I am sorry for all of the times I fed you things that upset you. I promise I am trying my best to understand what you need. It feels so complicated -- you need probiotics, so Google says eat yogurt, but I am allergic to dairy. You need fiber, but carbs make me feel blue and bloated. You have a microbiome of your own, but you did not come with a user manual. Honestly, what are you looking for? How can I heal you without stressing out every time I eat?
Gut health. A dominating concept in medicine at the moment -- so much so that it can feel overwhelming to digestion the abundance of seemingly contradicting information readily available. This is because healing your gut is a personal process with some general principles. If you are serious about healing your gut, schedule a free 15-minute conversation with me here or find someone in your community that specializes in gut health to find a tailored plan for you.
There are some general principles that should be helpful for anyone hoping to optimize their gut health. Most people know that taking a probiotic is a helpful step forward for their gut to become stronger, but there is more to it than just taking more pills. Healing your gut is an intentional period of time to allow your body to reset. Here are some commons steps to take (or not take) when you want to heal your gut naturally.
Going gluten-free has become easier than ever. The diet choice became trendy around 2012 and has increasingly become easier and easier to accommodate while living a “normal” life. Most restaurants are equipped to handle a gluten-free guest, stores offer gluten-free bread, crackers, and treats and even if you face push back from your grandma that “gluten-free is a sham”, most people will be generally accepting of this nutrition choice.
There are different aversions to gluten for different people; some are allergic, some have sensitivities to gluten, and/or some might be eliminating gluten because they are trying to heal (but they have no known allergies or sensitivities). Those who are allergic to gluten might experience hives, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, joint pain, skin problems or even unexplained weight loss. Those who have gluten sensitivity may experience similar problems but with less severity. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks itself if it is exposed to gluten (as well as other foods). The difference between a sensitivity and celiac disease is the longterm harm that is done to the body (short term bloating vs. an immune response).
Why you might consider going gluten-free
- Promotes digestive health
- Many people are sensitive and don’t know it!
- Decrease overall inflammation and bloating
- Increased energy levels
- Increased immune response
- Weight loss
- More room for foods that heal your body!
A word of caution
If you are attempting to be strictly gluten-free, many items that you would assume are gluten-free contain gluten, have been made in a factory with gluten or have been exposed to gluten in other ways. When buying from a store, check that the item is certified GF.
The same goes for eating out. In restaurants, just because the food that you ordered technically does not have gluten does not mean that it is safe. If you are attempting to heal your gut, I recommend eating at restaurants that are specifically gluten-free friendly. Additionally, have a discussion with your waiter beforehand and make sure that the chef is aware of your needs. Reminder: you are need being needy, you are being an advocate for your health!
Lastly, if you have decided to go gluten-free for the purpose of healing your gut, it is safest to make all of your meals from home. Try 30 days without eating out and see if it makes a difference.
The Problem With Your Vegetables
For most people, vegetables are a staple in a healthy gut diet. Vegetables can be tricky for people who suffer from IBS, but for the majority of the population, they can have healing properties for your gut. BUT. Vegetables have their own personality. They want to be eaten in specific ways and they even pair best with particular other foods. If you are trying to heal your gut but don’t find your vegetables are helping, you are probably eating them wrong.
Cruciferous vegetables are the most nutrient-dense vegetables there are. Cruciferous vegetables include leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, maca, turnip, Brussel sprouts, and more. It is common to add leafy greens to a smoothie and assume that this is giving your body an edge up. But in reality, you are actually making it harder for your body to digest the smoothie and you are likely not absorbing the nutrients you thought you were adding.
An easy solution to getting the most out of cruciferous vegetables is to cook them before you eat them. This makes the vegetable easier to digest and gives your body a better fighting chance to absorb the nutrients from the vegetable.
Another thought on the healing power of vegetables is to consider nightshades. Many people assume that all vegetables are created equal, but this is simply not the case. If you are finding you have increased digestive issues after eating vegetables, consider if these vegetables are nightshades. Many people have minor to major intolerance to nightshades. Nightshades include vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers. This is why diets like the AIP diet encourage you to eliminate nightshades during the elimination phase of your diet.
What we thought we knew about vegetables is being challenged in modern health research. Eating plant-based used to be the ideal epitome of health, but then we discovered diets like keto, and even more interesting, the on-going debate of the carnivore diet. While I wouldn’t encourage every person to eat a carnivore diet, I might encourage someone with chronic digestive issues to give it a try for a period of time. You can read about my experience with the carnivore diet here!
Drink Your Broth
I will sing praises of bone broth until my dying days. As someone who has struggled with chronic digestive issues and has worked to heal my gut for decades, when I find something that is actually magic I am going to tell the world. That’s exactly what bone broth has been to me. A mug full of magic.
When it comes to bone broth, I highly recommend making your own. There is no better way to know what is in something than to be the one who makes it. I recommend using an organic, hormone-free, free-range chicken to start, as well as ensuring that any additives are organic. Think of this as a magic tincture -- you want to invest in the best of the best for your ingredients because it is medicine for your body.
Not only are the properties of bone broth spectacular, but it is a liquid which means that your body will have an easier time digesting the nutrients. This can be so helpful when you are in the process of healing your gut! It’s the best of both worlds. You are administering medicine in a way that is easiest for your body to absorb it.
Fermented foods are a crucial part of a gut-health diet. This includes sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented vegetables like beets and cucumbers, and even kombucha! Adding fermented foods to your diet means that you are adding beneficial bacteria and probiotics. I recommend having a daily serving of fermented foods to anyone trying to heal their gut.
Example Meal Plan of Gut-Healing Foods
Drink ginger tea to awaken your digestion
A lean cooked chicken breast with a side of cooked spinach (I know having protein first thing in the morning might feel foreign, but trust me, your tummy and your energy levels will thank you!)
A cooked kale salad with fermented beets, avocado oil, lemon and choice of protein
A pick-me-up smoothie with berries, collagen peptides, coconut milk, and ice
Asian inspired bone-broth chicken soup with sweet potato glass noodles, veggies and a side of fermented ginger and sauerkraut
Healing your gut does not mean that you have to forgo foods you love! Find ways to take foods that heal your gut and try them in your favorite recipes. Get creative and, above all, love your body through the process of healing.