Sarah Greenfield, RD, a functional medicine dietitian and gut health specialist, understands this better than most, not only on account of her own history of gut imbalances but also since she’s worked with countless folks who come to her when all other paths have led them astray.
“I use extensive testing in my practice where we look at food sensitivities, detox abilities, blood work, stool testing, genetic predispositions, and so much more to curate a customized path to healing,” says Greenfield. While she emphasizes that every body is different and no two healing protocols are bound to be identical, she noticed that certain patterns tended to be consistent in specific types of women.
“When I thought about the clients I was serving, I realized oftentimes I could get a sense of what was going on internally based on their energetics and the way their symptoms showed up,” Greenfield shares. In addition to hearing each client’s unique background, she had tons of hard data to work with—which allowed her to hone in on key insights and common trends—and prompted her to create a gut archetype quiz. “I combined the energetics of the archetype profiles with the data I collected and was able to find specific patterns to help women hone in on their health journey,” Greenfield says.
Hoping to find greater clarity on the state of your gut—including what might work for and against it—and feel better in your body and more confident in your food choices? Take the quiz or start by learning more about each of Greenfield’s four gut archetypes below.
4 gut archetypes and tips to support healing
1. Sage Gut
The Sage Gut archetype may notice that their body is changing… and not necessarily for the better. Certain foods and lifestyle practices that once served them just fine no longer work as well. Still, they have a strong sense that healing could be within reach, if only they had the right team and tools to guide the way and offer precise, actionable insights. “The Sage Gut archetype might have worked with doctors or alternative practitioners, gone deep in their healing journey, but is never left with any profound long-term results,” Greenfield says.
- Chief concerns: Inflammation, bloating, having consistent bowel movements, maintaining a healthy/stable energy
- Food-first tips: “When building a healthy plate, it is important to focus on nutrient-dense foods,” Greenfield says. “Healthy fats and a lower amount of simple and complex carbs are best for this archetype.”
- Biomarkers to test: “Homocysteine, omega-3s, TPO antibodies, and a lipid profile gives context into inflammatory status,” Greenfield shares. She also advises measuring levels of magnesium, vitamin D, glutathione, and ferritin. “Transglutaminase gives an overview of reactivity to wheat and potential damage that eating wheat can cause on the body,” she adds.
2. Discerning Gut
The Discerning Gut archetype is sensitive and always puts the needs of others above their own. They often finds themselves exhausted at the end of the day, which not only hinders their ability to show up for their loved ones but also results in neglecting telltale signs that their body is in need of rest, relaxation, and restoration. If and when they finally carve out time to prioritize their own health and well-being, they’re unsure of what they should do. “They are lost when it comes to how to heal their bodies and don’t know where to start,” Greenfield says. This gut archetype is less comfortable taking a leadership role in their own health journey, and prefers to hand the reins to a trusted expert who can lead the way.
- Chief concerns: Diarrhea, low energy, nervous system regulation, lack of movement or a nurturing self-care routine
- Food-first tips: “The Discerning Gut archetype does best with warmer, cooked foods. Broths and soups can be very beneficial,” says Greenfield. Moreover, she says this archetype may stand to benefit from eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
- Biomarkers to test: Measuring cortisol should be first on the list since the Discerning Gut is more susceptible to burnout and feeling overwhelmed. “Ferritin can give insights into energy levels and homocysteine, omega-3s, and TPO antibodies can provide insights into inflammation,” Greenfield continues. “HgA1c can give context into blood sugar management, which can be high in this archetype, while magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc levels are usually low.” (FWIW, leading functional health specialist Will Cole previously told Well+Good that magnesium and vitamin D deficiencies are among the most common ones he sees in his patients’ labs.)
3. Heroic Gut
The Heroic Gut archetype is your classic type-A personality. They’re driven, ambitious, and an overachiever—all of which may sound great on paper, but can come at a cost for their own well-being. “They are used to fixing and solving things on their own, but things that used to work no longer do,” Greenfield explains. “It’s also hard for them to be present and hear what their body is saying.” They’re not highly in tune with their bodies or emotions, but they’re need to slow down and lean into their intuition if they want to feel as strong and powerful as they know they can be.
- Chief concerns: Stomach discomfort, bloating, having consistent bowel movements, staying present, making mental health a priority
- Food-first tips: “This gut archetype benefits from a higher amount of complex carbs due to the amount of energy that they expend in a given day,” Greenfield says. Digestive function may be worse for wear, so she also advises eating more cooked veggies, which are easier to break down and digest. “Focusing on bitter foods before meals can help improve stomach acid levels to enhance nutrient absorption and decrease bloating,” she adds.
- Biomarkers to test: “Inflammation can be a primary concern for this archetype. Homocysteine, cortisol, ferritin, omega 3s, and neopterin can help give the best insights,” says Greenfield. As is the case with the Discerning Gut, magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc levels are worth testing as they tend to be low in these groups of women. “Letting go of control and supporting detox pathways are key for this archetype, so assessing glutathione levels is also important,” Greenfield says.
4. Chameleon Gut
The Chameleon Gut archetype is sociable, adaptable, and curious. “They love research, lists, and being organized. They don’t get overwhelmed easily when exploring something that lights them up,” Greenfield explains. This type is highly in tune with their environment and take on the energy of the people and places around them, which can make or break how they feel at any given time. They’ll be best served by having enough time to recharge solo and gaining clarity on who they are is irrespective of other people.
- Chief concerns: Low or fluctuating energy, having consistent bowel movements, linking symptoms to underlying imbalances.
- Food-first tips: “This archetype does best with moderate carbs, protein, and higher fat intake,” Greenfield shares. “They also benefit from eating lots of brightly colored veggies, whether raw or cooked.”
- Biomarkers to test: Greenfield says that while inflammation tends to be the least problematic for this gut archetype compared to the others, it’s still worth testing for measuring homocysteine and omega-3 for a baseline status. “Testing for ferritin, magnesium, and vitamin D can provide context into nutrient status assuming inflammation is on the lower end,” she continues, and “HgA1c can assess adequate meal balance and blood sugar stability.”
While the results from the gut archetype quiz are meant to offer a jumping-off point rather than a diagnosis, it “provides the framework for where to get started with supplements, foods, and lifestyle techniques to improve health,” Greenfield explains. If a given archetype sounds applicable to you, the results can help inform potential next steps that may improve your digestion, nurture your gut, and support greater well-being across the board.
From there, Greenfield suggests enlisting the help of a skilled functional health practitioner to take a deeper dive into testing and look at all areas of your health—including those that won’t necessarily show up in a lab report. “True healing begins at the intersection between science, self, and connection,” Greenfield concludes. (Her own Fearless Gut Restoration program covers each of these pillars through testing, diet and lifestyle modifications, nervous system regulation, and more.) “Nurturing each of these pieces will ensure your results will be more sustainable and long-term.”