gut health

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Got That Gut Feeling?

I talk about preparing and eating healthy food a lot, so I guess it’s only natural that the subject of gut health would somehow come up in conversation.  It is finally getting some much deserved “buzz” in the media as many experts talk about the incredibly important link between what happens in your gut and the overall state of your physical, mental and emotional health.  I always knew it was responsible for the obvious things – digestion, weight gain/loss, etc. but do you know that serotonin, that ever so important balancer of our moods is primarily found in the gut?  What about the immune system?  Did you know that it is also primarily found in the gut?  So many reasons to have a healthy, balanced gut, and there are so many things that go badly when it’s not.  (Yes, I’m personally familiar with many of those!)

It is my opinion, and my personal experience, that healing your gut is the foundational step that needs to happen in order to heal anything else that might be going on.  Think of your car as a great example.  Say you’ve been putting in the wrong type of fuel and all of a sudden, the motor starts making a weird noise, or the fuel injection is freaking out and the car just doesn’t accelerate the way it is supposed to.  Maybe the car just stops working entirely, so you bring it into the shop.  Now they can fix all they want to under the hood, they can even totally replace your engine, and your fuel injection system.  It’s still not going to work right  – you’re putting in the wrong fuel!

Same thing is true with our bodies.  They run on the fuel we choose, every meal, everyday.  Everything we eat and drink is a specific choice towards or away from a happy gut, and a healthier you.  To add to that mix, things like stress management, how much sleep you get, etc. all have an additional impact.

So, if it’s time to see if your gut might be causing/adding to some of the health issues you are having, I have a few suggestions on which way to head down your road to recovery.  Obviously, there is not just one way down this path, but I can share some of the things I’ve learned along my journey in hopes they may help you with yours.

HELPFUL STEPS TO TAKE TOWARD HEALING YOUR GUT

1.GET SMART

However you get your information, get as much as you can.  Books, internet, T.V. specials, YouTube videos….. we live in the information age, so we certainly can’t complain about lack of knowledge.  The trick, of course, is discernment.  Check your sources.  You’ll learn which voices to listen to amongst the crowds of people talking about health and wellness.  Be a healthy skeptic as you get to know who they are and if what they are saying makes sense to you.  You might be surprised at where your answers come from. (Check down below for some of my favorite resources.)

2.  GET HELP

Just as we have lots of sources of information available to us, we also have a lot of different types of health care providers available.  Finding someone that specializes in or is at least knowledgeable about gut health is imperative.  In my opinion, that is typically not your primary MD or other allopathic doctor.  There are certainly exceptions, but even my doctor friends have told me that they get next to no training in nutrition (still!) and really can’t help until something goes wrong.  Instead, you might look for a functional doctor, integrative doctor, wellness doctor or practitioner, or a Naturopath and see if they can give you the assistance you need.

3.  GET TESTED

Although you can certainly start healing your gut without them, you might consider having your practitioner order some tests to find out if there is anything going on in your gut that you should know about.  Some tests aren’t all that fun, I will tell you, but knowledge is power!   See if you can pinpoint or at least get an idea as to which part of your gut might be giving you a problem.  For example, your tummy might be digesting food just fine, but your issues begin in the small intestine.  You might even have food allergies or sensitivities.  It’s important to know what’s up and what needs some attention.

Best case scenario is that it’s all working just fine, it’s just out of balance.  Most people have guts that are full of “bad” bacteria and are sorely lacking in the “good” bacteria.  That comes from our food/drink choices, toxins in our environment, stressful lifestyles, heavy metal toxicity, and the big one – the heavy use of antibiotics not just being prescribed but added to our food sources.  Every time we ingest antibiotics, we are killing off bacteria, so the “good” bacteria is lost along with the “bad”.  We all know about the diarrhea that often comes with a round of antibiotics, but there are many other side effects as well.  I have been told that just one round of antibiotics can do a pretty good job at destroying your gut bacteria.  Considering I was on antibiotics constantly during my childhood, is it any wonder I have had to learn about healing my gut?!

4.  GET COOKING

There are so many easy ways to make your gut happier and your body healthier, and most of those start in the kitchen.  In my experience, it’s usually easier to start adding more of the foods that feed the good bacteria (more veggies, high fiber, lots of greens, fermented foods) so it makes it much easier to stay away from the foods that are less healthy, and feed the bad bacteria (sugars, grains).  The resources below include lots of great information about how to implement a gut-healthy eating plan

5.  GET PRO – ACTIVE

Because of my health challenges over the years, including weight issues, food allergies, etc., I have spent years of fine tuning when it comes to what I eat.  But it wasn’t until I really paid a lot of attention to gut-healing foods that I really noticed a huge difference.  The big category of foods that helped the most was fermented foods, a natural source of probiotics that help to make your gut balance healthy.  I had taken probiotic supplements for years but I found that, for me, adding probiotics via food was much more efficient.

A couple of my favorite go-to fermented foods are:

  • Plain, unsweetened coconut yogurt  – So Delicious makes the only one I know about (dairy free) but I really like making my own at home (it’s yummy!).  It has become a great treat with a bit of chopped fruit or wild blueberries.  (Don’t make the mistake of eating yogurt with all that sugar in it – it actually can make the problem worse by feeding bad bacteria, regardless of what all those commercials say!)

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  • Raw sauerkraut -I have just a few bites at dinner each night.  It is a huge help in getting all that good bacteria into your gut!  It is simple to make at home either with just cabbage or mix a few veggies together.  There are many ways to do it, but here’s a link to how I got started.  There are also some great sauerkraut products ready made and found in your local health food/whole food stores.  Look for them in the refrigerated section and make sure the label includes like “Fresh”, “Probiotic”, “Raw” or “Fermented”.  Here are a few that I like – Farmhouse Culture is organic and comes in several flavors, while Trader Joe’s brand is not organic but significantly less expensive:

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  • Celery Juice – One of the newest additions to my food regimen is perhaps the most unexpected, at least it was to me.  I heard Anthony William speak about the benefits of celery juice, of all things, and I had to try it.  I am a big advocate of green smoothies, but I rarely had my juicer out since I totally overdid making fresh fruit juices a bunch of years ago.  Fresh fruit juice is so yummy, but way too much sugar for me, so I am now re-learning how to make super healthy veggie juices.  Celery juice is beneficial for many systems in the body, but it’s super great for bringing helpful HCL (digestive acid) to the whole digestive system.

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6.  GET RESOURCES:

As I mentioned before, there are a lot of experts putting out information on gut health.  These are a few of my favorites:

SKINNY GUT DIET by Brenda Watson – she has been the go-to woman for digestive health for years, has many books out, and a number of PBS specials.  I think she is informative, easy to understand, and a great resource.  Even if you don’t follow the specific diet outlined in this book, I think it’s the best overall resource for all things relating to gut bacteria.

WHEAT BELLY BOOKS by Dr. William Davis – great resource for what happens when we eat grains and how you can regain your health when you change the type of diet you are eating.  He also has a good PBS special on occasionally so check your local listings!

YOUR PERSONAL PALEO CODE by Chris Kresser – although geared more towards a Paleo lifestyle (again, you can ignore the diet plan and recipes) but he has a good explanation about gut health.

MEDICAL MEDIUM – SECRETS BEHIND CHRONIC AND MYSTERY ILLNESS AND HOW TO FINALLY HEAL by Anthony William – This book doesn’t come out until November, but he is doing a radio show on Hay House Radio that is really informative.  He might be a little “out there” for some people, but I find his nutritional information to be really helpful.  His Facebook and Twitter posts about healthy foods are great!

BODY ECOLOGY DIET by Donna Gates – Pretty much the gold standard when it comes to fermentation and a serious commitment to gut health.  It might be a bit overwhelming for a beginner, but full of great information as you want to learn more.

All these authors have great resources on websites, Facebook, Twitter, their PBS specials, newsletters in addition to their books.  These are just a handful of my favorites, but there are so many others.  I would love to know your favorites so feel free to share!

There is so much to this topic!  I hope this gets you motivated to start healing your gut today.  The most important lesson I have learned is to be your own health care advocate!  It’s your gut, your health, your life, so be sure to get the help that you need to have the healthiest life possible!