health, we are always looking to support this body system in fighting off viruses or any other foreign invaders (in foods, water, drugs, products).



  • Support the gut & brain -directly connected to immune function. Did you know 80% of your immune system lies in your gut?
  • Stay hydrated: clean water, soups, herbal teas
  • Reduce toxin exposure
  • Color your plate
  • Get good sleep – restoring and healing time for body


  • Utilize spices: ginger, garlic, onions, oregano, turmeric
  • Ditch the plastic in an effort to reduce toxins
  • Have 3 different colorful foods on your plate
  • Supplement with quality vitamin D and zinc

 Pillar 8: Ensure Healthy Gut Biome 

There are 150x more genes in your gut than your entire body. They interact with all areas of the body to tell it how to function. Think: metabolism, appetite, mood, immunity, brain power.

The term “biome” refers to the #gutbugs living in your intestines. The more diverse these are, the better.


What boosts the gut biome:

  • Eating diverse range of foods (oh hey, pillar 3)
  • Fiber: colorful fruits, vegs, legumes
  • Fermented foods: kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha
  • Probiotic supplement *as recommended

What hurts the gut biome:

  • What hurts the gut biome:
  • Medications, NSAIDS 
  • Antibiotics
  • Processed foods, artificial sugars
  • Stress
  • Conventionally raised meat, dairy


  • Like Pillar 3 – work on creating diversity in the diet. Eating local, seasonally, swapping out foods each week.
  • Ditch the TUMS – try a digestive enzyme instead.
  • Chew thoroughly & don’t eat in stressful environment 
  • Utilize my Gut Loving Foods List to incorporate some prebiotics and probiotics to promote gut health

Where do you stand? Will you agree to focus on these 8 pillars instead of jumping from diet to diet? 

This is how we move the needle forward and begin to #HealThySelf.

Follow me on Instagram @amandarigby.rd for more tips!