This is the last post in my series on gut flora and its impact on health. The first post discussed what’s in our gut, the second covered different drugs that can negatively affect our gut flora, the third post was all about lifestyle factors that also influence our intestinal health, and the fourth covered why this is so important to our overall wellness. Today we’re going to talk about how to restore balance to our gut with some practical information.
Detox from Sugar
Bacteria and yeasts love sugar. If you’re really determined to restore your intestinal ecosystem, this is one of the most powerful ways to do it. I embarked on a sugar fast last May, and it had a HUGE impact on my health. For 6 weeks I followed a pretty strict sugar free diet that included avoiding fruits, white potatoes, white rice, sugar of all kinds, and dairy. Then I gradually added these things back into my diet in small amounts. I won’t lie, it was hard. But it was well worth the effort. There are lots of things you can do to help get you through the no sugar phase. Stevia is a great sweetener that doesn’t feed pathogenic bacteria, and a quick google search will give you lots of great recipes that use it.
Keep in mind that while you’re on a sugar fast, you may experience some die-off symptoms, which can be unpleasant, but are a good sign that the bacteria are, well, dying off. You may get bloating, headaches, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, cravings, and frankly, some pretty awful gas. This won’t last forever. If you want more information about embarking on a sugar fast and the symptoms of die off, or a great resource for what to eat while on a sugar fast, check out the Body Ecology Diet site. There’s lots of great information there to help you through the process.
Probiotics and Cultured Foods
Probiotics are a great way to help you get back your intestinal health. These can be found a wide variety of places, from your local grocery store to any number of online retailers. The price varies greatly depending on where you buy them. There’s debate over whether or not its better to buy more high end probiotics that need refrigeration, or if the shelf stable ones from the grocery store are just as good. Find one that’s within your price range and give it a shot.
Cultured foods are also a great way to get more good bacteria into your diet. This includes things like water and milk kefir, kombucha, homemade sauerkraut, cultured veggies like cortido and homemade sour cream and creme fraiche. Jenny over at Nourished Kitchen has tons of amazing, easy to follow recipes to get you started in learning to make your own cultured foods, so I won’t try and reinvent the wheel here.
Avoid Food Allergens
This one may not be quite as obvious as the other two, but if you have a food allergy, every time you consume that food, it damages the lining of your intestines. This lining is where a lot of the beneficial bacteria hang out. As your immune system is repeatedly activated by these foods, the intestines become inflamed, the beneficial bacteria die off, the pathogenic bacteria flourish, and eventually your intestinal walls become permeable, leaking partially digested food particles into your blood. If you aren’t sure about your food intolerances but think you may have some, a 30 day elimination diet is the best way to find out (watch for an upcoming post on this!)
I hope this series has helped you understand more of whats going on in your gut and how it impacts your entire body. If you feel overwhelmed by any of the information, keep in mind that wellness is a journey, not a destination. Even small steps make a difference, and after a while, they all add up. Keep moving forward, and eventually you’ll look back and realize just how far you’ve come!
This post is part of Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist.