You may be one of the estimated 70 million Americans who suffer from gut distress on a daily basis! With so many people suffering in silence, clearly we all need a recipe for gut health! That is why I wrote my book, Happy Gut, which was recently released in paperback with new recipes, insights, and a complete 28-day recipe to cleanse, activate, restore, and enhance your gut health. My passion is helping the billions of people worldwide who suffer from gut woes heal their gut...and learn to eat well and mindfully at the same time.
We know from studies that the gut microbiome can begin to reset itself just within a few days when you eat the right types of foods. Your gut is basically your internal garden. Feed it a diverse, plant-based diet and your microbiome flourishes. When you indulge too much on sweets, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and simple carbs (like bread, pasta, and rice), you promote the growth of unfavorable critters instead.
You know who you are. Bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, constipation, and/or diarrhea plague you on a regular basis. It seems your gut has a mind of its own. It's crying for self-care, and it's not listening to your brain asking it to go easy on you.
To take back your gut health, I'm giving you the Happy Gut 3-Day Recipe to reset your digestive system. My job as an integrative functional medicine doctor is to help people like you get the to root cause of their health problems. And the gut is at the foundation of any protocol that creates sustainable, amazing health for anyone. Let's get started!
1. Start your day with a cup of warm water with lemon.
Let's start by breaking the stress we put our liver and body through every day. Cut out your morning jolt of joe, and replace it with a cup of warm-to-hot lemon water that you will sip slowly. Your mantra for day one begins here: "slow down." The minute you slow down to drink a cup of clean, pure, filtered lemon water it changes the dynamics of your morning. Doing a reboot is about grounding, connecting, and engaging the relaxation response. In our supercharged world, a bit of slowness is the antidote to the fight-or-flight manner in which many people live their lives. We begin by lowering excessive stress hormones, allowing your gut to feel relaxed for the reset that is to come. The lemon water hydrates and prepares your digestive system for a nourishing breakfast.
2. Heal those tight junctions with this alternative breakfast.
Antibiotics, stress, anti-inflammatory medications, wheat/gluten, and the SAD (Standard American Diet) increase the "leakiness" or permeability of the gut, leading to a host of inflammatory, immune issues, like allergies, asthma, skin rashes, irritable bowel, inflammatory bowel disease, and even autoimmune disease. This hyperpermeability is called a "leaky gut." And those tight junctions we are healing are like little fasteners that keep the cells of the intestines nicely bunched together to keep harmful bacteria, yeast, parasites and partially digested proteins out. The majority of people with gut issues will have some element of leaky gut syndrome, so in this step let's make a gut-healing slippery elm porridge.
3. Midmorning, enjoy a cup of green tea.
Green tea turns on your liver detoxification pathways, allowing your body to get rid of both harmful internal metabolites and environmental toxins. It also boosts metabolism, and helps curb appetite. Instead of an unhealthy midmorning food-snack (like a danish, or another coffee), giving your gut a rest is actually a really great way to reboot it. Even your gut microbiome—that secret world inside you numbering in the 100 trillion organisms, outnumbering your own cells 10:1—responds better to cyclical rather than frequent feeding. Among my favorite tea combinations include Tazo® Zen™, which includes green tea with calming lemon verbena, spearmint, and lemongrass. Another excellent, stronger option, is brewing your own matcha green tea.
4. Have a soothing broth for lunch with steamed vegetables.
There is something really soothing about broth that takes you back to when your mother nurtured you back to health with a bowl of soup when you had a cold. The healing benefits of a bone broth are tremendous for the gut lining, reducing inflammation, balancing immune signaling, and infusing your body with enzyme-supporting minerals. My grass-fed beef broth recipe is the perfect meal replacement during this gut reset. Prepare it ahead of time, then all you have to do is heat it up with your favorite veggies. However, if you are vegetarian, my homemade vegetable broth, rich in minerals and vitamins, is a great substitute to the bone broth. Supercharge either one while heating the broth by throwing in shiitake mushrooms for their immune-boosting effect, along with any vegetables you enjoy eating (like broccoli, carrots, and even chopped Swiss chard).
5. Pamper yourself in the afternoon with cucumber water.
Let's face it, by the afternoon, you may be feeling a bit hungry as we've been giving your digestive system a big break from the work it does every day. Instead of an afternoon snack, sip on this homemade gut-soothing Cucumber Water. Here's my easy recipe. It's made with an English cucumber, which is longer and thinner than a regular cucumber. It has the advantage of having very thin skin you don't need to peel; just wash with a gentle vegetable wash. And it also has very tiny seeds.
Gut-Soothing Cucumber Water
- 32 oz. filtered or alkaline water
- ½ English cucumber, cleaned and chopped into ½-inch discs
- Fresh mint leaves (optional, but recommended)
* You'll need a large glass water bottle or large glass mason jar.
- The night before, add filtered or alkaline water to a glass water bottle or large mason jar.
- Then add the chopped English cucumber. Let the cucumber water sit overnight in the refrigerator.
- The next morning, take it to work with you and keep refrigerated or add ice to keep your cucumber-infused water cool. Set aside the fresh mint leaves for later.
- If desired, once ready to drink, crush the fresh mint leaves into the cucumber water to give it an extra-cooling effect. Peppermint oil is particularly anti-inflammatory and soothing for the gut, reducing the symptoms of gas and bloating.
- Imagine you are at a spa. Take in 3 deep breaths as you enjoy your cucumber water. Feel it hydrate every cell in your body.
6. Make time for meditation or mindfulness.
Your day is hectic and rushed. I know! But this three-day gut reboot is for you. Time for "me time." Set aside 10 minutes between your afternoon activities and dinner to be fully present. One powerful way to improve your gut function is to meditate. However, meditation doesn't have to mean sitting still; you can enter a meditative state by playing music, dancing, singing, painting, or any repetitive, kinesthetic activity that requires your focused concentration.
Find what speaks to you. Let's face it. We all are not yogis. There is more than one road to finding your zen, and they all can help increase your vagal tone. The vagus nerve is a very important nerve that innervates pretty much all of your digestive tract. Lack of vagal stimulation is at the root of poor digestion, constipation, and low stomach acid, which leads to yeast overgrowth, SIBO, IBS, and even depression.
7. For dinner, activate your gut with this omega-3-rich superfood.
Settle in for an amazing dinner of wild salmon with greens. Take advantage of the fresh, early spring greens. It's a great time to introduce bitter lettuces like watercress and radicchio. Keep the dressing simple, with just a touch of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. A 3- to 4-ounce serving of wild salmon will provide half of your weekly anti-inflammatory omega-3 requirements. Eating your nutrients in a delicious way to heal your gut is part of the functional medicine philosophy. Share the goodness. Eat in community. Engage in conversation.
Roasted Wild Salmon with Dill Sauce
- One 1 lb. wild salmon filet
- ¼ teaspoon of sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon of pepper
- A few handful of leafy greens, to eat with it
For the dill sauce
- 2 tablespoons organic ghee or coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon ground cashews
- 4 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon stevia
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Wash and dry the salmon with paper towels Run your hands over the salmon and feel for any bones; if found, pull out with your fingertips or with a pair of clean, needle-nose pliers.
- Place the salmon skin-side down in a roasting pan, sprinkle the salt and pepper, and bake for about 15 to 22 minutes until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.
- In a medium-size saucepan over low heat, heat the ghee or coconut oil. Add the coconut milk and ground cashews and heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture starts to thicken a little. With a spoon, blend in the dill, chives, garlic, and mustard and cook about 3 minutes more. Add the stevia, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve the sauce over the baked salmon, on a bed of the leafy spring greens.
- Tip: Salmon also cooks well when wrapped in an aluminum foil packet. You can add a little lemon juice to the sauce for extra flavor.
8. After dinner, enjoy a cup of herbal tea.
Nothing says "me time" and "soothe me" as much as sipping a cup of relaxing lavender or kava tea as you dim the lights and prepare for bedtime. You may notice your late-night post-dinner sugar or savory cravings showing up. Instead, give yourself a "cup of zen." You can add 1 teaspoon of raw honey if you need just a hint of sweet. You have nourished your body today in more ways than one. Enjoy the calm at the end of the day. If you are experiencing constipation on a regular basis, take 200 to 400mg of magnesium citrate now to encourage a bowel movement by tomorrow morning.
9. Take a technology break starting two hours before bedtime.
Let's face it. We're all technology overcharged. Late-night TV simply puts you in sympathetic ("fight-or-flight") nervous system overdrive. The blue light from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop is over-activating as well and will disrupt the quality of your sleep. Evening is the time to dim the lights, curl up with a good book, catch up on journaling, and allow your internal rhythm to reflect and rebalance you in sync with the external rhythm of the day-night cycle. Digestion is a relaxed activity, so let’s allow your body’s parasympathetic nervous system countermeasures to wind down the day for you.
10. Close with gratitude.
End your day by expressing everything that is good in your life that you are grateful for. This will help you close the day in the right mindset before you go to bed. Give yourself a pat on the back for making it through day one. You are amazing! Reflect on what slowing down to be mindful about your food and eating and giving your digestive system the rest it needs means to you. This is your gift to yourself. Tomorrow begins day two.
11. Gut-healing requires rest. Get plenty of it!
Your goal while doing the Happy Gut 3-day gut reboot is to sleep at least 7 to 8 hours per night. Stay away from coffee and alcohol during this quick reset so that you get the restful sleep your body needs to do its housekeeping functions. During sleep your body and gut do their major self-regulating functions, and if this is disrupted by too much technology, stress, or not allotting enough time for sleep, you will miss out on the full benefits of these three days.
Days 2 & 3: Repeat the steps from Day 1 with these variations.
1. At breakfast, add probiotics to your Slippery Elm Bark Porridge.
Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of coconut yogurt or nondairy kefir to your hot porridge to introduce gut-supporting probiotic bacteria. You may substitute the yogurt or kefir for coconut flakes. Go ahead and add little more on Day 3.
2. At lunch, enjoy the broth from Day 1. Add a side of sauerkraut or non-spicy kimchi.
Fermented vegetables are full of friendly bacteria that support a healthy gut lining, keep your gut-associated immune system in balance, keep inflammation down, and can even help you stay calm and happy. If you are not used to eating fermented foods, start with a small amount, about 1 to 2 tablespoons on Day 2 to test them out. If they are not too strong for you, then increase the amount you enjoy on Day 3.
3. For dinner on Day 2, practice a semi-fast.
Tonight is the semi-fast evening of the cleanse. Instead of a full meal, you will be doing a smoothie for dinner, which will give you gut time to heal (rather than focusing its energy on digestion). Now you're going to supercharge your diet with a phytonutrient-packed, antioxidant-rich smoothie. You will use carrageenan-free nut milk to make a Blue Ginger Smoothie—one of my favorites! The spinach adds cleansing chlorophyll, and the gut-healing ginger adds an accentuated spice note to this satisfying and filling recipe with a hint of sweetness from the organic blueberries.
Blue Ginger Smoothie
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- ¼ cup whole Brazil nuts
- 1½ cups filtered water
- 2 teaspoons chlorella (available in powder form at health-food stores)
- 1 large handful of organic spinach
- One 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 to 2 scoops hypoallergenic protein powder
- ¼ cup almond milk (optional)
- Add the ingredients to a high-speed blender in the order listed.
- Blend until smooth.
- Serve chilled and enjoy.
4. For dinner on Day 3, have an omega-3 rich meal.
Let's celebrate the last meal of the cleanse with a trip to my home country for reinvented cuisine—my Healthy Cuban Picadillo. This is a classic Cuban dish I grew up watching my grandmother slowly make in the kitchen. Now I've reinvented the recipe to be easy on the digestion and healthier for your body, but still infused with love. Using grass-fed ground beef or bison, rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and coconut oil (instead of vegetable oil), this aromatic dish will fill your house and enrich your taste buds with a virtual trip to the jewel of the Caribbean. If you are vegetarian, stick to another serving of the Homemade Vegetable Broth, but add more vegetables to make a meal and enjoy with a side of my delicious Oven-Baked Turmeric Cauliflower. Accompany both dishes with a side of spring herbs and greens, like you did on Day 1.
Slow down to eat. Chew your food thoroughly. Be mindful. Be kind to yourself and others. Engage in conversation over meals. Remember to eat fiber-rich vegetables, including gut microbiome rebuilding root veggies like beets, parsnips, rutabaga, and turnips. They contain prebiotic nutrients that are like "fish-food" for your hungry good gut bacteria. Consistently have fermented and cultured foods 3 to 5 times per week. Don't forget to take regular technology breaks. Meditate at least three days per week. And express a daily gratitude.
By rebooting your gut health, you increase your happiness in life. As I like to say, "any day can be Day 1." Here's to your happy gut!