I have struggled with gut health for over a decade but it wasn’t until until recent years that I understood it was the root of many of my physical and emotional struggles. I treated acne with skin product, anxiety with medication, poor digestion with a cabinet full of “fixes,” weight gain with yo-yo dieting/calorie counting and low energy with many large coffees. I was overweight, undernourished, exhausted and frustrated as heck. Any of that sound familiar to you? If so, it’s probably time to stop running in circles; wasting time and wasting money treating symptoms instead of addressing the underlying issue. Thing is, skin care, coffee, and health care companies don’t want you to stop treating the symptoms… cause they want your business. And they LOVE it when you run in circles.
Me? I don’t think circles are good for anyone. I want to keep you moving forward.
I began studying gut health after my daughter Leyden died from NEC (she wasn’t premature). It is super intricate but the simple version is that NEC is sick intestines. Everyone was so focused on her heart (which was perfectly healthy when she died), that her stomach issues weren’t a priority. It still keeps me up at night thinking that her doctor literally termed her case “a catastrophe.” I now work with the NEC Society to spread awareness on this dangerous illness. You can read an article I wrote on Leyden’ story and how sick intestines claimed her life, here: LEYDEN/NEC
What are some signs that your gut might need some love? Diagnoses such as celiac, leaky gut, IBS, colitis, gastritis, candida, acne, low energy, weight gain, bloating, trouble digesting food and feeling sick to your stomach post meal. Our guts connect to everything.
We could literally spend days, months and years on gut health. I certainly have. Knowing how busy you all are, and how individual gut health truly is, here are six strategies you can incorporate right NOW to start improving your gut health:
1- Change the way you think about food. I talk about this in other blog posts (MY SEMI-EATING REGIME )You need to know WHY you are eating. Are you eating for energy? For recovery? For fuel? For pleasure? All of these are perfectly acceptable answers. But eating mindlessly, or because you saw an advertisement that a 100 calorie snack will help you lose weight, isn’t going to do you any good. Once you know WHY you are eating, you can choose foods that meet those needs. Do you need quick energy? Great, then grab a juice or smoothie that is going to offer you the resources to provide that. Grapes are also a good energy boost. Looking to help your digestion? Ginger, pineapple, dandelion root and fennel are all great options. Start shifting your approach to food and it will wildly change your functioning.
2- Hydration. I know, you hear it all the time. But are you actually hydrating correctly? Rule of thumb- drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day- as your base. If you workout or drink caffeine (dehydrating) counter with water. My partner, Mooch drinks at least her body weight if not more, in ounces of water per day. Maybe go grab a glass of H20 and clock those ounces while you finish reading.
3- Don’t drink water with your food!! Drinking water to feel full with your meal is NOT a weight-loss hack. Water interferes with the acids in your stomach and the enzymes in your saliva. Those are both required to digest your food properly. Let your amazing body do it’s thing, without getting in the way thinking you are “smarter” than creation.
4- Ditch emotional eating. See point 1… know what you are eating. No judgement here, I speak from experience. My college roommate reminds me of her first impression of me: sitting on the floor of our tiny dorm room, crying over the recent break-up with my high school boyfriend who I was certain I would marry, while drowning my sorrows, and my spoon, into the final globs of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Yup. Know why you are eating. Eating because you “feel like crap” shouldn’t be a reason. Love yourself in those moments- listen to a podcast, read a book, go to a yoga class, get a manicure… just steer clear of the freezer section of the grocery store.
5- Chew your food! My gut girl, Robin Youkilis has an entire support group on chewing food. Seriously. An entire support group. Think about it… the food you can’t digest has to go somewhere. If you can’t break it down, it ends up becoming debris that can cause inflammation throughout your body. Digestion begins in your mouth. Eating isn't a race. Slow down and chew! In truth, with my on the go lifestyle, this is something I continually work on and some days are better than others. This influences why juices and smoothies work well for me. Though you do have to “chew” your smoothies for the best digestion!
6- Quality over Quantity (of calories). Stop focusing on numbers. I no longer calorie count and I don’t use a scale (that’s an entirely other blog post). If you are eating healthily and caring for your body, I promise, you don’t need a scale or calculator. Think about what quality the food is providing you and focus on that. I used to hide from avocado but would scarf down fat free pretzels or frozen yogurt like it was an eating competition. Avocado is really healing for your gut and it helps your skin and those pesky under eye circles. Pretzels and fro-yo… empty calories that really don’t do me any good. Think back to strategy number one and WHY you eat. Sometimes it may be for pleasure and that’s fine. Do research on the qualities belonging to the foods you put in your body. And don’t expect to only eat for pleasure and lose weight and heal your gut. Let’s be real here. Change takes commitment. And it's all about finding YOUR balance.
These six strategies are simple ways that you can easily, right now, without extra time or money, make changes in your day to improve your gut health. Each have significantly helped me with digestion and belly bloat. Give them a shot and see how you feel! And if you’re still struggling, it is probably time to look deeper. You may want to incorporate probiotics (supplements or naturally fermented foods) or eliminate certain foods one at a time to observe a connection to your health and mood. Juicing, intermittent fasting, hydrocolonics and identifying what foods fed the pathogens in my body (we all have them) were the game changers for me. It’s too much info to cover here, and truly too individual to responsibly tell you what will work for YOU.
* Quick aside on juice cleanses. People ask all the time if I believe in juice cleanses… I do, occasionally, but not for weight loss reasons. If you want to clean out some of debris, metals and toxins accumulated to reset your gut I think they are great (and am happy to recommend the ones I think are best!). Just don’t cleanse thinking that you are going to lose 5 pounds, look good in a bathing suit and then eat a footlong sub, without chewing it, while drinking water.
Improving your gut health can be one small step at a time such as chewing your food. The best part is you have the ability and opportunity to create change for yourself. No matter how busy or tired you are, you can do it. Do your research, meet with a specialist or join my online coaching program. Our “Wreck The Rut” course starts June 1st and focuses on gut health, fitness and nutrition. We are helping busy women lose weight and clean their guts! WRECK THE RUT
I am passionate about helping people drop the Ben & Jerry’s, ditch the scale, lose weight and finally FEEL their best. I discovered, even through a total “catastrophe” (though Leyden will NEVER be a catastrophe to me) in my life, I could care for myself in a way that allowed me to feel clear and happy. And I truly believe you can and you DESERVE to spend your time here, feeling bright, energized and excited to MOVE. The world needs you to. <3