On Day 13 I told you my history and discussed some gut issues with you and today I am going to get more practical and give some things that you can add to your diet and lifestyle to improve your gut health. Ready???
1. Eat more vegetables!! I can’t stress this enough. (Romaine lettuce aside…) The more vegetables (and fruits) that we eat, the more varied fiber sources we consume. We are also likely to get in probiotics as well as the most concentrated levels of vitamins and minerals. I do not recommend the type of juicing that separates out the skin and flesh as this eliminates all of the fiber. If you juice, juice WHOLE fruits and vegetables. And while there are some that you may hear referred to as “superfoods”, all fruits and vegetables are great to eat!
2. Probiotics. I can’t go a day without reading some new research about the benefits of probiotics. I take one daily along with a prebiotic. Probiotics are the “good guy” bacteria that normally live in our gut. Some probiotics are responsible for making antibodies and some make vitamin K and others act as ninja warriors to keep the “bad guys” in check. Research is showing that probiotic bacteria produce hormones and neurotransmitters. They are likely at least partly responsible for our moods. Bacteria appear to be responsible to weight control and the number and type of bacteria can be manipulated to cause weight loss or gain in mice studies. Human studies are underway to see if this effect holds true in humans. They do an amazing amount of work. Human cells are greatly outnumbered by bacterial cells in our body. In other words, we are made up of more bacteria than human cells! Whoa!! Take a probiotic supplement with multiple strains. The more varied the bacteria in our guts, the healthier our guts are.
3. Fermented foods. Mainly because they contain probiotics. I love kimchee. Sauerkraut, real pickles, beet kvass and kombucha all contain probiotics. Add kimchee to stir fry or fried rice. I eat it straight up or in salad.
4. Eliminate foods that cause you discomfort. Wheat, corn and dairy are the most common causes of bloating and diarrhea or constipation. you will have to experiment with these to find if they affect you. Eliminate something for 2 weeks to see if you feel better. If there is no change add it back into your diet and then try to eliminate something else. I have to avoid all gluten sources and I also have to avoid plain milk. I take the next item when I eat cheese.
5. Try digestive enzymes. My probiotic supplement contains digestive enzymes and I also have a separate tablet form of enzymes to take when I eat something I know doesn’t always agree with me. Many of us do not produce enough enzymes due to gut damage and our GI tracts can use a little boost. I find this especially helpful if I overeat! I buy one from Natural Factors at the grocery store that has multiple strains. I take that with larger meals and when I eat dairy or corn. The other one I use in the morning is from Arbonne and called Digestion Plus. This has probiotics probiotics and digestive enzymes in it. Plus its a powder instead of a pill. Get one that includes enzymes that break down fat, carbohydrates and protein. You don’t need to take separate ones since you will rarely eat a food whose only source of calories is one food type. No one I know is chugging olive oil…
6. If you have heart burn, try DGL tablets. DGL is a licorice extract that comes in chewable form. It is used in Europe as the first line defense for heartburn. Avoid using proton pump inhibitors like Protonix and Prevacid because these can cause malabsorption of important vitamins and minerals and ultimately lead to osteoporosis. Only use these if prescribed by your media provider for ulcers or if you have Barrett’s esophagus. for every day heart burn, try Natural Factors DGL. It’s cheap and it tastes like black licorice!
7. Exercise. Being sedentary slows down your GI tract. When you don’t move, neither does your bowels!! Let’s just say that avid runners are rarely constipated! Go for a walk after dinner instead of collapsing on the couch to aid digestion. Don’t lay down for at least 2 hours after a meal or you are courting heartburn!
8. Peppermint oil. Peppermint oil has been shown to help with GI upset. You can take peppermint oil in capsules or try peppermint tea. I put peppermint essential oil in my hot cocoa to make peppermint mocha.
9. Ginger. Ginger candy is yummy but ginger tea is better for upset stomachs. My favorite called Ginger Aid from Traditional Medicinals. Candied ginger can do in a pinch. Fresh grated ginger in hot water would work if you have it. I love all things ginger. In fact,, I am sipping. A cup cup of Ginger tea as I type this!
10. Fennel. Fennel is neck and neck with ginger in my book. It tastes like licorice. Yum! I use fennel essential oil in my toothpaste and I add it to my homemade perfume. It is found in many of the digestion blends sold by essential oil companies. Although I like to eat fennel I find it more convenient in essential oil form. You can add it to tea or just put a drop on our tongue. Remember, ONLY use essential oils meant for ingestion (eating) if you are going to do this with fennel, peppermint, ginger or any other essential oil. Young Living sells a line of edible oils.
11. L-glutamine. L-glutamine is an amino acid that helps with gut healing. It is used for those with Inflammatory conditions and those undergoing chemotherapy. L-glutamine was recommended to me when I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I do not currently take this but have a 7-day “body cleanse” supplement I plan on trying that contains L-glutamine and aloe Vera. If I find it helpful, I ‘ll let you know.
As with anything, always consult your medical provider before taking any supplements. This is especially important if you take any other medication. Herbs and supplements can seen innocuous because they are “natural” but even “natural” medicines are, in fact, medicines and need to be treated with respect. They can interact with your prescription and over the counter medications and may be contraindicated with some medical conditions. This is also true in pregnancy. Talk to your medical provider first!
One other word of caution: do not take any supplements designed to “purge” or “detox” you via stimulants that cause you to run to the bathroom with loose stools. This is dangerous and can cause electrolyte imbalances and dehydration. Basically, you can DIE so please do not take these. Senna is a common ingredient in those types of products. Stay away. Only use senna in tablet form if you are genuinely constipated. Then, it works but can be habit forming so still use caution and only use it according to the package directions.
Ok, here’s to our healthy guts!!