While we are all used to hearing about belly complaints like bloating, constipation, and diarrhea (and those should be addressed! See part 1 of our gut series.), there are other less obvious indications that your gut needs some TLC. Do any of these sound like you?
- You get tired after meals or are fatigued in general.
- You have an autoimmune disease or chronic condition like diabetes, arthritis, etc.
- You have aches and pains or chronic headaches, which could be manifestations of inflammation in the body.
- You have skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, acne.
- You have food sensitivities and intolerances, whether they are known or unknown.
- You have nutrient deficiencies or other signs of malabsorption of nutrients.
If you can relate to any of those, it’s time to start taking daily action to both nourish your gut and to remove the things that got you to this point in the first place. But don’t feel overwhelmed: you can take baby steps, like any real lifestyle change that actually sticks.
The makeup of your microbiome can trace all the way back to birth, your genetics, exposure to toxins, and of course diet and lifestyle. One huge culprit in today’s world, and I’m sure many of you can relate, is stress. This causes dysbiosis and inflammation for a number of reasons.
Eating while working at your desk, watching the news, or in front of the TV can create stress which interferes with proper gut functions (and therefore brain function, immune function, and digestive function).
If, like any typical Alexandrian, you are often in a state of stress (whether good or bad), then your digestion is going to shut down naturally as a protective mechanism. When stressed, blood flow goes to the muscles, brain, and heart rather than digestive system in order to be most efficient. This leads to food not being broken down, which feeds the bad bacteria, and allows larger food particles to pass into the bloodstream, where they are recognized as toxins. This then causes an immune response and inflammation.
Think of your gut as a daily responsibility. You’re either doing things that support it or that hinder it. It’s like your internal garden, and you have to tend to it.
- Make sure you have enough stomach acid before eating. Bitters and apple cider vinegar (unpasteurized like Braggs) are natural ways to help your stomach get primed for digestion. This means you’ll break down the food.
- Probiotic foods – feed the good guys with things like sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented vegetables, kefir, and pickles.
- Eat the good fats – I’m not just talking about olive oil and avocados. Go for the nutrient dense, saturated fats that repair the gut and feed the brain like coconut oil, ghee, and grass-fed butter. Add it to your veggies, smoothies, and even your coffee or matcha latte daily.
- Drink bone broth – real, nutrient-dense broth made from free-range chicken or grass-fed bones have gut-healing properties you can’t find anywhere else. Additionally, sipping on a cup a day will help your hair, skin, and nails (another direct effect of the gut-skin connection).
- Get rid of the foods that contribute to inflammation and dysbiosis. This includes sugar, refined grains and excess carbohydrates, conventional dairy, GMO corn and soy, and industrial seed oils like canola and vegetable oils.
- Follow a gut-healing protocol. In my practice, this might look like an elimination diet, GAPS or SCD, low FODMAP, or simply adding in certain foods to get your body back into balance.