Okay, this one has been a long time coming! I get a lot of messages from you guys about certain digestive health issues & how to deal with them when it feels as if you’ve tried just about everything under the sun & NOTHING seems to work! TBH, I love these questions because gut health is a topic that is SO UP MY ALLEY. I’ve done tons of research about it because it’s something I dealt with first hand in the beginning of my journey towards recovering from my eating disorder.
As you guys know because I’ve been pretty open about it to say the least, as I slowly began re-feeding my body, I dealt with all things bloating (& feeling so full that I couldn’t move), stomach pain, discomfort, constipation & overall feelings of BLAH.
First off, I feel obligated to put it out there that I’m not a nutritionist or a doctor, but I have gone through this first hand & to me, that matters. There’s just something about speaking from first-hand experience that makes issues like these more personal & relatable because I know what it feels like to go through them. Like with all things in life, it’s very hard to understand the true potential of what someone needs or is going through unless you experience it first hand. And while I don’t know the feeling or exact pain or suffering you are going through, I definitely know what it feels like to deal with digestive issues.
While some medications can bring temporary relief to some of the symptoms associated with an unhealthy gut, I strongly believe that the only way to notice a real change in your overall well-being is to change the way you eat, to supplement where necessary & reset your mindset and change your perspective & relationship with food. It’s really in doing that, that I was really able to notice a substantial difference in how I felt (in the best way possible!).
Along the way, I did do a lot of research about how to cope with the bloating & found certain things that worked for me to help it subside in the short-term (& some things, in the long-run!)
Read about them HERE: My Tips & Tricks To Fight The Bloat!
Real talk: Living with leaky gut, SIBO, IBS, gastroparesis, food allergies, constant bloating, constipation, stomach discomfort or digestive issues in general is HARD. Even just living with ONE of these conditions is HELL.
On the outside, when I first began recovery, I appeared normal & I didn’t look bloated because of how thin I was. Because of that, I never actually felt comfortable complaining about what I was going through because I was so thin & people around me would get angry. It was as if I was not entitled to feel a certain way because of the way I looked on the outside. People didn’t know what I was dealing with on the inside. Everyday was different for me.
- Some days, I felt amazing & on top of the world.
- Other days, I had anxiety as I ate my meals because I prayed that the food I was eating would not leave me bed-ridden an hour later to the point where I felt like a sumo wrestler & could hardly move. I cancelled plans last minute because I felt bloated, spent the night in and out of the bathroom & crippled in bed after every meal.
Basically, all this to say, my digestive issues rendered me in a situation where my life was unpredictable: one day I felt amazing and the next, I didn’t want to leave my bed or deal with anything other than how to make it all go away.
First things first, before I get into ANY of this, one thing that I learned (in retrospect) after having dealt with these issues is that the worst thing is to let these issues define or control you. The proper approach (although it’s hard) is to embrace it in the sense that in order to properly heal these issues, you will be more inclined to take care of your body & nourish it with the right foods & lifestyle choices. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, try to find the littlest bit of positivity amidst all the negativity & havoc that you feel & deal with daily. Being able to heal your gut will make you feel so much better, give you so much energy & actually permit you to do all the things you so badly want to do but can’t when you feel like utter cr*p (NO PUN INTENDED!).
My goal with this post is not to tell you what you need to eat every minute of the day, what behaviours you need to engage in, what supplements you must absolutely take, but rather to give you an overview of why leaky gut (or other digestive issues) happen in the first place & what you can do to help yourself (based on what worked for me!). I will share with you all the tips & tricks that worked for me & what I did to heal my gut.
Basically, how I’ve gone from being bloated for days in a row sometimes, in & out of my doctor’s office in hopes of finding ways to fix my situation, taking all kinds of natural remedies & medications & going from eating absolutely nothing to having more energy now than EVER, balanced hormones, eating a variety of foods from every food group, dealing with little to no bloating (I mean, it happens every now & then, but it’s normal) & an overall sense of health & well-being! Obviously, some days still suck. It’s normal. I’m human. But, I’m so thankful to say that now I have WAY MORE good days than bad.
What on earth is the “gut” anyway?
Now that I’ve ranted for too long, let’s talk about the GUT. For starters, every system in the body is connected. Your digestive, hormonal & immune systems are not independent of one another. At the center of it all is a properly functioning digestive system. When your gut is unhealthy, it can cause MORE than just stomach pain, gas, bloating or diarrhea.
Since 60-80% of our immune system is located in our gut, gut imbalances have been linked to hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, nervous system disorders, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea & other chronic heart problems. Your gut is LITERALLY your gateway to heath & the first step to healing or coping with whatever condition you are dealing with is to HEAL YOUR GUT.
But what does it mean to have an unhealthy or LEAKY GUT?
Leaky gut happens when your intestinal lining separates (the tight junction of your gut) & creates “holes” allowing toxins, undigested food, bacteria & any kind of substance to escape into your small intestine & enter your bloodstream. Think of the lining of your digestive tract like a net with extremely small holes in it that only allow specific substances to pass through. The gut lining works as a barrier or shield to keep out bigger particles & unwanted substances that are harmful and that can damage your system. from escaping and entering your blood stream.
When someone suffers from leaky-gut, the net in the digestive tract gets damaged, and the shield is broken, which causes EVEN BIGGER holes to develop in the net, so that things that normally cannot pass through, are now able to. Some of the things that can pass through include bad bacteria, undigested proteins & food particles & toxic waste, which can also leak from the inside of the intestinal wall into the bloodstream, causing an immune reaction.
All this to say, when the shield is broken, all hell breaks loose in the body. Your body goes into panic mode & your immune system reacts, attacks & brings out an immune response on these unwanted substances that have been leaked into your bloodstream. With each response, BAM – INFLAMMATION! It’s a domino effect: the more unwanted particles that are released into the bloodstream, the more attacks & the more inflammation & health complications the body suffers from. And sadly, this hell is a battle you will not win unless you fuel your body properly and heal your gut.
Another thing I want to mention is that leaky gut doesn’t only affect your digestive tract. It can also have an effect on the brain and nervous system. Leaky gut syndrome has in fact been linked to other psychological disorders, such as: anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability & bipolar disorders. In many cases, in healing the gut, you heal the brain.
How is leaky gut caused?
poor diet (a diet containing overly processed, refined, packaged, fried foods)
toxic overload in the body
lack of good bacteria in the gut (the more bad bacteria you have can potentially lead to damaging the gut lining, SIBO, a.k.a. small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or candida)
What are some of the symptoms associated with leaky gut?
Before we get into how to fix this, let’s discuss some of the symptoms or signs that you may have an unhealthy gut:
digestive issues, like bloating, gas & diarrhea
food allergies or sensitivities
colon issues, such as: constipation, diarrhea or IBD.
frequent infections or colds
skin problems, such as: arthritis, eczema, rosacea & psoriasis
malabsorption of vital minerals & nutrients (including zinc, iron & B12)
headaches, migraines, poor memory or concentration, ADD or ADHD, or brain fogs
immune system issues
SIBO is another symptom of having an unhealthy gut. SIBO is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. When a person has SIBO, they have an excessive amount of bacteria in the small intestine. Basically, the small intestine is home to low levels of bacteria but it has abnormally overgrown in this area. This affects digestion, absorption of food & is associated with the damaging to the lining of the small intestine (coming back full circle to leaky gut). T’s actually very common to have SIBO and leaky gut simultaneously & often times, those who have SIBO for a while develop a leaky gut.
SIBO is an issue because NORMALLY, the food meets up with all your digestive juices in the small intestine. Essential nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream & with the help of the bacteria in the colon, everything is properly digested & your body absorbs all the good stuff. BUT, if you have SIBO, you are missing out on this key factor. If your bacteria is imbalanced, you may be faced with malabsorption of nutrients & experience symptoms of IBS, and overall, this can lead to further damage of the stomach lining. Basically, everything is connected. For a person with SIBO, when food is passed through the small intestine, the infected bacteria interferes with the healthy digestion & absorption. Therefore, people suffering from SIBO must often cope with weight loss, depression, malnutrition, nutritional deficiencies, osteoporsis & so forth. It is a chronic condition, but is curable, with patience & good lifestyle choices!
Gastroparesis is ANOTHER digestive issue, which slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine. The vagus nerve (if we want to get all scientific here) is damaged by illness or injury & the stomach muscles therefore stop working normally, which leads to the stomach being unable to empty itself of food at a normal rate. The main symptom of this is that you get pretty full pretty quickly after meals (This happened to me a lot in the beginning of recovery). People often mistake this as a poor appetite, but I was genuinely FULL. What I found help with this was eating more small meals throughout the day as opposed to three large meals, that seemed like they’d just be too heavy on my depleted system.
Another concern for people with this condition is that foods that stay in the stomach too long can ferment, which can lead to growth of bacteria. Eventually, this could contribute to the possibility of leaky gut, SIBO & symptoms of IBS.
IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, is a very common disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs & symptoms include: cramping, stomach pain, constant bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation or both. Some people who have it feel worse after they eat, better after they go & it may worsen when they are stressed. You may always feel constant bloating, stomach pain, worse after you eat, better after you go. A lot of IBS is unknown, but it is one of those things that never goes away. BUT, don’t lose hope. With some lifestyle changes, such as managing your stress & changing up your eating habits, you can somewhat keep it under control & manageable on a long-term basis!
OKAY, now that I’ve explained all the nitty-gritty (which I thought was super important so that you guys could really understand what’s at the root of all of these issues), maybe you are thinking that one of the above situations defines you exactly! I know, we can all feel a little discomfort after eating certain foods or feel tension in our bellies when we are stressed to the max. We feel this in our bodies & we see just how our bodies react to certain things (anxiety, stress, toxic overload, environment, foods). And trust me, I know: it can feel so overwhelming to the point where you just don’t even know what it feels like to FEEL GOOD anymore.
In the next part of this post, I want to share everything from the foods I eat, how I manage stress & anxiety, and tips and tricks that I use to properly nourish my body! I’m not here saying that I have it all down-packed, perfect & balanced because it’s hard (I’m not gonna lie!), BUT, I want to encourage you to eat the best you can & healthily to live your best possible life, change your perspective about food & restriction, manage your stress, anxiety & everyday life effectively & & exercise because you love it & if you do that, your body will thank you & heal itself.
How to heal your gut?
So how do you go about healing your gut? There are a number of steps & changes you can make in your life to do that!
In a nutshell:
1. Start by removing the bad, a.k.a. the things that are negatively affecting the environment of the gut, i.e. inflammatory foods, such as:
|Foods that cause inflammation||Foods that fight inflammation|
|certain types of bad gluten or conventional dairy||green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, swiss chard)|
|GMO-corn||organic virgin olive oil or coconut oil|
|soy||sprouted seeds, grains or nuts (chia seeds, lentils, walnuts, ground flaxseeds, almonds)|
|refined carbs (white bread, pastries, processed refined flours, white sugar)||fatty fish & omega 3s (always WILD caught, such as salmon or tuna)|
|fried foods||fruits (berries, cherries, oranges & pineapples)|
|soda (sugary beverages)||spices (turmeric, ginger, ceylon cinnamon, cayenne pepper)|
|red meats (steaks, processed meats & other conventional meats)||dark chocolate|
|omega-6 fats (seed oils, vegetable oils, butters, conventional red meat & dairy)||garlic|
|meats/fish filled with hormones & antibiotics|
2. Replace the good. Add in the essential ingredients for PROPER DIGESTION & ABSORPTION. These things may have been depleted by poor diet, drugs, diseases or aging. I’m talking: digestive enzymes & foods that fight inflammation (see the chart above!).
3. Reinoculate: Restore beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good bacteria. This may be accomplished by taking a daily probiotic supplement that contains beneficial bacteria, as well as eating foods rich in probiotics. You might also want to consider a prebiotic supplement or taking foods that are rich in soluble fibre & prebiotics, such as tigernuts., green leafy veggies, citrus, leeks, flaxseed & apples.
Prebiotics are the fuel for our intestinal probiotics. They refer to natural soluble fibres that feed the good bacteria in our large intestine, helping to promote balanced gut flora & healthy bowers function. When our good bacteria are filed with prebiotic fibre, they produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids, one of which is butyrate, which inhibits the growth of disease-causing pathogens & maintains the health of our intestinal lining.
4. Repair. Provide the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself! One of my fave is L-glutatmine, an amino acid that helps rejuvenate the gut wall lining. Others include zinc, omega-3 fish oils, magnesium & vitamins A, C, & E.
Now that we’ve got all the facts down-packed & the “what is” of digestive health is established, let’s talk about concrete suggestions, tips & tricks that worked for me as to how I healed & nourished my body from the inside out!
My tips & tricks to heal your gut!
Not all my suggestions have to do with food & what I consume daily, but a lot of them do! I just want to put it out there that how I eat changes on a regular basis depending on how I feel. When I eat, I try and think or ask myself how is this fuelling me, what benefits is it providing me with & how is it making me feel my best.
Obviously, there’s balance involved and I am not saying I don’t have wine occasionally or eat sushi pre-knowing that I might feel weird, bloated or off after eating, but I have realized that the more negative you are towards foods, the more of a negative effect it will actually have on your body. When I have this idea or notion before I eat that X food will irritate my stomach, make me feel bloated or cause pain, it does. However, I could eat the same thing the next day with a positive attitude and usually I am not bothered by it. CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE & YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE.
Here we go!!!!!
Eat as many fresh items as possible!
When I say fresh, I don’t mean from a can, box, package or bag, no matter how good the ingredients are. What I mean is, try to do as much as you can HOMEMADE!
- If you want nut butter or nut milk, make it (it won’t contain any added refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, gums, salt, binders, fillers, chemicals artificial flavourings).
- If you want bread or cookies or other baked treats, make them (they won’t contain any refined, white, processed & packaged flours, artificial sweeteners, chemical ingredients you can’t pronounce, syrups, table salt or refined sugars).
- If you want salad dressing, make it (it won’t contain any chemicals, unhealthy oils, ingredients you can’t pronounce, artificial flavours, artificial sweeteners!).
I know, it sounds extreme & we don’t all have the time for it. But, if you do, DO IT. You also don’t have to do this for the rest of your life. If you’re in a place RIGHT NOW where you’re feeling all the symptoms associated with an unhealthy gut (& if you eat a lot of packaged, processed foods), try to incorporate these little changes NOW to help improve your situation.
Preservatives, gums, fillers, salt, binders, artificial flavours, artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, refined & processed flours can be the culprit for the way you are feeling. In fact, if there is 19% of a chemical or ingredient in a food, by regulation, it’s not required to list it in the ingredients. I’m not saying that I make everything homemade.
There are still a select few nut butters, nut milks & breads that I buy packaged / pre-made, but whenever I can, I make my best efforts to make things fresh & homemade. And when I do buy them in stores, I dissect the ingredients labels to make sure there’s nothing in them that will bloat, upset my stomach or cause any other digestive issues!
Cook your veggies!
I know, sometimes we just want that fresh crispy crunch of raw veggies & sometimes it’s fine & you won’t react to it! But, if you’re someone who constantly feels bloated & who is trying to heal your gut, you should try to cook or steam your veggies & see if it makes a difference in how you feel!
This is because some veggies need to be cooked for better absorption in the body, for example: cooking asparagus helps the body absorb more of its cancer-fighting nutrients, cooking mushrooms gives you more of the potassium-rich benefits if you take the time to sauté, roast or grill them, cooking tomatoes helps absorb more of the cancer-fighting ingredient lycopene. Brussels sprouts can cause gas, bloating or discomfort when consumed raw. As for cauliflower, it’s more easily digestible and less gas & bloating occurs. Lightly steaming it will retain the liver-cleansing enzymes it contains.
Choose your dairy wisely!
Conventional cow’s milk may also contribute to leaky gut. The component in dairy that will harm the guts the protein A1 casein. The pasteurization process also destroys vital enzymes, making sugars like lactose very difficult to digest.
When dairy is cultured, it changes the lactose in the dairy & can actually be BENEFICIAL to the gut. This is why you should always make sure to go for PLAIN grass-fed Greek yogurt, raw cheese, cultured dairy, cultured cottage cheese and dairy enriched with probiotics (such as: goat cheese or yogurts) that comes from A2 cows or goats (Goat’s milk is a lot easier to digest than cow’s milk!).
ALSO, if the product contains ANY KIND of sweetener, thickener, gum or flavouring, don’t eat it. These are the things that cause gut discomfort. You really want to go for foods that contain probiotics and SCFAs that can help heal the gut.
Try to add bone broth to your soups, chilis, casseroles, risottos, or other recipes or drink it as is with some anti-inflammatory spices, such as: turmeric or ginger!
To read all about the benefits, click here: Gut-Healthy Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Ginger Bone Broth Zoodle Soup Topped With A Boiled Egg a.k.a. Heal Your Gut & Enjoy It Too!
Bone broth helps heal & seal the gut, is full of protein & contains tons of healing compounds (collagen, which we need to help form tissues that make up the lining of the GI tract, proline, glycine & glutamine). It also contains gelatin. The collagen and gelatin are released from the bones to help heal the lining of the GI tract.
In a nutshell, bone broth has been shown to treat leaky gut syndrome by helping heal damaged cell walls. Basically, those who suffer from leaky gut or SIBO’s gut lining has holes. Bone broth helps seal those holes & prevents undigested food particles to escape into the bloodstream.
Studies have shown that bone broth is beneficial for restoring the strength of the gut lining & fighting food sensitivities (such as: wheat or dairy), helping with the growth of probiotics (good bacteria) in the gut & supporting heathy inflammation levels in the digestive tract. Studies have also found that when individuals have digestive imbalances, serum concentrations of collagen are decreased. Because the amino acids in collagen build the tissue that lines the colon & the entire GI tract, supplementing with collagen can improve digestion.
Bone broth can also help improve joint health & muscle recovery, reduce cellulite, boost immunity & detoxification & maintain healthy skin.
Take collagen daily (either in capsule or powder form!)
To read more about all the benefits of collagen, CLICK HERE: Collagen Here, Collagen There, Collagen Everywhere: The Basics & Why You Should Add It To Your Daily Routine!
Taking collagen will help break down protein & soothe your gut’s lining by healing damaged cell walls & infusing them with healing amino acids. The collagen basically helps digestion by forming connective tissue & sealing and healing the protective lining of your GI tract (which is basically what I just explained regarding bone broth, since it contains collagen).
Collagen also helps pull the acid from the stomach walls & in towards the food to speed up digestion, therefore making food easier to digest! It may also help decrease gas & bloating.
In line with digestion, collagen also helps with water absorption within the intestines, so it will help things moving more freely out of the body (if y’all know what I mean) & it also helps break down the protein & fat from foods making them easier for our bodies to digest.
FALL IN LOVE WITH THE COCO. Seriously.
Guys, all coconut products are especially good for the gut. This is because the medium chain fatty acids in coconut are easier to digest than other fats, so they work well for leaky gut! If you’re lacking healthy fats in your diet, incorporating coconut oil is a great way to help with digestion (& provides tons of other benefits as well!).
Take L-Glutamine &/or magnesium daily!
L-Glutamine is most widely known for assisting with muscle recovery. But, when you think about it: the stomach is full of muscles, contracting & digesting, so it only makes sense why it’s so helpful for people with gut issues. It acts to promote digestive health by building & repairing the digestive tract, helping to heal ulcers & leaky gut, improving IBS & diarrhea by balancing mucus production & improves metabolism.
Low magnesium levels can compromise cell membrane integrity, damaging the vital fatty layer in the cell membrane, making it thinner & therefore, more susceptible to destruction & allowing leakage through the membrane. As such, magnesium deficiency has been shown to be one of the causes of leaky cell membranes (or leaky gut). If this deficiency is not accounted for, disruption of this type can be fatal to cells & cause widespread problems that ultimately manifest in dozens of symptoms & conditions, a lot of which have to do with an unhealthy gut & digestive issues.
Try to cut out refined sugar & artificial sweeteners & opt for healthier sugar alternatives!
Sugar is another substance that will wreak havoc on your digestive system. Sugar feeds the growth of yeast, candida & bad bacteria, which will further damage your gut. Bad bacteria actually creates toxins called exotoxins that damage or destroy healthy cells, disrupt normal cellular metabolism and have the potential to eat a hole into your intestinal wall.
Not only does sugar feed bacteria, but it also feeds SIBO, leaky gut & can wreak havoc on your stomach, skin & mental state. This is why I opt for healthier sugar alternatives (which you can read all about here: The Nitty-Gritty on Healthy Sugar Alternatives & Substitutes a.k.a. Nobody-Said-You-Couldn’t-Curb-Them-Sugar-Cravings-Just-Curb-‘Em-Wisely!) & even better, why I sweeten most of my baked treats and breakfasts with Ceylon cinnamon or vanilla extract instead of sugar (even the healthier ones!).
When you eliminate refined white sugar from your diet, you will begin to notice that you will slowly but surely, stop craving it! You’ll be surprised to know that the first time you eat a gummy bear, caramel candy or baked treat that contains real sugar, you’ll probably find it too sweet! Not only will you lose the desire for sugar, but you’ll also feel better, less bloated, have more energy (& not suffer from afternoon energy slumps, sugar withdrawal or lows & your digestive system won’t be overloaded with fake, chemical ingredients that it wasn’t built to digest.
When buying packaged foods (as long as they are clean & contain minimal, healthy ingredients that you can pronounce), make sure to go for the unsweetened ones. Sometimes, even the healthiest products (nut butters, milks, yogurts, pasta sauces, etc.) are laden with sugar (either hidden or not), so it’s very important to dissect your labels so that you know exactly what’s going into your body! One little tip for now (until I get my post up all about labels, ingredients & packaging), if the first ingredient on your label is sugar or any type of syrup, PUT IT BACK ON THE SHELF. You will thank me later when you buy the unsweetened version & you feel SO MUCH BETTER physically & mentally.
Relax & find ways to cope with & reduce your stress!
I know, it’s not easy to relax & to stop stressing about the pain, bloating, discomfort, what might trigger a flare, when you’ll feel better etc., BUT stress can actually increase or cause yeast overgrowth. I speak from personal experience when I tell you that the mind really does affect the physical body. You can eat the cleanest diet in the world & still get gut infections, inflammation & yeast overgrowth.
When you are stressed, your body releases MORE of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol activates the sympathetic nervous system. When your body is flooded with cortisol & is feeling stressed out, just imagine what happens when food is consumed. Digestion & absorption are compromised, indigestion develops & the mucus lining becomes irritated & inflamed. Research has actually shown that ulcers are more common in very stressed our people & many with IBS & colitis report improvement in their symptoms when they learn to cope with their stress & relax!
As mentioned above, chronic stress has a much larger effect on our bodies than we think. It weakens your immune system over time, which in turn, cripples your ability to fight off foreign invaders, like bad bacteria & viruses, leading to inflammation and leaky gut. Again, it’s legit a domino effect.
There are SO MANY ways to manage & cope with stress, but first: YOU NEED TO FIND OUT WHAT’S CAUSING IT! Once you do, find ways to cope with it.
- If it’s work, deadlines, school or projects, come up with ways to better manage your time & to find a healthy balance between your work, family & social life.
- If it’s internal, emotional stress, anxiety, triggers, or self-worth/self-confidence issues, come to terms with what is causing them, face the issues, learn to cope with & live with them so that they no longer impair your day-to-day life.
Other simple things such as getting more sleep, scheduling self-care into your week, resting, seeing friends & family, exercising & hanging out with uplifting positive people can also help.
Ok first things first, there’s a balance between good & bad bacteria in our digestive system, which is responsible for the way our bowel functions. These microorganisms also help eliminate toxins, influence our ability to fight off infection & illness and help regulate our metabolism. Research has shown that out our bacteria plays a crucial role in our overall health & well-being & both probiotics & prebiotics are part of this balance and play important roles in our gut health. This is why it’s important to consume both DAILY.
Probiotics are live microorganisms (good bacteria) that reside in the gut. We all have them. They support our immunity, aid digestion & assist with nutrient absorption into our blood stream. They also play a crucial role in maintaining healthy gut function by preventing the invasion of harmful microbes. They are involved in the synthesis of important nutrients, such as vitamin K & short-chain fatty acids.
The word “probiotic” actually means “PRO-LIFE”, so let this be your word of encouragement to choose foods that GIVE LIFE to your health! Probiotics can be found in fermented foods, such as tempeh, kombucha, miso, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi & yogurt, as well as in capsule form!
With the right amount of good bacteria, you can rebuild our immune system, your body will absorb nutrients from food better & it will help with gut mobility.
Opt for sprouted or fermented grains, nuts & seeds!
The process of soaking & sprouting is the process of mimicking what happens in nature when a seed or sprout germinates. Sprouting releases the digestive enzymes inhibitors and their full nutritional benefits. It also reduces phytates & lectins, making these foods easier to digest. GMO and hybridized foods tend to be the highest in lectins since they have been modified to fight off bugs.
Also, for people with food sensibilities, gluten-containing grains might damage the intestinal lining and cause leaky gut syndrome. For these reasons, it’s best to go for sprouted grains, which also happen to retain more of the nutrients & enzymes than their refined counterparts!
When it comes to meals, make sure you always have a healthy balance of protein, healthy fats, good carbs & veggies & always have a rainbow on your plate (as cliché as it sounds!)
For every meal, I live by two principles (or at least try to): I try to have a balance of protein, healthy fats, good carbs & veggies & a rainbow on my plate!
I don’t count calories, macros or weigh my food because I come from a place where I was obsessed & borderline, a slave, to doing all of that & it’s certainly a place I do not ever want to go back to. It creates food fears, added stress & is mentally draining & exhausting for ANYONE, let alone someone dealing with an ED. When you eat organic, real wholesome foods, in their purest form as often as you can (& of course, in moderation), you will feel great & that’s really what matters!
Don’t get stuck in a “same-food-everyday” routine!
When I first started recovering & following my meal plan, I often found that I was eating a lot of the same foods everyday & throughout the week simply because I guess my body started to deem them as “comforting” or “safe”. But when the bloating & other digestive issues got really bad, I decided to start eating more of a variety of foods & I realized that overtime, it helped me feel better & helped ease all the digestive system issues.
I realized that when I ate the SAME thing everyday, after a while, my body started to reject those foods & some days, I almost felt like I was becoming intolerant to them (even though I had eaten them & digested them just fine in the past) because of how crappy I felt after eating them. I’ve actually read that you can become intolerant to certain foods when you eat them all the time. That’s why now I really try to rotate what I eat for breakfast, lunch & dinner throughout the week. And of course, if & when I’m hungry throughout the day, I snack! Snacking is important to keep your blood sugar levels, stabilizes, prevents u from binge eating (& eventually getting bloated), gives me energy & keeps me focused throughout the day.
You can read more about healthy snacking here: Everything You Need (& Want) To Know About Healthy Snacking a.k.a. Why I Believe in Snacking If It’s Done Right (& Right Doesn’t Mean You Can Never Let Loose!)
Some wholesome meals/snacks that follow the principles listed above include:
- avocado on sprouted toast;
- chia pudding, overnight oats, Greek yogurt parfaits with your favourite nut butter, fruits, cacao nibs, cinnamon, cacao powder, protein powders, collagen etc. (all these suggestions are energizing & filled with tons of real food & ingredients, superfoods, low-sugar granolas, unsweetened nut milks, nut butters, etc.
- low-sugar smoothies containing tons of greens &/or cauliflower & lower-sugar fruit (such as berries). To read all about why I add greens to my smoothies, click here: . My smoothies generally consist of spinach/kale, steamed then frozen cauliflower, berries, tart cherries, sometimes banana (but a small quantity), vegan protein, collagen, cinnamon, superfood powders / green powders, nut butters, homemade nut milks or cacao powder!
- boiled eggs, egg white scrambles, frittatas!
These are just a few examples, but basically, you get it: you really want to make sure that your meals have a healthy balance of all your macronutrients, as well as veggies!
OK, as you guys know, meal prep is a crucial part of my lifestyle & routine! I don’t go a week without it! Setting aside a few hours once a week (I do it on Saturdays or Sundays, or spread it out on both days!) is life saving & changing! I’m not telling you that you need to plan out every single meal & stress about what you’re going to eat on Thursday, when it’s only Saturday or Sunday. All you need to do is roast your fave veggies, cook protein, prepare some on-the-go snacks, spreads, dips & cut up some veggies! It’s that freaking simple, guys & this simplicity allows you to stay on track & prevents you from always eating out, not eating at all or having to give in to foods that might hurt your tummy.
On your journey to striving to feel good, meal prepping will become one of your best friends!! When I look back on the times where I used to prepare breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks everyday on the spot, I realize how much time I spent on a daily basis doing that. And there’s nothing wrong with that because I was very committed to my meal plan & wanted to do everything in my power to gain the weight as healthily & as efficiently as possible. BUT, now that I’ve reached recovery & have adopted a healthier lifestyle that still requires effort, but that has literally become my life & my routine, I am now able to focus on other things like work, studying, friends, family, etc. & that means I need more time to do all of that! Meal prep allows me to maintain that balance, all while not neglecting my commitment to living a healthy lifestyle & eating healthy foods!
If you want to read my full-guide on meal prep to see all my tips & tricks & tons of recipe suggestions from my blog to inspire you to get prepping, click here: Kelly In The Kitch’s Guide to Meal Prep a.k.a. Why The Heck I Swear By Meal Prep!
On the bad days, do not despair!
When flares come on, a.k.a. on those days, weeks or even months where you feel constant bloating, migraines, cravings for sugar, hormonal imbalance, breakouts, feeling full after eating small meals, digestive issues, constipation, diarrhea, IBS symptoms, constant fatigue, weakness & anxiety attacks, DO NOT DESPAIR – IT DOES GET BETTER. Trust me, I know exactly what it feels like to not want to get out of bed, put on pants & go into public feeling the way you do. It’s painful, it’s hard, it’s emotionally & mentally draining, not to mention physically exhausting. All you wonder is: WHAT IS THE QUICK FIX?
TBH, there is no quick fix. No magic pill. No medication that will heal your gut. Medications may provide temporary relief but they are not the answer. This is not to get you discouraged. I’m speaking from experience. It’s rather my way of motivating & hopefully inspiring you to CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE.
- Change your diet.
- Manage your stress.
- Seek therapy if you think it will help.
- Start an exercise routine.
- Change the way you prioritize.
- Understand where your anxiety is coming from.
- Make an effort to do research & understand why you feel the way you do. All of these little changes will lead to a PERMANENT transformation that will ultimately heal you.
I PROMISE YOU, with my whole entire full heart that it does get better. I too was at a point in my life where I was hopeless & where I thought these digestive issues would be something I would have to deal with for the rest of my life. BUT I THOUGHT WRONG. All I had to do was make a conscious effort & commitment to adopt lifestyle changes that favoured my gut health & in turn, my digestive, immune, metabolic and nervous system health!
Eat & drink gut-healing foods/beverages!
Of course, this is an obvious one, but one that so many people have a hard time doing simply because they are so used to what they’ve been brought up with, or what has been the norm for them up until now. Trust me, I get it. I grew up in a Jewish Moroccan household, after all! It’s all about breaking those habits. Stepping out of comfort zones. Trying new things. Being adventurous with food & finding ways to still enjoy the foods you love most (& not feeling deprived or sacrificing them), but in the healthiest way possible!
A gut-healthy diet is comprised of low-fermentable carbohydrates (& not short-chain carbs that are harder to digest & can lead to bloating) that are rich in plant-based foods & good anti-inflammatory sources of whole foods. It should include plenty of veggies, salads, fish and a generous amount of good heart healthy fats. It’s so important to think about what you are putting your mouth. Balance, wisdom & moderation.
As you guys know, I’m not one to vouch for cutting out entire food groups! I don’t like to think of foods as being “off limits” due to my past in dealing with a very severe eating disorder. I also don’t want to outright spread the information that certain foods should be off limits in fear that certain foods may work for your body but not for mine. It’s all about TRIAL AND ERROR.
For example, I don’t react well to red meat & always find that I feel like complete crap after I eat it (I’ve tried to incorporate it back into my life on numerous occasions & every time, I felt the same crappy way!). For this reason, I’ve eliminated it from my diet. But maybe red meat is your fave food, maybe it makes you feel good & energized, maybe you don’t react to it the same way that I do. What I’m trying to say is that you need to figure out what works for your body by, unfortunately, but simply, testing it out and gaging how your body feels & reacts. You will know almost instantly!
Below, I will list tons of gut healing foods, beverages, spices & powders that you can incorporate into your daily life to help heal your gut:
- Healthy fats: avocado, coconut oil, pure olive oil!
- Omega-3’s: wild caught seafood, such as salmon, or mackerel, lean meats & poultry, chia seeds & flaxseed (fight inflammation, promotes digestion, gets things moving, full of fiber & protein), walnuts, tuna, flaxseed, egg yolks or AN OMEGA-3 SUPPLEMENT, SUCH AS KRILL OIL. To read about where I think you should get started with vitamins & supplements, click here: Overwhelmed? Here’s Where To Get Started With Vitamins & Supplements!
- Fermentable fibres, such as: onion, garlic, bananas, psyllium husk, oats, barley.
- Probiotics: kombucha, probiotic-enriched Greek yogurt or goat cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso;
- To read my full post all about kombucha, click here Everything You Need to Know About Kombucha a.k.a. Why I Haven’t Gone a Day Without This Babe Since I Started My Journey Towards Anorexia Recovery: In a nuthsell, it helps improve digestion, clensaing, detoxifying, increased energy! I tend to drink 1/2 or one a day almost everyday. Sometimes, you might become bloated due to the probiotics & carbonation, so drink slwo, especially if you’re just starting out! (Start with 1/2 btotle!). Look for ones that are low in sugar & contain no added sugar (I like GT’s).
- Fermented vegetables are also a great addition to your diet. They contain organic acids that balance intestinal pH, and therefore, fight stomach acidity, as well as probiotics to support the gut. Some of my faves are sauerkraut & kimchi! Lactobacillus plantarum is one of the main bacteria found in sauerkraut. It can help maintain the integrity of your intestinal lining and improve digestive symptions such as boating, constipation as well as boost your entire immune system.
- Coconut milk or any & all coconut-based products!
- Anti-inflammatory foods, such as: grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, carrots (helps with healthy digestion/metabolism, aids constipation & stomach ulcers, reduces inflammation), cabbage (very soothing & healing for the GI tract & can relieve chronic inflammation, soothe ulcers & improve bowers motility), garlic (rich in magnesium & zinc, which support healthy digestion),
- Steamed/cooked/roasted veggies (easier on the digestive system than their raw counterparts!)
- In terms of spices & superfoods, here are my go-to’s (I use these to bring more flavour, but they also have tons of health benefits, all of which circle around helping digestion, easing stress, fighting inflammation & anxiety & promoting overall healing!)
- Maca powder: balances hormones, boost libido, increases endurance, helps balance & manage stress & anxiety by acting as an adaptogen & helping the adrenal glands maintain a good balance of stress hormones, ultimately, allowing your body to reach its ultimate state of homeostasis
- Raw cacao powder: energizing, full of magnesium (which is great for digestion!), gives me my chocolate fix without the sugar, antioxidants.
- Turmeric: anti-inflammatory AF!
- Cinnamon: stabilizes blood sugar levels, sweetener, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory
- Ginger: speeds up the emptying of the stomach, help with digestion & stomach cramps (PMS).
- Ashwagandha: anti-stress, acts as an adaptogen, anti-anxiety, lowers cortisol levels, balanced thyroid problems, strengthen immune system.
- Reishi: boost immunity, anti-inflammatory, mental clarity
- Vanilla: anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, healthy digestion, relieves anxiety
Tea can also help! Ginger tea is known in Ayurvedic medicine as the “universal remedy” due to its many benefits for the body & has been used for thousands of years to treat digestive issues. The reason for this is that ginger can relax the smooth muscle of the intestines & thereby relieve symptoms of gas & cramping. It also stimulates digestion by speeding up the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine & helps eliminate discomfort after eating. It also stimulates saliva, bile & gastric enzymes to help with the digestion of food. Turmeric tea has similar benefits.
Some foods/beverages that have been shown to cause leaky gut or digestive issues in SOME PEOPLE are (P.S. Keep in mind that it differs from person to person. You won’t know until you try!):
- Coffee (due to high acidity);
- Alcohol (Wine, for example, contains sugar & sugar = bloat. Other mixed alcoholic drinks also contain a lot of sugar & syrups! Your best bet when drinking alcohol is to go for the clear stuff!);
- Sugars (Avoid high fructose corn syrup, often labelled as HFCS, agave, anything that ends in “ose”, such as fructose, dextrose, maltose, brown sugar etc.).
- ANYTHING YOU CANNOT PRONOUNCE, because it’s most probably carcinogenic, toxic or a chemical substance (or all of the above) & guess what? OUR HUMAN BODIES WERE NOT MEANT TO PROCESS OR DIGEST CARCINOGENS, TOXINS OR CHEMICALS!
- Soy, additives, packaged foods, artificial flavourings, vegetable, corn, soybean oils, all of which can destroy the stomach lining.
- For some with leaky gut, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers, paprika &/or cayenne have been shown to worsen gut-related issues. Try cutting them out & see how you feel.
- Avoid juice cleanses. They don’t help. Most of them are filled with tons of sugar. EAT REAL FOOD.
You are probably thinking this is a long list & wondering what on earth you are going to do now that you can’t eat anything… Right? WRONG. After healing your stomach & when you start feeling better, you can slowly begin to incorporate some of the things you eliminated in moderation (BUT DON’T ELIMINATE THEM BLINDLY! TRIAL & ERROR, GUYS!). The goal is for you to really develop a healthy relationship with all foods & to be able to eat foods from every food group in moderation, without feeling crappy afterwards. You deserve to eat without the anxiety of how you will feel after it. You deserve to enjoy food. We all do. But first, YOU MUST HEAL.
Lastly, always remember that eating well, eating whole, real foods shows helps not only with gut health, but also shows up on your skin, the strength of your hair & nails, your nervous system health, mental stability, stress hormones, “happy” hormones & neurotransmitters, your mood & energy levels!
Lemon water every morning!
As you guys know, I have this first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, to help with a million different things, such as: clearing my skin, waking up my digestive system & organs, balancing my body’s pH levels & keeping my body more alkaline vs. acidic, helping with digestion and moving things through my system (if you know what I mean), and providing my body with a good dose of energy & vitamin C!
If you want to read more about the benefits of lemon water, check out my full post HERE: Lemon Water a.k.a. The-Only-&-Healthy-&-Best-&-Yummy-Way-To-Start-Oops-I-Mean-Detox-Your-Day-Right
Apple cider vinegar every day!
Apple cider vinegar is simply fermented apples. When you add this fermented liquid into your stomach, it helps regulate your digestive processes & relieves any painful gas & bloating:
- it’s acidic in nature so it provides the essential acid content for proper digestion & relives you from intestinal discomfort;
- the acid slows down the digestion of starch, which breaks down into sugars & thus helps control the blood sugar levels after meals;
- works as a detox to help break down fats and thus enhance the regular bowel movements;
- acetic, lactic, isobutyric & propionic acids in ACV control the growth of unwanted bacteria & yeast in the stomach;
- it balances the pH levels of the intestine & body to get proper digestion by balancing the acid & alkaline levels and thereby clears the intestinal problems;
- helps the body break down the fats into readily usable form rather than storing form – it’s also rich in minerals & potassium that promotes the cellular cleansing & thus, breaks down the food.
To read about all the benefits of apple cider vinegar, click here: The Nitty-Gritty on None Other Than APPLE CIDER VINEGAR!
Try slowly incorporating 2 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar into your day (whether it be taking it straight, diluted with juice, or incorporated into sauces, marinades or dressings!). Always make sure your ACV is organic & “from the mother”.
Having a consistent workout routine helps you mentally to stay focused, sane, enhances your mood, builds confidence & strength, makes you appreciate your body & in turn, makes you develop more desire to take care of it, boosts your energy & gets your body moving, which IMO, is key if you have digestive issues!
NOW, I’m not telling you to go and do HIIT exercise every single day because that could eventually do you more harm than good. But, what I’m trying to say is that exercise can help with all kinds of gut-healing remedies, as mentioned above, but also by modifying inflammation. As I mentioned earlier, inflammation is one of the main causes of leaky gut, IBS & other digestive issues. Exercise is, of course, inflammatory in the short-term, but is a powerful anti-inflammatory in the long run, which is why certain studies have indicated that it can be beneficial to heal your gut.
BUT, you have to be mindful of what type of exercise you are doing. Research has also shown that heavy exercise could trigger or worsen intestinal permeability (a.k.a. the holes in your gut lining) & ultimately, lead to an UNHEALTHIER gut. AND YOU DON’T WANT THAT. Opt for lighter exercise, that involves stretching, improving balance, posture & muscle toning, such as: hot yoga, meditation, eccentrics, pilates or regular yoga & throw in one or two HIIT, cardio or strength training workouts here & there when you feel able & ready to do them.
Drinking enough water on a daily basis helps keep the intestines smooth & flexible, and keeps the food you consume moving through your intestines & ultimately allows food waste to exit the body, IF YA KNOW WHAT I MEAN. If your body isn’t hydrated, stool becomes hard & difficult to pass (SORRY for the TMI), which then leads to… CONSTIPATION.
Basically, your body becomes dehydrated when it’s getting rid of more fluid than it’s absorbing. When you breathe, sweat, urinate & pass a bowel movement, your body is getting rid of fluid & if you don’t replenish that fluid, your body won’t function optimally!
How much water you should drink largely depends on your lifestyle, body size & overall health & well-being. You may need more or less than the recommended amount (2.2 L for women & 3 litres for men), depending on how often you workout, how much you’re on-the-go, and how much energy you’re expending.
It’s easiest to stay hydrated when you carry around a bottle of water with you as you go about your day, when you make it a goal to drink a full glass of water with every meal, to load up on the H2O when working out or when you’re outside in hot water & to EAT YOUR WATER, a.k.a. to eat foods that are high in water content, for example: zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes, pineapple, watermelon & strawberries!
As you guys know, I am a firm believer in self-care & I genuinely believe that it is one of the most important components of living an overall healthy & well-balanced life. Self-care is different for everyone. For me, it’s all about face masks, skincare, reading, writing, researching, blogging, writing, cooking, baking, exercise & simply lying down & reflecting. These are all things that are relaxing, soothing & therapeutic for me. As human beings who are so preoccupied with the hustle & bustle of everyday life, we all need this US TIME to unwind, especially if you suffer from anxiety, a stressful lifestyle (due to your job, family, relationship, or life in general!) & inflammation in the body.
I’m not telling you to forget about your job, family, relationship or the demanding-ness of life & to ONLY think about yourself, but what I’m trying to say is that for even half an hour each day, make a conscious effort to do something for YOURSELF. Something that makes you feel good. Something that makes you happy. Something that relaxes you. You’ll soon come to realize that self-care truly affects how you feel, how you carry out your day, how you interact with others & just your overall energy that you put out into the world!
OKAY guys, that’s a wrap!
I’m sorry if this post was long but I really wanted to share with you all the tips & tricks I’ve developed over the course of the past (almost) year to really help heal my gut permanently, as opposed to opting for temporary fixes that ultimately would never solve the root cause of my issues.
I really hope that this post can resonate with you or help you in some way! Don’t be overwhelmed & don’t try to incorporate EVERY SINGLE ONE of these changes into your daily routine tomorrow morning. It takes time, effort & again, TRIAL & ERROR. These are the things that work for me. I pray that they work for you because I know how hard it is to go through something like this, BUT, some might & some might not. Unfortunately, in the beginning, you need to take a little risk, which hopefully, will lead to a BIG REWARD. Stay strong. Commit & I PROMISE, YOU’LL START TO SEE THE LIGHT!
And please, NEVER BE SHY TO MESSAGE ME if you have any questions or concerns about this or anything at all! Feel free to leave a comment down below, or send me a direct message! Love you guys, xx! <3