We need to maintain a healthy gut because most diseases and illnesses – from migraines to autism to heart disease – can be traced back to dysfunctional gut health.
We talked about that last Tuesday in Why Your Gut is the Key to Good Health.
Basically, if you’ve got something you need to fix, it’s all about your guts.
For example, I suffer from debilitating migraines. The kind where I find the darkest room in the house, pull covers over my head, and wait for the end.
I can’t read, I can’t text… shoot, I can barely put together a coherent sentence.
Since I switched to real foods (about 14 months ago), I think I’ve had 2… instead of my normal one a month. After researching my last post, I’m convinced it’s because I take better care of my gut.
You could even say it took real guts to confront my health! Sorry, won’t happen again.
Horrid puns aside, let’s talk about what you can do, starting today, to improve your gut bacteria.
If you have a condition that you need to treat by healing your gut, I would suggest trying the full GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet. It was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride to treat her autistic son (whom she cured) and then used to treat hundreds of patients with neurological and psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, dyslexia, depression, OCD, autism, ADD, and more.
For that type of full-on healing, I’d recommend checking out her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
Today, let’s cover how you can improve your overall gut health, heal small problems, and stave off future problems.
[box type=”download”] Basically, this is how you should be treating your gut day in and day out.[/box]
Here are the 7 things you need to do:
1. Eat Easily Digestible Foods
I’m not saying you have to eat pureed vegetables for the rest of your life, but don’t make it deliberately hard on your digestive system. Some foods contain particles that you struggle to break down, sometimes leading to undigested food bits punching their way through your gut wall.
This is especially important if you’re trying to heal your gut – you have to rest it, just like casting a broking arm or staying off a sprained ankle.
What foods are hard to digest?
- Milk – Pasteurized milk destroys enzymes that help digestion. Even raw milk contains casein, a large protein that a compromised gut can’t digest easily.
- Grain – If your gut isn’t healthy, any type of flour (no matter the preparation) can cause damage. When your digestive system is up to full speed, it can digest properly prepared grains just fine.
- Meat – A healthy digestive system can break down meat just fine, but it can be a burden to a damaged gut.
- Fatty/fried foods – Once again, your body can handle these fine if you’re healthy (from healthy sources, of course), but large fat molecules can be difficult for a compromised system.
- Processed foods! – duh, your body doesn’t like these.
2. Limit Toxins
As technology expands, so does our ability to incorporate toxins, like, everywhere. Companies need to make stuff cheap to pass on the cheapness to us. They cheap out by putting in harmful chemicals they can produce for pennies.
These toxins destroy our gut bacteria. Healthy bacteria gets replaced by bad bacteria, which actually grows and feeds off of our bad diet. It’s a pretty terrible cycle.
Here’s a short list of major toxin sources:
- Tap water
- Processed foods
- Personal care products
3. Substitute Personal Care Products
Speaking of personal care products… let’s make this its own point 🙂
Some people think our bodies are like a complete barrier between the inside and the outside world. Guts stay in, chemicals and other nasties stay out.
Unfortunately, that’s not really how our skin works. Stuff definitely passes through. Think about sweat – it comes out through our skin, doesn’t it?
What about lotion? We can easily rub that into our skin.
The stuff we use on our bodies, over time, seeps into our systems. A small amount of chemicals from your deodorant, shampoo, body wash, and soap, used every day for years, adds up to lots of toxins being absorbed in your body.
[box type=”info”] Did you know that the majority of breast cancer in women occurs in the same area where women apply deodorant?[/box]
Or that a recent study showed cancer-causing chemicals in most soaps and shampoos we use?
Toxins like these, absorbed continually over time, destroy our beneficial gut bacteria and install a new dictatorship of evil bacteria to rule with an iron fist (get it? Because bad bacteria thrives on iron? HAHAHAHAHAHA… No? Only I got that joke? Well, I laughed).
Probiotics are organisms we eat that help our good gut bacteria to grow.
Unfortunately, companies realize how much money there is in health foods such as probiotics and mass produce altered versions of the original – and still label it healthy. Head on over to Whole Foods Market… you’ll find stuff that’s only slightly healthier than the Walmart version for 5 times the price.
It’s the same with probiotics – unless you’re getting them from a very trusted source or making them yourself, I wouldn’t bother.
Some great sources of probiotics are
- Fermented condiments
- Fermented fruits/veggies
- Yogurt (not cheapo Walmart stuff – homemade or from a great source)
Getting in ALL those things ALL the time is a tall task for most of us – we didn’t even start doing kombucha until a few months ago, and we’ve never fermented any fruits or veggies. My suggestion would be to pick 1-2, study up, and work on incorporating those.
We’ve been doing kefir for quite a while, but within the past three months we’ve added kombucha, sourdough, and fermented condiments.
5. No Processed Foods
Yeah… covered this one pretty good.
6. Stay Away from Unnecessary Antibiotics
I mentioned this last week in the prequel, but the gist is that we’ve become trigger-happy with the antibiotics.
I know from my extensive research of Netflixing Dr. House that antibiotics are used all the time, even when doctors aren’t sure if they’re needed.
Kidding about the Dr. House part, not about the antibiotics being overused.
They’re used kinda like poppin’ a Tylenol. Oh, you have a slight chance of infection? Take this antibiotic, even though it’ll destroy your gut bacteria, severely compromising your immune system and many other processes in your body.
When we had Ryker 4 months ago (there he is –>) we didn’t really understand the detrimental effect that antibiotics have. Erin had a fever for a few hours during delivery, prompting the doctors to put little Ryker on constant antibiotic treatments for the first few days of his life.
He showed no signs of infection, yet they still administered antibiotics at this critical part of his life (and life of his gut bacteria). I wish we had been better informed when this happened. That experience shows that sometimes our society is quick on the draw without considering side effects.
7. Bone Broths
Bone broths have long been considered some of the healthiest foods to consume because of their terrific gut-healing properties. In fact, our naturopath recommends 4-5 cups per day of bone broth when working to fix your gut.
Bone broths are basically boiled bones, seasoned with veggies, spices, and herbs. This helps our bodies get minerals and nutrients from parts of the animals that we don’t normally consume. A big part is the gelatin that can be extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissue. Gelatin has a tremendous ability to heal damaged tissues in our bodies, along with helping food to move along our digestive tract.
The next time you roast a chicken, save the bones and boil them in a big stock or crock pot. Toss in some veggie scraps (we always keep a bag in our freezer… hippie nerds…), some peppercorns, bay leaves, lots of sea salt, maybe a head of garlic and an onion. Really, it’s just whatever you have on hand. Cook for several hours in a stock pot, or a day or two in a crock pot (with a chicken, cook until the bones get soft), strain, and store in the freezer.
This stuff is much tastier than store bought, and is one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
You can also do the same with beef and fish bones – since beef bones are so big, I cook for 3 days or so on low in a crock pot.
Long-Term Gut Healing
Now, I mentioned above that serious issues can probably be treated best with a rigid program like the GAPS protocol.
However, if you’re someone who’s just picked up real foods in the past few years or months, you might be (justifiably) concerned about your gut health, even if you’re not showing obvious symptoms.
After all, you probably ate junk food for most of your life, and a few months of sourdough and kombucha ain’t going to wipe away that damage.
What I did to help heal my gut and eliminate toxins stored in my body was to do a 7 day juice cleanse. I’ll go into that another day, but it’s a great option (when done correctly) to give your gut a rest and provide insane amounts of nutrients. Plus I lost 12 pounds.
Another, less drastic, action is to make a concerted effort to heal your gut for 15 or 30 days. You can follow the list I’ve given above religiously – like even more than you would normally – and give your gut an extended chance to heal.
[box type=”bio”] Avoid the list of hard-to-digest foods, eliminate toxins, take in lots of probiotics, and drink bone broths like crazy. When you’re done, continue to try to eliminate toxins, but add back in the milk, meat, and healthy grains.[/box]
That’s all I got for ya today – hopefully you’ve seen why your gut health is the key component to your overall health and how you can take care of it!