For many of us, gut health issues can be very debilitating and uncomfortable. What starts off as a bit of mild bloating here and there, often snowballs and over time turns into extreme bloating, cramping, constipation, IBS, diarrhoea (which is often a result of severe constipation), headaches, loss of energy and all of the other side effects that we simply cannot ignore.
What causes this change? Why can't we go on and continue eating the same junk foods and living the same chaotic and stressful lifestyles as we once could? Well, it all comes down to your gut health and the balance of bacteria that remains in your colon.
Overtime, with an acidic diet compiling of poor food choices, not enough hydration, a toxic overload from the chemicals in today's environment and more than likely, a consistent stream of some form of stress - you have slowly depleted your colon of the good bacteria it needs to fight off parasitic infection and allowed the bad bacteria to take over. Too much acidity in the body feeds disease, parasites and other pathogens and needs to be corrected by introducing more alkaline substances. As 95% of your body's serotonin (neurotransmitter that sends signals about our feelings of wellbeing and happiness) is produced in your colon, this imbalance of gut bacteria and toxicity will affect you as a whole, including thoughts, focus, moods and emotions.
So, in short - you've destroyed your healthy gut biome and now there is an imbalance in your body that will remain until you make some serious diet and lifestyle changes.
Now....where to start!?
My first answer to this is always to do a colon cleanse. Book yourself in for a colon hydrotherapy treatment, take some magnesium oxide, try some enemas (not the little fleet ones that you get from the chemist - a big enema bag that you fill yourself) and wash away all of the toxic waste that your body is stubbornly holding onto.
Only once your colon is clean can you absorb your nutrients properly and make use of the wonderful foods Mother Nature intended us to eat. Cleansing the colon will also rid the body of its accumulation of stagnant mucoid which if left untouched will eventually back up into the lymph and other body tissues. If you don't clean out your colon regularly, it's kind of like missing bin day...and we all know how that ends. The smell, the maggots....need I say more. Clean it out. Regularly.
Once you do a colon cleanse, these are some general diet recommendations to follow for a happy, healthy gut.
Food for thought:
"There are more than 85,000 colon cancer cases in the USA every year and the number is growing. Colon cancer is now the number one diagnosed cancer and although high in western societies, colon cancer is rate in those who eat a diet low in meat and high in fibre rich foods." Diet matters people!
So, here we go. Of course no one is perfect and I wouldn't expect you to take all of these on board immediately and follow them all the time , but I certainly recommend giving it a try. Always ease into diet and lifestyle changes to ensure you can make them sustainable, but once you get started, your entire body will benefit from eating whole, real foods and understanding how what you put in your body affects the your health.
List of Diet Recommendations for A Healthy, Happy Gut
1. No Processed Foods
50 years ago, less than 10% of our foods were processed. Today, close to 75% of what we eat going under some sort of processing. The processing of the food destroys many of its essential nutrients and in some cases, what is removed by the processing is then artificially re-added in resulting in different chemical ratios which does not replace the nutritional value. Most processed foods contain a high amount of salts, sugars, fats and refined carbohydrates and many have a long list of added items that are not even food at all. These are likely chemicals to enhance flavour or provide some sort of colour or aroma. Considering these have no nutritional value and our bodies are not programmed to digest such things, the continued consumption of processed foods, especially those with chemical additives, can cause metabolic breakdown and lead to a variety of diseases. This in turn severely impacts your gut and your digestive system, as your liver and colon have to work on overload to deal with this toxic foreign matter. Over 70% of all deaths in modern western societies are linked to diet, particularly high levels of fat sugar and salt. If that's not enough reason to say goodbye to the processed crap, I don't know what is. Plain and simple, eat real food with real nutrients.
2. No Gluten
Gluten is the protein found in wheat and essentially gives your gut lining a paper cut every time you eat it. It's highly inflammatory, even if you don't have "celiac disease" it can really affect you. Gluten can increase your gut's permeability and essentially lower your border control security between your intestine and your blood stream. Your gut has a very complex security system that allows the nutrients we eat to be digested and then absorbed into the bloodstream, leaving out the toxins to be eliminated by the colon. Everyday we ingest millions of random viruses, bacteria, indigestible materials like dust, and stuff that needs to be let out and not absorbed, however, when we eat gluten, this security gets compromised as the inflammation makes your intestinal lining easier to penetrate, and more of the toxic material that was meant to be eliminated sneaks through into your blood stream. This is called "Leaky Gut"and there are a range of nasty symptoms. Inflammation in the gut is only the beginning!
Foods to avoid- Bread, pasta, cakes, pizza, cookies, biscuits, beer, almost everything packaged.
3. No Sugar
Processed sugar is up to 8 x more addictive than cocaine, however instead of being an emotional one, its biological - meaning that those who consume high amounts of sugar actually significantly alter the brains mechanisms of pleasure and reward, meaning the sugar takes control and you are almost hardwired to crave it. Sugar feeds our disease forming bad bacteria, parasites and yeasts in the body. Processed sugars are heavily related to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cardiovascular disease and many others and added sugar is refined and in many forms contains chemical additives which are highly artificial.
Sugar gives a spike in energy and deprives our natural gut biome of the nutrients it needs to flourish.
Even natural sugars need to be kept in minimal amounts as they still feed bad bacteria, parasites and can cause an overgrowth of candida but many of the sweet natural varieties - fruit, honey, etc. can have a lot of other positive benefits that can be accounted for depending on the situation.
Artificial sweetener is also in no way a replacement for sugar that would be acceptable for good gut health. Splenda, sucralose, nutrisweet, etc. are all known carcinogens which are terrible for your health in general, let alone can wipe out gut bacteria. Diet coke or other soda has zero nutritional value and if anything is worse than the real thing, if that's even possible. My advice? Stay away. Addictive, sugar highs, totally acidic and whats the point if there is no nutrient content. Fruit is a beautiful thing, enjoy that and some natural sugar for a treat instead!
Foods to avoid- Lollies, cakes, soda, syrups, sauces, almost anything you buy off the shelves...
4. Avoid Processed Salt
The average western diet contains way more sodium than needed by the human body. Salty foods such as chips, popcorn, salty sauces, condiments and sandwich meats can cause fluid retention and many other issues. Rock salt and natural unrefined salts are different than the refined table salt you find at Coles - rock salt is a good source of magnesium and a pinch can be added to your water to alkalise. We need good salts in our diet, but the cheap processed stuff off the shelf or found in most foods to enhance the flavour is not that! Stay away!
5. No Dairy
Dairy is highly mucoid forming, acidic and creates inflammation in the body. Commonly the culprit of bloating and constipation, dairy can also be full of a range of different antibiotics and growth hormones that were given to the cows. Which they then pass onto you. Dairy can have a wide range of issues for gut health and is not recommended, also most of it is processed and treated removing any beneficial enzymes it once had. Bottom line - cow's milk is for baby cows...leave it that way. Almond milk, cashew cheese and coconut milk, yoghurt and ice cream are great replacements.
6. Eat Organic
Wherever possible, reduce your toxic load by choosing organically grown produce. Removing pesticides and other chemicals from your food will greatly increase the nutritional content and wont kill off your good gut bacteria that are essential for digestive and overall health! Pesticides are also known to interfere with hormone levels, and can cause an array of mischief once they hit the bloodstream. If you choose to eat meat, organic meat is especially important as conventional contains antibiotics, growth hormones and all of the pesticides the animals have consumed.
7. More Fibre
Fibre is essential for good gut health as it feeds our gut biome! In order to make sure our colon can eliminate effectively, we need to get enough fibre found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans, etc. Fibre helps to lower the blood cholesterol and stabilises blood sugar levels. Fibre helps prevent colon cancer cancer, constipation, obesity, haemorrhoids, IBS and much more as it collects carcinogens and binds they together so they can be removed from the body.
There are 6 forms of fibre which each play their own part. Soluble fibre forms a gel in the intestinal tract by absorbing water an swelling as much as 10 times its weight. It slows down the passage of food and gives us a full feeling which can aid in weight loss as well. Psyllium husk (seed from the psyllium plant) is a popular fibre to bulk up and create good bowel movements and can help soften stools. Soluble fibres have a strong effect on stabilising blood sugar, reducing bacterial toxins, speeding up bile-acid excretion, and reducing gas.
Insoluble fibre does not break down during digestion, it can be found in grains, and well as fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fibres are effective at appeasing the appetite, reducing bacterial toxins, speeding up the elimination of waste softening stools absorbing toxins, and improving bowel disorders. In short- fibre is awesome and you cannot get enough of it!! If you are not used to eating a high fibre diet, it may cause some gas and bloating during the transition. Again, colon cleansing will help eliminate this issue and just persist until you get used to it. Changes, even good ones can take time.
Water is a crucial piece of the healthy gut puzzle. The recommended amount of water per day is 1 litre per 20kg of body weight. Therefore, 60 kilos, three litres of water, etc. Water helps to flush toxins through the body, cleanse the system and is necessary for all of our bodily functions. And yes, I mean nice filtered water not the tainted stuff that comes out of our taps full of chlorine, fluorite and other metals.
Don't wait until you are physically thirsty as dehydration has set in far before that. Hydration is also key for healthy bowel movements as nothing will move without water to soften it. Colonics are a great way to hydrate the entire body, as well as loosen the compacted matter in the colon to allow better absorption. Nothing is a substitute for water, add lemon if you need some flavour!
8. Loose the Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant for the central nervous system and consuming too much has been linked to high blood pressure and in some cases, an irregular heart beat. Coffee can lead to serious vitamin deficiencies and caffeine acts as a diuretic meaning that the body loses water and gets depleted of the water soluble vitamins. Decaf coffee is no miracle treat either - as it has gone through a chemical process to remove the caffeine content, decaf coffee contains other harmful chemicals to our metabolism. Theres no such thing as a free lunch peeps! Depending on the type of tea, although it has less caffeine than coffee, some of the elements can interfere with mineral and vitamin absorption. Caffeine free is always best, let your adrenals and energy production work for themselves, plus stay hydrated. If you're tired - get more sleep.
9. Eat Variety and In Season
In order to get all of the nutrients your body requires, its important to eat seasonally and change it up! Introduce lots of different vegetables into your diet.
To help your gut maintain a good bacteria balance and microbiome it is definitely recommended that you take pre and probiotics. For your colon especially you need bifidobacterium and I always recommend buying high quality brands. You can get some probiotics from fermented foods, however its difficult to tell which strands are present and how much is really still alive (if you didn't make it yourself). Gut bacteria as already mentioned, is you border security for invaders and helps keep things moving efficiently out the door. There is also a lot of research concluding your gut bacteria impacts your emotional and mental state as the bacteria in your digestive tract sends signals to the brain about your wellbeing. Nurture your good bacteria and they will take care of you!
11. Portion the Animal Protein
Although personally I am plant based and find that to be the best for my body, if you do choose to have meat its recommended you have no more than 100 grams per day. That's about the size of your fist. Animal protein is difficult to digest, is very inflammatory and should really be a side dish, not the main event. If you do have meat, ensure its organic, grass fed and no antibiotics or hormones are added. There are tons of other ways to get protein, do what you feel is best for your body.
12. Reduce Alcohol
This cant come as a surprise to anyone. Alcohol is extremely inflammatory, destructive for the liver and is usually full of sugar or gluten. Alcohol is dehydrating and affects to central nervous system, the brain, the heart, and various other organs. Alcoholic beverages and very high in carbohydrates which rob the body of needed nutrients and excessive consumption can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Alcohol to top it off destroys brain cells to metabolise glucose and severely affects the liver which is responsible for eliminating toxic material from the blood. From the gut stance and everywhere else - alcohol is best in moderation if at all and should always be consumed with food and water.
Where to go from here:
Hopefully this list of recommendations helps point you in the right direction to a happier, healthier gut and give you some ideas you haven't tried yet to improve your health. If you are already following some of these, thats great! Now you will notice, this doesn't follow any specific named diet - GAPS, Vegan, Body Ecology, Keto...etc.
There are tons of specific diets for specific conditions, this is not that. These recommendations are general and are not specific to any particular condition, but instead come from my many years of working in gut health and my own personal journey back to health. These recommendations revolve around eating REAL food that I encourage you to prepare yourself, and open your eyes to food labels to ensure you understand just exactly what you are putting into your body. It also aims to improve your gut environment, digestive function and speed up elimination by introducing some known cleansing and detoxifying foods into your diet whilst removing all the clunk. These recommendations are simple, yet effective and the explanations should make it clear why eat step is important.
Although you may now be wondering "what is left" if I cut out all of these things (a response I often get from many of my clients when I make such recommendations), thats a post for another day but the answer is "real food". Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty in the kitchen, and there is no excuse about "not having enough time to eat healthy" that is remotely relevant. Health is a choice, and if you are serious about being healthy and taking care of that precious gift, you will prioritise making healthy meals. In saying that, I truly believe it does not take any additional time to prepare healthy foods, it's simply changing your habits and finding new recipes to put on your autopilot. To put things in perspective - I am a new mother, I run my own small business, I'm a wife, a yogi and a woo girl (tribe name for my besties whom I still regularly see), so if I can find the time...so can you. Eat from the earth, buy fresh, no pesticides, cook your own food and remember the choice is yours. Best of luck!
One last recommendation...
Life for most people has some form of stress in it. Whether its extreme or mild, consistent or sporadic, high levels of continual stress can have a hugely negative impact on the gut microbe and can completely alter your gut bacteria balance. When you live in "fight or flight mode" studies have shown a change in gut flora, linking many cases from PTSD, depression, anxiety and other mental or emotional disorders with a poor gut microbe after prolonged periods of stress, and thus increasing toxicity to be reabsorbed elsewhere in the blood stream. Stress is something we have to learn to handle, from being a CEO to a parent, we all handle things differently, but for good gut health we need to ensure we lower inflammation and give our body time to rest.
The more we connect with others, the happier we are. The happier and more included we feel, the more relaxed we become and the better our bodies can function. Switch off your phone when you get home, don't check your emails at dinner and be present with your family when you do get precious time together. Inspire each other to be better, healthier versions of yourselves and make time to love and appreciate each other more. When you do, the world is a much happier, healthier place. Love will remove you from that heightened stressed state, and bring you back down onto planet earth. Spend time with people you love. The rest can wait.
Hope this give you some good ways to kick off the holiday season healthy style and get prepared for the new year! Any questions, as always, please let me know - contact me via the www.baysidecolonics.com.au website or on facebook @baysidecolonics.
Love & Light