What I have learned about dealing with stomach issues for more than 50 years!
For as long as I can remember I had stomach issues. As a child, I always experienced constipation. I was also such a picky eater that everyone thought I was being difficult. I have since learned that being a picky eater as a child could have something to do with having food sensitivities. During the worst bout of stomach problems in my early thirties, I spent nearly a year just drinking my meals either through smoothies or juices.
At that point, the doctors had diagnosed me with gastroparesis and put me on a powerful, but controversial medicine called Reglan, which was later pulled off the shelves for causing exceedingly difficult side effects. That medicine triggered a chemically induced depression that left me bedridden unable to teach that year. I went on temporary medical leave from my school teaching job to get well. It was during this year, that I found a nurse practitioner who was way ahead of her time. She found a medicine in Canada that she thought could help me and suggested I pursue some ways to calm my nervous system to heal my gut.
My Gut-Healing Journey
Thus, began my journey into healing my gut and figuring out the interconnection between the mind and the body. I took up yoga during that time. I also severely restricted my diet to foods that did not cause symptoms. It was my first taste of an elimination diet. Over the years, I restricted more and more of my foods as I continued to search for diagnosis and relief from these constantly changing symptoms. Ten years ago, I started to become familiar with functional medicine and the idea of searching for root causes. Through thousands of hours of research and many certification programs, I learned a great deal about gut issues, root causes, their connection to other diseases including anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases, and the importance of healing your nervous system to heal your gut.
I will share my biggest takeaways with you with a caveat. Do not take any of my takeaways as gospel. Like you, I believed there were quick fixes and simple solutions to my health issues. That is why many of us go from doctor-to-doctor seeking medicines, tests, and even surgeries. And then in desperation, we seek out the one “best” diet, look for the single culprit or keep on spending money on more supplements that we believe will be the “one” key to healing. But what I have learned is there is not one key, one magic pill, one special food or supplement that does it. In fact, it is learning to do many things in this healing journey, so you can either enjoy the ride or keep fighting it. One of these choices works better for healing!
10 Pieces of Advice for Gut Healing That Are Not Gospel
Here are my 10 Big Takeaways as I have evolved in my thinking about my gut issues. Consider them and these pieces of advice as an invitation to explore what you might need to do differently to support this major system of your body that is in so much control of everything else.
- Eat as many fresh, locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables that you can tolerate, get your hands on, and afford. These are your most important sources of carbohydrates and fiber. Grains are optional if your body does well on them. Mine does not.
- Stop the sugar habit. If you need sweet food consider alternatives such as fresh fruit, honey, agave, stevia, or Monkfruit
- Drink fresh pure water preferrable not in plastic single-use bottles.
- Make sure you are getting enough protein and healthy fats. If it is meat-based, make sure it is not factory-raised. If it is vegetable-based, make sure your body can digest the proteins without terrible gas. If it is seafood-based, find out the sources of your fish. Healthy fats do not include highly processed vegetable oils that can go rancid easily. Also, know the smoke points of your fats. For example, don’t cook your olive oil on high heat. It will be chemically altered. Examples of healthy fats might include avocado, flaxseed oils, good quality olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, and raw nuts if you can tolerate them.
- Rotate your foods as much as possible. In other words, do not eat the same thing every day for your meals. This is a big mistake lots of us make. (I will address this point more in a future blog.)
- If you take supplements, be picky about the quality. Poor quality supplements can do more harm than good and if you are taking the wrong kind of supplements at the wrong time you might be just throwing your money away.
- Be willing to test either on your own or with the help of a trained coach or functional doctor how foods are reacting in your system and your current nutritional deficiencies. “Test Don’t Guess” if you can afford it.
- Be open-minded, curious, and not freaked out when considering there could other issues affecting your gut if you are still experiencing problems after taking all these steps. In other words, consider your gut issues might be exacerbated by toxic exposures in your home, workplace, or environment or infections, parasites, mold, yeast, etc. If it is any of these things, be aware that these might slow down your full healing until you can correct the sources of the problem.
- Recognize and take steps to heal your gut by healing your past, your emotions, and changing your mindset. This was the most important part of my healing plan. Yoga, HeartMath®, and other mindfulness practices have been so instrumental for me and my clients in this part of the equation.
- Practice compassion, loving acceptance, and forgiveness to you and your sensitive gut and let go of the pity party story. It does not work. I know. I did it for years. “Poor, poor, pitiful me. Everyone else can eat what they want except me.”
Through this 50 plus year healing journey, I now realize my gut issues have actually been a gift and invitation to explore my past and present and to become self-empowered to choose my future.
If you need my help in navigating your gut healing journey, please reach out.