By Andrea Lee
Do you feel like you're doing your best to eat well, manage your stress, exercise regularly and avoid environmental toxins? Do you feel that even with this effort you are still feeling sluggish, foggy headed and pushing through the everyday?
Or, maybe you have more obvious deficiencies like eczema, frequent colds or digestive issues.
Many of us work hard to be healthy, yet we feel fatigued. For me personally, I was suffering from constant brain fog, low energy, depression, anxiety, bloating, gas, poor sleep and abnormal bowel movements. My symptoms were so diverse I didn't think they could all be connected. If any of this sounds familiar to you, you might wonder what was going on?
As you know what we eat is important, but what we digest and absorb into our bloodstream is what really matters. We humans have trillions of bacterial organisms that live on and inside our bodies known as our microbiota. The whole community of these bacteria is referred to as our microbiome. Our gut is the central location of our microbiome and we are dependent on these bacteria to help digest our food, produce certain vitamins, regulate our immune system, and keep us healthy by protecting us against disease-causing bacteria.
Now that you know how important our gut is to our overall health I encourage you to read on and learn more about how to care for your gut!
Changing our diet is the best and most direct route we have for transforming our gut bacteria. Anything that can feed good bacteria and keep them plentiful is good news for your health. Let’s look at some of the easy steps you can take to improve your gut function as soon as possible.
#1. Cut Out Processed Sugar & Processed Food: The bad bacteria in our gut go into overdrive when we eat too much sugar and processed foods. Although sugar is addictive and challenging to give up the positive results from kicking the sugar habit can often be seen and felt immediately.
#2. Eat More Plants: Eating more plants, especially green leafy vegetables, allows us to maintain microbiota diversity. If you are eating more plants it is only natural that you can look at consuming less red meat and animal products including dairy. Cutting meat from your diet has a huge number of health benefits – from lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and diabetes to helping you shed pounds, improve mood and boost nutrient intake. Research now shows that a vegetarian diet can alter the composition of your gut microbiome for the better.
#3. Eat Fermented Foods: Fermented food is the best kind of probiotic you can feed your gut. Sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, apple cider vinegar, and miso contain good amounts of probiotics so your healthy gut bacteria can flourish.
#4. Question Antibiotic Use: Most people understand the importance of nutrition, but what many don't realize is that the simple use of antibiotics or other prescribed medications can act like an atomic bomb in your gut. You may have a healthy diet, but following a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics, it can take weeks, months or even years for the microbes to get back into balance. Obviously there are situations where antibiotics are very necessary; however, it is important to quiz your doctor before accepting them without question.
#5. Manage Your Stress: While stress is unavoidable in our busy lives it is how we manage and interpret stress that matters. Our stress hormones can influence how gut bacteria affect the production of hormones and the neurochemicals that communicate with the brain, including ones that influence appetite. Long-term stress may lead to the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers, IBS, and even food allergies. Find ways to de-stress naturally through techniques such as exercise, massage, meditation, walks in nature, relaxing salt baths or any other method you find useful.
#6.Exercise: Many people find exercise is a great way to combat stress. The bonus is that not only will you lower stress levels, but exercise has an important influence on gut bacteria. New research has demonstrated that exercise in the early years of development has a significant impact on the diversity of the gut microbiome. That said, your intestinal bacteria continue to be influenced by your behavior so stay active and keep moving!
From personal experience, I know how hard it is to change your lifestyle and your diet. I also know how good it feels once those changes have been made. I have cut out dairy and meat, ditched my morning coffee, and replaced it with a fresh pressed juice. I have also drastically restricted my alcohol consumption and said goodbye to processed food. With these changes my anxiety disappeared, my brain fog lifted and I sleep through the night and wake rested.
I sometimes fall off the wagon when a sugary goodie presents itself or a frosty pint of beer seems so appealing. Making changes towards improving your health will take time and you must allow change to happen gradually. Be gentle with yourself and feel good about how far you have come and not how far you have to go. When I find myself challenged by what to eat I follow Michael Pollan's three simple rules for eating - "Eat food, mostly plants, not too much".
Healing your gut can help restore balance to your entire body mentally, physically and emotionally. Happiness really does start from within so what are you waiting for? Heal your gut and ignite your energy today. The next time your gut tries to tell you something, listen to it. Trust your gut!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born and raised on the West coast of BC, Andrea spent time travelling and working before settling in Whistler in 2005. As an avid yogi, hiker, biker, snowboarder, dog lover and mountain enthusiast Andrea is spreading her love for Whistler around the world working at Tourism Whistler.
After facing personal health issues, she was inspired to take action: she signed up for the Richer Health Train the Trainer program and became a Nutritional Educator.
This program opened her eyes to the power of food as medicine. Moved to learn even more, she is currently studying to become a Registered Nutrition and Health Coach at the Nutraphoria School of Holistic Nutrition, and will complete a 200 hr Yoga Teacher Training in India later this year.