Part I: Digestive Health, the what is.

so a lot of you have been messaging me on a daily basis related to questions about certain digestive health issues and how to deal with them when it feel as if you have tried just about everything under the sun and then some, yet nothing works. To be honest, I love these emails and questions the most. I geek out about gut health and read about it all the time, since this is the whole reason as to why I started my blog in the first place and I know what it is like first hand to deal with all of this; leaky gut, IBS, SIBO, distention of the abdomen, you name it, I pretty much have it or have suffered through it. It seems as if more and more people are suffering from these types of problems, yet we are at a loss as to why. What is the root cause? I like to think of these often taboo topics, a silent health issue, because while the person may appear normal on the outside, their insides and mental health is taking a huge hit. 

Many of you want to know, what I eat in a day, how have I seemed to “heal” my gut issues, what do I do to relieve the flares, what diets do I follow, why am I so bloated by the end of the day or even when I eat the smallest amount of food, (sucks, I know!) if I count fibers, calories, sugars, or do I stay away from fats, or if giving up certain food groups entirely will help. The questions are endless, and all too familiar to me. I've decided to compile them all together as best as I can in a two part post, first being an introduction and second with all the good stuff- the tips, tricks, and suggestions, so we can all come back to it at any point. Even me! Sometimes I need a daily reminder as to how far I've come and that I am not alone. 

First off, I feel obligated to say that I am not a nutritionist or a doctor, but have lived with this for over 10 years, on a daily basis and to me that counts for something. It is rather difficult to understand the true potential of what someone needs or is going through unless they too are experiencing it first hand.  I have seen countless doctors, been to many nutritionists, and tried every medication in the book. While some medications brought me temporary relief, I really noticed a changed in my overall well-being was when I changed the way I was eating and changed my mindset around food. I still see a gastroenterologist and a neurologist regularly because often times my systems are so severe that, yes, a turmeric latte and a kale salad isn’t going to cut it. siiiigh.

Although I’ve had numerous requests, I’ve struggled back and forth with writing weekly “What I eat in a Day” blog posts for many reasons. The first and the main reason being, no two bodies are the same, mine is different from yours and your body is different than your friends', sister's, boyfriend's, whomever! Therefore, I really don’t want someone to look at what I eat in a day and think that, that is EXACTLY how they should be eating too. Why? Some days, I may eat more than others; some days, weeks, or months I may be suffering from a really bad flare and my food intake is extremely off balanced/ limited and other days you might find me polishing off an entire bag of granola, scooping PB from the jar, or eating meat one week and not the next.  Which, is why I do not want someone to think, Oh she doesn’t eat breakfast until 10 AM, so I will eat breakfast at 10 AM too and for dinner she has a smoothie so, me too! Second, I eat when I am hungry, what my body is craving, and really tune in to what it needs. It takes time yes, to get rid of judgement, or thinking you are eating too much, or wondering why some days you are legit a garbage disposal and other days you actually just forget to eat, but once your body is stabilized and you feed it properly it will begin to tell you exactly what it needs and how much. 

                                                                         so lets get to it: 

I get it. Living with leaky gut, SIBO, IBS, gastroparesis, food allergies, and constant bloating is H A R D. Even if you just have 1 and weren’t blessed with all of them. On the outside I appear “normal”, I am healthy looking, in shape, and never appear to be bloated and if I ever am, I never feel as if I can “complain” about my severe stomach pain because I am naturally thin so people around me actually get angry. It is as if I not entitled to feel a certain way because of the way I look on the outside, they would rather “look like me” but little do they know what I am dealing with on the inside. It actually eats me alive when people tell me to stop complaining about my stomach pain, or if I have to cancel plans last minute since everyday is different when you are suffering from digestive issues, or you pray there is food on a menu you can eat at a restaurant or someone’s house you are heading to without making it awkward. You get me? One day you feel amazing and the next day you don't want to leave your bed, put on real clothes, and just deal. 

What I want to say is, don’t let it define you or control you. Turn it into a positive and think of how lucky you are to be able to take care of your body and to nourish your body with all the right foods now to properly heal it instead of only wrecking havoc. You’ll feel so much better, have so much energy. What I am not going to tell you is what you need to eat every minute of the day, but I will share with you everything that has worked for me and what I do; a guide if you will, on how I've gone from being crippled in bed, in and out of doctors offices, taking more medication than you can imagine and going from eating absolutely nothing to have more energy now than ever, balanced hormones, little to no bloating, and just an overall better sense of well-being. Obviously some days flat out suck, but I now have more good days than bad days. Celebrate. 

What diet should I follow?
Should I become a vegan?
What about sugar? 
What do you during flares?
I am constantly bloated by the end of the day? Why?
Feel lost, what do I do, been to every single doctor and no answer.
Do you follow the FODMAP diet? 



Before we get into everything, what is leaky gut, SIBO and all that stuff anyways? Let’s break it down in basic terms and get a little science-y.

Leaky gut: 
Sounds terrible and like something you do not want your gut to be doing at all. Basically, leaky gut is when your intestinal lining separates (the tight junctions of your gut) and create these “holes” allowing toxins, undigested food, bacteria, any kind of substances, to escape into in your small intestines and enter your bloodstream! You don’t want them there because it can cause havoc on your body = hormonal imbalance, weight gain, sugar cravings, so.much.bloating, food intolerances, constipation, etc! 

Think of it this way, your gut lining is normally supposed to act as a shield, to stop unwanted substances that are harmful, from escaping and entering your bloodstream. BUT, when the shield is broken, all hell breaks loose in the body. A battle you will not win, unless you fuel your body properly and heal your gut. 

So what happens? You body goes into panic mode. Your immune system reacts, attacks, brings out an immune response on these unwanted substances that have been leaked into your bloodstream. So? Then, each response = inflammation. The more unwanted particles that are released into the bloodstream, the more attacks, and the more inflammation your body will suffer from. Chronic inflammation equals constant feeling of BLAH and health complications. 

Leaky gut can be caused by stress, toxic overload, inflammatory foods, and things like lack of good bacteria in the gut. The more bad bacteria you have it can potentially lead to damaging the gut lining, SIBO (hello! me!) or candida. When you have leaky gut you may develop food sensitivities, headaches or migraines, have brain fogs, joint pain, and tired all the time! More on how to heal it coming.

So, I also mentioned SIBO above. SIBO = Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Every time I mention I have this to someone, I feel as if they look at me like I should be quarantined in a room. Basically, when a person has SIBO, they have an excessive amount of bacteria in the small intestine. The infection is of the bacteria, normally, the small intestines is home to low levels of bacteria but it has abnormally overgrown in this area. What does this mean? It affects the digestion, absorption of food and is associated with the damaging to the lining of the small intestine (coming back full circle to leaky gut). It is common to have both SIBO and leaky gut at the same time, and often times those who have SIBO for a while will develop a leaky gut. 

Why is SIBO a problem? Well, food meets up with all your digestive juices in the small intestines. Essential nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream and with the help of the bacteria in the colon, everything is properly digested and your body absorbs all the good stuff, BUT if you have SIBO, you are missing out on this key factor. If your bacteria is imbalanced, malabsorption of the nutrients occurs and you may experience symptoms of IBS and it can lead to further damage of the stomach lining. See how it is all connected? The food that is passed through the small intestine for a person with SIBO, their bacteria (the infection of) interferes with the healthy digestive and absorption. Therefore, you may experience weight loss, depression, malnutrition, vomiting, and so forth. It is a chronic condition but can be curable, with patience. Much patience. We will get to it! 

Lets talk about two more: 

Gastroparesis is something that I also have and it is where my stomach can not empty itself of food at a normal rate. The vagus nerve, if we want to get technical is damaged, which prevents the muscles in the stomach and the intestine from preventing food from moving through the digestive system. Honestly, I don't know how this happened, and many doctors do not know, but what I do know is that I get pretty full pretty quickly after meals. People mistake this as a poor appetite but I really just have to eat small meals 6-9 times a day throughout the day because my body can actually not digest 3 large meals, it would be too heavy on my system. Want to bring it even more full circle? Foods that stay in the stomach too long can ferment, which can lead to the growth of bacteria. Hello contribution to the possibility of leaky gut and SIBO and symptoms of IBS. 

I feel like all of us have a little IBS right? To me, this seems the most common. You may always feel constant bloating, stomach pain, worse after you eat, better after you go, it may be worse when you are stressed out, it may stem from genetics. So much of IBS is unknown, but it is one of those things that will never go away. With some lifestyle changes, such as managing your stress, changing up your eating habits you can somewhat keep it under control. 

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, maybe you are thinking yes, this is exactly me! I know we can all feel a little discomfort after eating certain foods or feel the tension in our bellies when we are stressed to the max. We feel this in our bodies and we see just how our bodies react to certain things- anxiety, stress, toxic overloads, our environment, foods we consume. It can feel so overwhelming to the point where you don't know what good can feel like. In the next part, I want to share the foods I eat, how I manage my stress and anxiety, any tips and tricks as to what I do to properly nourish my body. I definitely do not always have it all down and always balanced, but I just want to encourage you to eat the best you can, eat healthy to live the best possible life, workout because you love it and if you do that your body will thank you and heal itself.