Easy and affordable tips you can use today to begin your gut health journey.
I have a confession to make, you can keep a secret, right?
When I first heard about gut health years ago, I dismissed it as a fad.
I mean, who even uses that word. GUT. Pfft.
Yup, I think I even scoffed.
At the time there were so many do-this-not-that diets around. And I was a newly qualified personal trainer with a health science degree now studying dietetics.
I thought I knew it all.
Working two jobs, studying, eating low-fat, interval training and hello spray-tans!
I look back now and see something entirely different. I see the cellular response to the over-worked, low-fat, intervals and tans.
Cortisol, inflammation and toxicity.
Bad, bad and badness.
TODAY AND KNOWING BETTER
Thankfully I dismounted my high horse and admitted there was something to all this gut talk.
I also stopped working two jobs. And never finished that degree. Adrenal fatigue and endometriosis will do that.
But it also took a while longer to actually start making gut healing changes.
Because gut health seemed so complex and confusing. And GUT makes me think of poop, not at all enticing.
Basically the perfect ingredients for procrastination.
So I’m here to save you from the same fate.
Let’s banish that gut procrasta-gremlin. And get started.
Here are a handful of things you can do today to improve your standing with the gut health Gods.
#1 Make simple kitchen swaps
It’s no secret that our standard diet today is very different to what our great-grandparents ate.
So generally for gut health, you want to simplify and get back to basics.
Toward nourishment, away from convenience and processed foods.
The best way to do this is with whole and organic food.
Cyndi O’Meara of Changing Habits is a genius at this. If you haven’t heard of her, definitely check her out.
Her philosophy is simple. We just need to change our habits around food.
- We just need to make simple changes to our ingredients.
- Then cook with them.
- At home.
So in this vain here are my top 3 kitchen swaps for gut health.
- Throw out your processed stock cubes. They are full of MSG and other nasties. Even if they claim to not add them. Make your own nourishing stocks and bone broths. It’s super simple and not expensive. Stock provides the building blocks to repair damaged gut cells, collagen. Broth is far more than a flavour base. It’s traditional know-how.
- Ditch the vegetable oil. Most polyunsaturated oils highly unstable. They are processed franken-fats which cause all manner of mischief with our gut and cellular function. Instead choose minimally processed saturated fats. Like rendered animal fats. Or extra virgin, cold-pressed, organic olive or coconut oils.
- Swap the sugar. Choose a less processed option like rapadura, coconut sugar or even maple syrup and honey. The brown colouring means the minerals are still intact, minerals nature knows your body needs to digest the sugar. Another option is to use fruit instead. We use bananas and blueberries to sweeten baking. But all sugars (even natural sugars in fruit) feed yeast so, if you’re serious about gut health swap sweet for savoury!
#2 Filter your water
This is a big one!
We’ve all heard the statistic about how we’re largely liquid. That around 60-70% of our cellular volume is water.
So it makes sense to keep it as pure and as close to nature as possible.
Digestion is uses a whopping 9L of water per day. It comes from both water you drink and from your cells.
And sadly, there is a bunch of nasty stuff hanging out in our tap water that you do not want in your body.
Now I’m not trying to sound like a crazy aunty who forwards those doomsday emails. You know that ones about the dangers of this, the hidden truth of that, and scary stuff from suspect websites.
Nope I’m talking about real science, from scientists, health gurus and doctors.
And if you need any more motivation…
Search for your country’s Drinking Water Guidelines to see what what they actually put in the water.
And the levels of these things they allow.
The Australian Guidelines are an eye-opener. All 1132 pages of it. And not in a good way.
What we don’t want in our water…
- Chemicals. Like chlorine and fluoride. And others they add for pH correction.
- Microorganisms. Parasites, algae, bacteria etc.
- Heavy metals. Lead, mercury and cadmium are the main culprits.
- Plastic residues. Phthalates leach from water stored in plastics or PVC pipes.
- Pesticides. Hundreds of pesticides are widely used in water catchment areas. Azatrine, glyphosate, and many others are known endocrine disrupters and more.
- Pharmaceuticals. Medications, antibiotics, birth control and anything else the population is taking.
- Petrochemicals. These are classed as VOCs. Votile orgnanic compounds and are carcinogenic.
- Radiation. Yup. From natural sources and mining. It’s scary.
Carbon filters remove most of these things so they’re definitely worth looking into. And don’t need to be super expensive. But it can be.
We have used a ceramic carbon filter for years. And decided our health was worth the cost. Which over many years is a small price to pay.
But we are looking to upgrade to a system that filters and restores minerals. For both drinking water and in the shower.
We’ve been researching the benefits of alkaline filtration.
I’ll keep you updated when we switch. I’m keen to see the difference in the shower. It’s meant to be incredible!
#3 Eat dinner earlier
Let your digestive system (and body) reboot – make breakfast just that. A breaking of the fast.
Fasting is an ancient yet scientifically proven health promoting practice.
There are as many ways to fast as there are diets to follow. But there’s much to be gained from changing your eating habits even just once a week.
It is supported by some hefty benefits.
- Increased lifespan.
- Stress resistance.
- Mental clarity.
- Better insulin sensitivity.
- Hormone production benefits.
- Neurological protection.
For gut health it prompts significant changes in your gut flora.
It encourages groups of helpful bacteria, such as Lactobacillus to flourish in the absence of food.
Who then outcompete the less productive bacteria. Like those who stimulate a strong lipopolysaccharide (LPS) antigen response in our bodies.
Intermittent fasting has proven itself to be a great way to experience the benefits of fasting.
Simply put, once a week, don’t eat for an extended period, between 8-12 hours. But 18 hours seems to be best.
So overnight after an early dinner. Or have a late breakfast.
There is also one trick though and it’s called fat adaption. Fasting is a whole world easier when your diet has less carbohydrates. Because your body will be used to using stored energy.
#4 Practice mindful eating
I was petrified the few times I encountered mindful eating growing up.
The practice of saying Grace before a meal at my grandparent’s house always made me break into a cold sweat.
I was terrified they would ask me to say it. We never said it at home.
So I had no idea what to say and I freaked the heck out. Every. Single. Time.
Which is completely counter productive.
Because taking a moment to express gratitude for your meal is not only a solid spiritual practice in giving thanks, its brilliant for healthy digestion.
And it turns out there’s science to back it up.
You may remember from biology class (another sweat inducing topic for some) about the ‘flight or fright’ response. When your nervous system detects stress.
And the opposite to that, ‘rest and digest’ when you are calm and relaxed.
Digestion needs calm. And the parasympathetic nervous system delivers.
- Saliva production increases.
- Muscles relax.
- Heart rate decreases.
- Stomach secretions and movement increase.
It’s a state we all should be in when eating.
For one, if we are chronically stressed before a meal we don’t produce enough stomach acid to signal digestive enzymes to release.
There are many ways our gut-brain axis is integral in digestion. But there’s also a chicken and egg scenario happening too.
- The types of organisms living in our microbiome directly influence our stress and anxiety levels.
- So stress can be coming from the inside and outside.
While you’re working on restoring your gut health, an easy way to help is simply by taking a couple of deep breaths before eating.
As simple of that.
You’ll start those digestive juices flowing. And be well on your way to gut health and general wellness.
This is something we noticed made a massive difference in our daughter’s progress on GAPS.
#5 Buy a cabbage
And finally, go find yourself a nice organic cabbage and make sauerkraut!
There is a rumour, that there are more helpful probiotic bacteria in a tablespoon of homemade sauerkraut than in a probiotic capsule.
I have no idea how true this.
But what I do know…
The bacteria present are alive, thriving and attached to their food source.
So they come with inbuilt prebiotics and ready to go compared with their freeze dried, petri-dish sourced comrades!
And this increases the likelihood of them surviving stomach acid and digestive enzymes.
- Probiotics have been likened to tourists visiting a city.
- They pass through and boost the economy but soon leave.
- This is why daily probiotic supplementation with probiotic travellers like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are advised.
Importantly, the type of bacteria which make sauerkraut, are different from those you’ll find in other fermented foods.
Drinks like kombucha and kefir have a large yeast community so are best avoided if you have known yeast or strep issues.
But sauerkraut has a high percentage of Lactobacillus species making it a simple and effective daily probiotic. And affordable too.
For the cost of a cabbage and a tablespoon of sea salt you can make a enough kraut to last months.
Here’s the basic sauerkraut recipe I use
- Shred a whole cabbage – red, white or both!
- Place it in a non-metal bowl and sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of salt. Stir. Cover.
- Let it sit for an hour or more. To save your hands. You’ll thank me!
- Massage the salt into the cabbage until the cabbage liquid starts coming out. All while thinking loving krauty thoughts of course!
- Press down into a large glass jar. Leave about 5cm (2 inches) space at the top. This is very important otherwise the lovely juices will overflow. You can use this as probiotics too.
- Weigh down so the shredded cabbage stays under the liquid. You can use the outer cabbage leaves wrapped around the core. Or a smaller jar filled with rocks – clean of course.
- Seal with a lid or pickle pipe. You want the sauerkraut to be anaerobic. No oxygen. So no peeking.
- Sit for about 6 weeks.
We mostly use this basic recipe, but love to experiment with different flavours.
We make a Coleslaw Kraut and a delicious Red Cabbage, Turmeric and Apple Sauerkraut too.
And one last tip.
A great way to get sauerkraut into kids is to put a teaspoon of the juice in their dinner. They won’t even know it’s there! But make sure the food is cooled so you don’t fry those good bugs!
Here’s the summary
Start your gut health journey today with one or more of these 5 easy tips.
- Swap your kitchen staples to gut friendly options.
- Filter your water to easily reduce your chemical load and preserve your microbiome.
- Make a fasting habit of an early dinner or late breakfast once a week.
- Get calm before you eat.
- Add sauerkraut to your menu.
And once you start, it’s so much easier to make bigger changes. Like doing the GAPS Healing Protocol if you have kids who need serious gut help.
P.S. Are you on Pinterest? Follow me for loads of recipes, microbiome and mama inspiration.
P.P.S. Have you heard about The Mamabiome Project? It’s now open for registration. Join us and share your story.