When I was in college, I was dealing with a lot of digestive issues. Gluten was on my radar just because I noted how well I felt when I didn't eat bread. So I eliminated it, just to see what would happen. My energy levels increased, my mind felt clearer, and my digestive issues went away. I thought that was the end of it. I would just avoid gluten forever.
When I became sick with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, I had to turn to nutrition to dig my way back to the top. Steady choices every single day that supported my health from then to now totaling 8 years. But because of the injury that my body was fighting, my nervous system became extremely imbalanced. I was stuck in fight or flight mode, and couldn't get into rest and repair. And again...the digestive issues returned but even more so. If you want to learn more about how and why that happens, research into the Dorsal Vagal Complex and Polyvagal Theory. It's too much for me to get into, but if you're a nerd about these things, then you will be riveted.
So addressing my nervous system was part of healing my gut. I started by visiting a chiropractor that was educated in this type of disease, and focused on balancing my nervous system. So that when I did give my body good nutrition, it could actually use it. I had never seen a chiropractor before this, and the only reason that I pursued it was because I had prayed about my next steps and had a major finger pointing to chiropractic care. I was so scared and skeptical at first, but my healing has been the proof of that therapy. Along with an incredible friendship and advocate for my health.
When I started to address the gut directly, I read about the GAPS protocol. It's an enormous book, but the basics are consuming food that are nourishing to the gut. These types of foods include bone broth, traditionally fermented foods (not the kind on the grocery store self), eliminating foods that are harder to digest, while giving it foods that are easy to digest. This helps the gut to rest and repair.
8 years later, I still apply these principles into our nutrition. We use bone broth in place of regular broth as much as possible. We included fermented foods on our plates. and I prepare grains and beans to help break them down to digest easily.
I was completely grain-free for years, and now I can do sprouted spelt flour, sourdough bread, and rice just fine. The sprouting and fermenting has been essential not just for digestion, but also to help release the nutrition of the grain.
There is a supplement that I have liked called Restore. Its a mineral supplement, not a probiotic, that helps repair and maintain tight junctions in the gut lining. As a byproduct, it helps promote a more diverse healthy microbiome, better cell-to-cell communication, and prevents food and chemicals from entering the blood stream through the compromised gut tissue.
A word on probiotics. When I began this journey, I had no idea what was a good probiotic. Now I know there are a few things to know about. You need prebiotic fiber to get the probiotic to "stick". You get this with fermented foods, and you can get this in some probiotics at the store. You just need to read labels. The prebiotic fiber ensures that your expensive probiotic doesn't just pass through and is literally flushed down the toilet. Soil/Spore Based Probiotics ( SBO's) are very interesting to me. They have better survivability through stomach digestion, so it can actually make it into the intestines to balance the flora. So it seems to have the upper hand on potency and stability (shelf stable and not needing to be refrigerated, making it great for travel). Ancestrally, we got probiotics from the soil and playing in the dirt. So it makes sense.
So I have to say this. I am not a doctor, nor do I have any authority to say these things are 100% for all people. This is just MY story. I don't think one style of eating is appropriate for all people. But I do think that there is wisdom in using nutrition as one tool to support your body towards health. And it is something that you have control over. You get to make that decision a few times a day with potential to move it closer to healing and vitality. So here are some small steps to get you going if you are totally overwhelmed.
Make bone broth. You can find great recipes anywhere. This is my favorite book of broth recipes. If you have an electric pressure cooker, you can make this in a fraction of the time that I had to make it in the beginning. Keep a jar in the fridge, and freeze the rest in 2 cup serving sizes for you to pull out when a recipe calls for broth. If you have it in the budget, buy bone broth at the store. It is expensive for only a little product. Thats why learning to make your own might not be a bad idea. It will also bring depth of flavor to any recipe. I really liked to warm a small cup of bone broth and drink every day with a little pinch of pink himalayan salt in the afternoons when I felt that afternoon slump hit.
Add fermented foods to your plate! Bubbies sauerkraut in the refrigerated section is so great. You don't need a ton, just a few fork-fulls. Kimchi is amazing and spicy. If you have access to good quality raw milk, you can use the whey to lacto-ferment your own veggies. I used to make a lacto-fermented lemonade that was amazing. And now I'm wondering why I stopped making it? Because it is DANG good. Add Kombucha to your life, its a fizzy tea with probiotics. Not all yogurts are created equal--Skyr yogurt is one of the best.
Swap your normal grains to a sprouted grain. Sprouted rice is the easiest swap. You can buy sourdough bread at most stores. Just check the ingredients and make sure its a real sourdough. Ezekiel bread is sprouted and located in the freezer section. They make a flax english muffin that has such a good nutritional profile. If you are grain free...Siete brand will be your best friend. They make tortillas (freezer section) and chips that are incredible.
If you are dealing with a sensitive stomach and aren't quite sure what the irritant is. Try an elimination diet. I would cut out gluten and dairy first, those are usually the top offenders. Dr. Axe has more information here. And if you're wondering what to eat, search for Whole 30 Recipes to get ya going, and consider doing a WHOLE30!
If you're like..." forget this...it is too much". One product that I think would help you and would be very easy for you to implement is Collagen Peptides. You can put it in your morning coffee, add it to smoothies, and even add a few scoops to some of your baked goods. This takes the least amount of effort and time for all my busy readers, making it an ideal small step to improve your health. I use Ancient Nutrition because they have a multi-collagen with 5 different sources of collagen. But it basically seals and heals the gut. Here is more information if you want it! And here is a link to order it!
A healthy gut is so important for your immune system, mental health, and nutritional uptake. It was a very long road for me. So be patient. There is no quick fix with gut issues. It takes a long time to develop and it takes time to heal it. These are the things that worked for me, and have proven to be the core elements of getting my guts straightened out.
Now, I am able to eat most things without reactions to it. When I began this process, I didn't know that would be possible. I really just wanted to get well and enjoy food. I've been able to incorporate some gluten containing foods without any symptoms. I choose to avoid it most of the time anyways because there are usually better options with more nutrition. But if I am sharing a meal with someone that cooked a beautiful pasta dish and bread, I will be just fine. And I have hope that you can enjoy that same freedom in your future as well.
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