My Digestive Journey- Probiotics

Last week I talked about eliminating certain things from your diet in order to help heal your gut.  For me personally that meant getting rid of dairy as well as gluten.  This week I want to talk about adding something to your diet: probiotics.

Little Biology lesson for you:  You have bacteria and microbes all over your body, from your skin, to your eyelashes, to inside your digestive system.  Before you freak out and douse your body with sanitizer, these are good bacteria and essential to your every day functions.  These bacteria have various jobs, but the ones in your gut help to digest your food.  A healthy gut can have upwards of trillions of microbes helping to breakdown your food so you can use it to function.

When you don’t have a healthy gut, your microbe count can drop way down.  This in turn affects your digestion.  You no longer have a billion little helpers and food can sit in your digestive tract and rot or pass through only partially digested.  Clearly having rotting food sit in your gut is not an ideal situation.  This can lead to stomach problems, bloating, gas, and just general unpleasantness.  Many things contribute to unhealthy microbes.  Taking anti-biotics can damage good bacteria as well as bad bacteria, as well as eating an unhealthy diet.

This is where probiotics come in.  Adding probiotics to your diet can help restore and repair the bacteria in your gut, in turn helping your body to properly digest and use the food you eat.  There are plenty of ways to get probiotics into your diet and I’ve tried a few here on this list. REMEMBER: I’m not a doctor or any type of certified medical professional.  This is just a list that I have made based on my own research.  Talk with your health care professional if you want to start adding more of these to your life.

Probiotic Pills There are a plethora of probiotic pills out there on the market.  It can be overwhelming to try and find the right one for you.  While I’m a believer in trying to get your nutrients/vitamins/minerals from food, I realize it’s difficult to get everything you need every day from food alone. When looking for probiotics you don’t need anything fancy, just probiotics.  Here is a list, by all means not all inclusive, of different probiotics and their functions.  Start here and go through and find the function that you need and then work from there.  Look for pills that contain that strand of bacteria.  Talking to your doctor or a nutritionist can also help as they are well equipped to help you sort through all the information out there.

Some forms of dairy  This one I approach with caution.  Obviously I do not eat any dairy, but there are products, such as yogurt, that have probiotics in them..  The downside is that many times they will also have added sugar and chemicals that don’t help your digestion.  So be careful if you choose this approach.  Plain Greek yogurt is a good start and you can add in your own flavoring such as honey or fruit.

Fermented Foods Tempeh, kimchi, kombucha.  All of these are fermented food/drinks.  Because of the fermentation process, these products have probiotics that can help with digestion.  This is the route that I have been experimenting with lately and it has given me some great results.  While these foods may sound weird and not as appetizing as, say, a plate of cookies, they really taste good and are immensely helpful.  I have mentioned kombucha before and this is the fermented food that I have used the most. Kombucha is a type of fermented tea that you can purchase at most grocery stores.  Unfortunately it is pretty expensive (around $4 for us here in the Midwest  but the good news is that you can actually make your own!  I recently purchased my own kombucha kit, and while I haven’t started to grow it yet (I’m going to wait until after we move in April), it is actually a fairly simple process and not at all intimidating.  Plus once you start to grow your own kombucha you can have a never ending supply because it just continues to grow, as long as you maintain it.  Once I get kombucha down I plan to start trying to make my own fermented vegetables.  I’ll try to share that process with you as I go through it so that you can reap all the benefits of fermented food!

This is by no means a complete list of probiotic help.  There are other things such as papaya and apple cider vinegar that also have probiotic qualities and will help with your digestion.  Again, the key here is finding a method that works best for you.  Perhaps you can’t stomach the idea of eating billions of microbes (don’t worry, it is a little creepy at first) and want the convenience of a pill.  That’s totally fine, this isn’t about following the crowd and choosing what is most popular at the time. This is about finding the combination of digestive aids that works for you and gives you the best results.

Hopefully these last few posts and some of the advice have been helpful to you.  I would love to hear from you readers with any questions, comments, and/or concerns.  I write this blog to help you and your input is greatly appreciated!  Have a great Monday and an awesome week!

Copy, Paste… Healthy?

My past few posts have been about your digestive health.  Your nutrition and health have SO much to do with the particular microbes you have in your digestive system as well as how healthy those particular microbes are.  Many problems that people experience these days have to do with their digestive system not being in top performing mode.  The obvious solution is to take steps to fix or heal your gut, right?  The best way to do that is to follow a gut-healing diet, right? You can just find one on the internet or follow what your friend is doing, right?

WRONG! Just like your fingerprint, your digestive system is unique to you.  No one else has one that functions in the exact same way that yours does, therefore you can’t just follow a “cure-all” or “blanket” diet.  Sure, there are certain things that you can try that might be similar to someone else’s journey, like perhaps take probiotics.  But the type of probiotics your body will need will be totally different than what your neighbor’s body needs.  To really fix your gut, you are going to need to be a dedicated sleuth to your body’s functioning.  This is tough!  Who has time to constantly be monitoring how your stomach reacts to every single piece of food that they ingest?  Who wants to deal with eliminating foods (maybe foods that you REALLY like) and having a “boring” diet?  And who wants to slog through a bunch of boring research to find advice about where they should start their healing process?

I didn’t.  It was so much easier to ignore my problems or tell myself that it wasn’t such a big deal.  I wasn’t dying of a terminal illness, I could function fairly well and I was intimidated by trying to “heal” myself.  Especially since there was no way to copy someone else who had done all the work already (admit it, we’re all a little lazy).  But the more and more I read, and dealt with my not-that-bad issues, the more I realized I needed to practice what I preach.  I needed to put in the effort and work towards getting my best health. How can I keep telling you to to step it up if I won’t step it up?  Hypocrite much?  So I’ve started the task of healing myself and I want to be able to help you start yours.  While I won’t be able to tell you exactly what to do, I can offer help and suggestions.

A few things I CAN tell you are a few what not to do’s.  These were some of the pitfalls that I fell into and to be honest they are pretty easy to avoid.

Ignore. This is pretty self-explanitory, and I mentioned it earlier, but please do not just ignore what can become a serious problem.  Whether it be because you don’t want to deal with it or don’t know how to deal with it, neither are a good enough excuse for turning a blind eye to your health.  If you feel crummy, you need to FIX IT!  If only someone had shouted that at me years ago, I would have had a much easier go at this!

Be a lemming. You can not just follow the crowd on this one.  There is no band-aid that is going to fix your problem just like everyone else.  Fad diets or pills or drinks or magic potions or whatever are not going to make you better.  They might just do the opposite and wreck your digestive system even more and that is so not cool.  You obviously have to start somewhere and it is ok to see where others have started.  But remember, just because they eliminated dairy from their life and are tons better doesn’t mean that it will cure you as well.

Obsess/Worry/Stress.  Yes, this can be a daunting task.  Some of you are probably saying, “I’m not a nutritionist! I have no clue what’s going on inside me or how to fix it!”  I felt the same way too.  Take a deep breathe and focus on little changes you can make.  Don’t try to completely overhaul your diet/lifestyle overnight.  That will just cause you to freak out and that doesn’t help your problem at all. The more calm and stress free you remain, the easier it will be to stay in tune with your body and figure out what direction to take.  Take it from someone who stresses over LOTS of things, it is much easier to take it slow and save yourself the headache.

My next few posts will be about steps that I have taken to make my digestive system healthier  I think it helps to read through someone else’s journey and know that while it is different for each individual, in the end it is just about trying to get healthy so you can enjoy life to it’s fullest.  If you would like to read more about gut health and the research that is behind it I would suggest reading this article from Mark Hyman, MD, as well as this article by Dr. Elizer Ben-Joseph.  Both are really great scientific articles that can help you understand a little more about what’s going on inside your body.  I also encourage you to head over to the purely twins blog. This is a blog written by twin sisters (go figure) and they have been writing about their day to day experiences with healing their guts.  I have been following them since day one and it has been really helpful in my own journey.

Next week I will have more about my personal experience as well as some things I have done (look for a post about kombucha tea coming soon!).  Remember, this is going to be a very individual experience.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t gain strength and insight from others! I hope you have a great week and I’ll see you soon!

food for thought!

food for thought!