Often, when we think about digestive upset, we immediately consider all of the foods that might need to be eliminated from our diets: dairy, gluten, fructose, soy, and the list goes on. Sometimes this is a necessary step, but it really does vary from individual to individual, and a ‘one size fits all’ approach to dietary elimination may just do more harm than good. With a continued focus on removing an endless list of foods from our diet, not only do we develop a really restrictive relationship with food, but we also end up missing out on plenty of nourishing whole foods that may not even be the problem to begin with.
What we should stop and consider though, is the structure and function of our gut. Stress, infection, long term medication use, and even laxative based ‘skinny teas’ can damage the protective lining of the gut, leading to problems like IBS, and eventually affect mood and immunity. So instead of talking about potential dietary irritants – which should really be considered on a case-by-case basis – I’m going to highlight some of the dietary champions to enrich our diets with, and heal any existing damage. And who knows, you may just find that some of the intolerances you thought you had clear off once your gut is working as it should.
Balance the Bacteria
We all know how important our gut bacteria are. We are becoming increasingly aware for optimal health, we need to consider humans as ecosystems, rather than just individual organisms.
Daily intake of fermented foods is a more holistic approach than probiotic therapy, and my pick of the bunch is kefir. Not only is it easy to make and loaded with ‘good’ bacteria, but it also contains kefiran. Kefiran, though not a living organism itself, is a prebiotic that stimulates growth of healthy bifidobacteria species. It also means that most of the lactose is removed naturally, reducing the chance of tummy upset.
Other amazing prebiotics include Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, chicory root, garlic, and onions. Load up on these guys daily if you can.
Decrease Chronic Inflammation
Although a degree of inflammation is necessary in the gut to protect the walls from damage, years of irritation can cause improper inflammation, and sometimes even leaky gut. This in turn amplifies food sensitivities, and the cycle continues. There are three simple ingredients that can be used daily in a smoothie to decrease this inflammation: turmeric, aloe vera gel, and slippery elm.
Last but not least, we need to promote healing and tissue integrity in the gut. Add one or two teaspoons of glutamine to the smoothie I mentioned above, and if you are open to taking a probiotic, make it Saccharomyces boulardii.
Guest contributor: Reece Carter.