If you’ve been struggling with chronic digestive issues, then you know that figuring out the cause and fixing it can seem like an uphill battle. Trust me, it’s been the story of my life for the past 12 years, and I’m still recovering. It truly is a journey.
There are so many possible causes of your symptoms. It could be IBD like Crohn’s or colitis. It could be an infection, such as a parasite, H. pylori, candida, or SIBO. It could be leaky gut, hormone imbalances, dysbiosis, or a combination of any of these conditions. The key is to figure out the root causes, and treat them, rather than just managing the symptoms. Doing, this may require a variety of testing and ruling out conditions one by one.
Regardless of what the cause is, it is very likely that your gut is damaged. With that said, there are several practices you can put in place right away that can help start healing your gut and reducing your symptoms.
In this article, I will focus on diet. Animal protein, healthy fats, vegetables and fruit are your friends. You’ll want to stay away from foods that cause inflammation, such as grains, sugar, dairy, and alcohol. This way of eating is very much in line with a Paleo diet. You will focus on eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods, or any food that may irritate the gut.
Eliminate These Foods:
You will absolutely want to remove all grains and pseudo grains from your diet. By pseudo grains, I mean things like corn and quinoa. Grains include both gluten-containing grains and non-gluten grains like rice. Gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley, and rye are very inflammatory, and they can cause damage to your intestinal lining. Plus, inflammatory foods will simply make your symptoms worse. The key is to put out the fire in your gut by consuming anti-inflammatory foods with a lot of nutritional value.
Many people cut out dairy when digestive issues arise. There are many reasons to remove dairy, at least for a while, during your initial healing period. Not only is lactose a problem for many people, but also the two proteins found in milk, casein and whey, are common allergens. Additionally, conventional dairy products are pasteurized, which removes many beneficial bacteria and enzymes. These products are also loaded with antibiotics and added hormones. After removing dairy for 30-60 days, you can try reintroducing raw, fermented grass-fed dairy, such as cheese, yogurt, and kefir. Fermented dairy is a great way to reinoculate your gut with good bacteria if you can tolerate dairy.
Sugar is another inflammatory food that is critical to remove in order to heal. Small amounts of raw honey are OK, but all other sugar and artificial sweeteners need to be avoided. Not only does sugar cause inflammation, but it also feeds harmful bacteria, parasites, and yeast. I find that a majority of my clients have at least one gut infection, so removing sugar is necessary to kill off those bad bugs.
Eat These Foods:
Clean animal protein is incredibly nourishing for your digestive system and your body as a whole. It’s loaded with essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Eating foods like organic, pasture-raised chicken, grass-fed beef, and wild-caught salmon are extremely beneficial for healing your gut. Additionally, incorporating homemade bone broth is one of the least expensive healing regimens you can do. I prefer to make homemade chicken broth, but you can also make beef bone broth or fish broth. The key is that it’s homemade and not bought from your grocery store. The gelatin in the homemade version is one of the main components that make this broth so nourishing and healing.
2. Healthy Fats
Healthy fats, such as coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, and avocados are another item you want to make sure you’re getting plenty of. Coconut oil is great for digestive healing. It's anti-inflammatory and has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antimicrobial properties. Healthy fats really help promote digestion, and they're needed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. They also provide great flavor to foods.
3. Fruits and Vegetables
Finally, you’ll want to incorporate plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits. Initially, it’s a good idea to cook and possibly puree your fruits and vegetables, as this makes them much easier to digest by breaking down the fiber. If you find that fruit causes gas and bloating, you can start with small amounts and stick to low FODMAP fruits. This is also a good sign that you have some sort of infection, such as SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth).
While a Paleo diet is a great place to start, it’s also important to listen to your body. There may be other types of foods that your body is reacting to. Foods such as nightshades, nuts or seeds, caffeine, and chocolate may also be causing distress on your digestive system. You can eliminate these foods for 30-60 days, then reintroduce them one at time.
The bottom line is that you need to give your gut a chance to heal, and a great way to do that is by eliminating the foods that aggravate it and consuming the foods that nourish and heal your body. Healing is possible, and having faith and nourishing your body with real food can help you get there.
I would love to hear from you. Do you or have you struggled with digestive issues? What are some practices that helped you?