Probiotic..check, now what?! Gut Health Part 1
In 2008 when John was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, as with many diagnosis, I immediately sat down to my new best friend google. we became instant friends and enemies for the next 4-5 years as i navigated a way to get myself and my family through this difficult period. The more i read and researched, talked to doctors, and of course other cohort moms, the area of “gut health” just wouldn’t go away. I veered away as much as i could out of total fear because it seemed such an overwhelming and exhausting subject- how could i possibly, as a new mom at 29 years old, help my child’s gut health? fast forward - or not so fast because the days felt extremely long at times-to now its a buzz term and found in almost every health book, magazine, post, blog, and almost every doctor talks about it.
So far we all know we should be taking a probiotc with as many billions of cultures as possible every day. check. ok now what? Heres where this subject takes many twists and turns and where hopefully i can narrow the basic strategies down a couple different ways.
There is a misconception that gut health is simply related to your bowel movements etc. Although this is a major part it is also important to remember that gut health is the cornerstone for your health and immunity. There are over 95% of serotonin receptors located in the gut AND over 6 pounds of bacteria! So what we eat really does matter. Gut health is ultimately important because these bacteria that we have (90% of us is bacteria) assist us with breaking down our food during digestion and help produce vital nutrients. To be optimal we need a good balance of bacteria for proper digestion and absorption of these nutrients. This cycle and process is extremely important for immunity, health and vitality, anxiety, cognition, memory, natural detoxification, exercise performance, growth in children, weight loss, and overall brain function, just to name a FEW…
A lot of times people ask me why we have to go to these lengths and our bodies aren’t doing it for us? There are many reasons for this but we now see the world we live in, our choices and behaviors that we aren't able to do it on our own:
poor nutrition; We are surrounded by a variety of inflammatory foods that kill our good gut bacteria and allow the bad to live freely. There are many more processed (box type) foods than generations before us therefore the probiotic nature of traditional foods has been destroyed.
stress and modern medicine; our world consists of chronically tired and busy humans trying to do their best but not always taking good care of their bodies. This is where antibiotics come in- very detrimental to the gut but easy and efficient when sick to keep up the busy pace of life. there is also research that the oral contraceptive pill harms the good gut bacteria as well.
If you have headaches, unusual cravings, mood swings, bloating, constipation, gas, heartburn, brain fog, fatigue/exhaustion, depression, it is time to see your doctor and do your own serious research on healing your gut. there are some relatively simple ways - i call them level 1- things you can do:
FOODS!! this should be the ultimate in gut awareness. Not only what you are putting into your body but how you feel after- do you have bloating? are you sluggish? is your stomach upset? do you have brain fog/headaches after eating certain foods? its not always possible to eat clean, whole and unprocessed foods however if you take one small step you will begin to see your overall vitality change. There is easy testing available however I often recommend an elimination diet for gut health to start. This is a great way to learn your body even deeper and get some answers you have been looking for. This may include a diet without grains and sugar, of course it all depends on the individual.
Eat more fermented foods ( dairy free options and vegan); these foods contain billions of beneficial microbes that will help drive out pathogens and they also help pre-digest for us so we have greater access to nutrients. This is also a relatively cost effective way to begin whether you make your own fermented vegetables or buy them!
Bone Broth; This is another cost effective way to heal your gut. It is easy to make (stay tuned for recipe!) and keeps for a long time. Bone broth has so many rich minerals it truly is one of natures superfoods. It is packed with calcium, magnesium, phosphorus as well as gelatin and collagen for cell integrity. This is a great healer for those with Hashimotos and Celiac disease as well.
Probiotic yogurts, Keifer ( there are dairy free options), and kombucha- coconut yogurt is available now with probiotics and easy to make as well. these are decent options, although not as strong as whole foods themselves. kombucha can be bought or made but make sure the ingredients are not filled with sugar and its from a good source.
There is so much more to our gut and how the microbiome operate than this level 1, however just being aware of how you feel will open up your receptivity to even more information on this subject. Its a big one and super fascinating when you get even deeper! Stay tuned for A LOT more on this -my favorite health topic-coming up very soon!!