5 things that made the biggest difference in my digestive health journey
I get asked this question a ton- what were the things you did that made a difference in your digestion? If you're new around here, I've dealt with IBS symptoms for nearly two decades, on and off (listen to my digestive health journey). My symptoms have been managed largely with food and lifestyle changes, as well as some carefully chosen supplements. And the truth is, different things have worked at different times. Our bodies are ever changing and this means they need different things in different seasons- recognizing this was HUGE, because it allowed me an open and flexible approach to my health when I did/do experience flare ups. All that being said, there are a few things I've seen make the biggest difference in my digestive health- simple things that I turn to, or turn back to, whenever I'm experiencing digestive distress.
A quick disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, and I'm certainly not your doctor! Though none of these changes are radical, we are all incredibly individual- so please consult with your healthcare practitioner before making any changes.
1. Bone broth. I'm sure you've heard this one before, right? But friends- I was a vegetarian when I started on my digestive health journey. It took some serious gentle nudging from my nutritionist to maybe try a little bone broth because it could help... it was like the heavens opened up when I had some bone broth. My gut LOVED the soothing, hot (not to mention easy + cheap) broth I made at home. I started experiencing way less pain associated with some of my gut issues, and this is something I continue to make regularly for gut health. Collagen in bone broth helps to heal and seal the gut lining, and it's also a great vehicle for more gut-supportive anti-inflammatory foods like garlic and ginger. This is a great overview on Bone Broth Benefits from Chris Kresser-- and here's my homemade recipe.
2. Apple cider vinegar + water. I know- it takes some time to get used to. But this made a HUGE difference in my acid reflux, as well as in tummy troubles associated with eating- the enzymes in the (raw) apple cider vinegar work as a digestive aid, and this is the first thing I bring back at meals when I'm having a flare-up. Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar from Dr. Amy Myers.
3. Eating cooked foods. Along with bone broth, this was a GAME changer when I was first working on healing my gut. Raw foods are hard to digest, friends! And where that fiber is a GOOD thing when you're not experiencing a flare up, it can be your gut's worst nightmare when it's inflamed (think about running a stick along a fresh burn. GAH). Cooking ALL of my veggies (except lettuce) well was something I did for a number of months while I was healing, and something I focus on when my gut is having a hard time.
4. Stopping dieting. Seriously- the STRESS associated with dieting, the 'fake foods' like artificial sweeteners and other highly processed supplements that I would take as a dieter and fitness competitor were no friend to my gut. My gut needed a rest from it all- and when I gave her that gift, she responded. Stress has been shown to be a major factor in gut health (and vice versa) and this has rung true for me over and over again.
5. Going low FODMAP (for a time). Along with easing up on known triggers (for me, this is gluten and dairy), going low FODMAP- for a season of 2-6 weeks has been a really powerful and gentle way to care for my body during flare-ups. I'll talk more about FODMAPS soon (I have an expert guest coming on the podcast), but FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. A very long acronym for what ultimately stands for a family of short-term carbohydrates that ferment quickly in the gut- often causing gas and bloating. This is not something to go on blindly- it's not a weight loss plan and it's not meant to be long term, it's meant to give your gut a rest from triggering foods so it can heal on it's own. Your body is powerful!
Notice I didn't just say 'probiotics'. Probiotics (and prebiotics) are great to support healthy gut bacteria, but what I've found most effective in myself and in working with clients with gut issues is going deeper into the root of inflammation. Instead of trying to bandaid with probiotics (which may or may not help depending on what gut health issue you're dealing with). but focusing on lowering that inflammation (eating cooked foods, stopping dieting and stressing my body out, going low FODMAP) and healing the gut lining (bone broth and targeted supplements- L Glutamine has been really effective for me, so definitely discuss with your practitioner) and slowing down- caring for my body, listening to what she is asking for- instead of trying to barrage her with a slew of supplements on an already aching gut. Probiotic rich foods are my choice (alongside probiotic supplements if needed). I love sauerkraut, pickled veggies, kombucha and yogurt (when my gut can handle it).
I hope this was helpful to those of you who were curious what has made the biggest difference in my gut health journey-- listen to my digestive health journey here and where I'm at now here. I'm so confident in all of the things I've learned over the years, my gut will be back to it's happy place in no time. There IS hope for better digestion, friends!
What else do you want to hear on this topic? Shoot me an email and let me know what else you want to hear about my journey with digestive health!