You need to heal your body first. Part I here, incase you missed it.
In the second part I want to focus less on the facts, "the what is" per-say of the digestive health issue someone, aka you, maybe dealing with, and focus on the foods, tips, and offer up suggestions on how to heal and nourish your body from the inside out. I want to take you on a written, tour of my kitchen, my cabinets, fridge, what I keep on hand, always, and let you in on what has helped me overcome these daily struggles and what I do when I am experiencing the worst flares of my life.
While some of these might not be anything new or groundbreaking to hear, it is just a reminder that self care is so important. It truly affects how you feel, how you carry out your day, and just your overall energy that you put out there. A few of the biggest things that I've learned throughout this whole process, is understand your trigger foods and stay away, seriously, managing stress and finding an outlet to do so is so key, and to not be embarrassed about any of this. Who cares if you bring your own food somewhere, it's better than feeling like complete crap, it's ok to be selfish during this time.
How I eat changes on a regular basis depending on how I feel. When I eat, I try and think or ask myself how is this fueling me and making me feel my best. Obviously, there's balance involved and I am not saying I don't have wine occasionally or eat french fries pre-knowing that I will feel off after eating, but I have realized that the more negative you are towards foods, the more of a negative affect it will actually have on your body. When I have this pre-notion that X food will bother my stomach, it does. However, I could eat the same thing the next day with a positive attitude and usually I am not bothered by it.
so let's get into a few topics while I talk specific:
The major thing that has helped heal my stomach is truly watching my sugar intake. You can read all about that here, on a article I had written about my experience with sugar. I am talking about all forms of sugar, fruits, added sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, agave, dates etc), vegetables, and then some! For me, sugar was feeding my SIBO, leaky gut, and just causing so much havoc on my stomach, my skin, and my mental state. Instead I use spices like cinnamon or vanilla to sweetened up my dishes, once you ween yourself off sugar, you will not crave it anymore, you'll be way less bloated, have more energy, your skin will glow again, and your digestive system won't be so overloaded with fake sugars in your body. This was probably the number one thing that has helped me, heal, my digestive issues. Trust me. I now try and keep my intake under 25 grams of added sugar a day by opted for unsweetened products (almond milks, nut butters, yogurts etc), choosing green veggies verses high sugar ones, upping my protein and healthy fats at meals, and really reading the labels of products. If the first ingredient is sugar or any type of syrup, then you should not buy it! It is amazing how much better I feel physically after discovering that my sugar intake was way too high for my body.
For each meal, I try and balance out my plate between: protein, healthy fats, and veggies. I do not count calories, macros, healthy fats, but I do watch how much sugar I am consuming at each meal/snack because of the negative affects it has on my system. Worrying about calories, macros, and anything related is mentally exhausting. Been there, done that, and only created food fears and added stress. When you eat organic, real foods, in their purest form as much as possible, you will not have to worry about calories. I have also learned that eating a variety of foods every day and throughout the week is so good for my body and digestive system. I discovered that when I ate the SAME thing every single day (I have such an addictive personality when it comes to finding foods or a food combination I like, ie sweet potato fries, peanut butter, or even eggs!) after a while my body would reject those foods. I almost felt that I was becoming intolerant to these certain foods- I would feel so bloated, get headaches, and almost become so addicted that I would overeat them. I've read that you can actually become intolerant to certain foods when you eat them ALL the time. Now, for example, I try and rotate what I eat for breakfast between 3 or 4 different things and the same goes for lunch and dinner. I mainly try and focus on making sure that two out of my three meals are filled with vegetables of some kind, healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado) and lean protein (organic chicken, turkey and eggs). In between meals, if I am hungry, I snack! Snacking is good, in my world, it keeps my blood sugar levels stabilized, prevents me from binging at my meal, gives me energy and keeps me focused throughout the day.
I will post recipes below for a few ideas.
For example: Ideas:
Breakfast: Chia puddings, Overnight Oats, dairy free unsweetened yogurt bowls: with your favorite nut butter, cacao nibs, half banana, clean protein powders (I love and only use Philosophie, it energizes me and is filled with tons of REAL ingredients and superfoods), low sugar granola (my body usually responds well to paleo granolas). I will use unsweetened almond milks and constantly change up the flavor by using cinnamon, vanilla, cacao powder, turmeric, nutmeg, and sometimes add in grated zucchini or roasted butternut squash to up my veggie intake for the day. Avocado on sprouted toast (easier to digest- Silver Hills or Alvarado Bakery is great) w/ olive oil, sea salt, pepper. Low sugar smoothies with lots of frozen vegetables (spinach, steamed cauliflower, frozen zucchini, butternut squash), unsweetened dairy free milks, berries only, if you need fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, protein powders, nut butters etc) Organic eggs + vegetables, avocados, cooked in coconut oil = healthy fat! Fruit free smoothies. You can find all of these types of recipes in my instagram feed or throughout my blog.
SO KEY! Setting aside a few hours one time during the week is life saving. You do not need to plan out your meals and stress out about what you are going to eat on Thursday, when it is only Sunday. All you need to do is roast your favorite vegetables, cook protein, prepare a few breakfasts, and make your favorite snacks. It is that simple. It allows you to stay on track and prevents you from always eating out, not eating at all, or having to succumb to foods that might hurt your stomach. You want to strive for feeling good most of the time and meal prepping can help, it leaves room for those spontaneous moments that are needed. I notice that when I do not meal prep, I eat out a lot, overeat at night because I had no time to make breakfast or lunch before work, have more stomach pains, and feel overall a sense of stress and not grounded each day. I tend to roast big batches of my favorite vegetables with lots of spices, cook organic chicken, egg muffin cups, overnight oats, and a big batch of my favorite energy bites. (more under snacks). I also try to find inspiration from other bloggers and websites to make it a goal each week to cook/prepare two new recipes; whether it be lunch, dinner, snack, or breakfast. This way you are constantly changing up your foods.
FLARES: What to do, how to heal, fix, what to avoid, how to get back on track.
There are some times; days, weeks or even months that I have the worst flares: constant bloating, migraines, intense cravings for sugars, hormonal imbalance, distention of the abdomen, full feeling after I eat the smallest amount, digestion problems, IBS-D/IBS-C in full force, terrible skin, constant fatigue, and anxiety attacks. Like, I do not want to get out of bed, put on pants, go in public and just live feeling. It ruins my entire day, week or even month. I can experience all of this and more during each flare. It is so painful, hard, and you feel as if it will not go away and you are wondering what the quick fix is. I want to say that there is no quick fix, no magic pill, and medications will only bring you temporary relief. I've been on so many that did help, but within 6 months or so, I would have to go on another round of antibiotics and each time they helped less and less. This isn't to get you discouraged, I am only talking from experience. However, once I started to change my diet, manage my stress, and find what workouts worked for my body, a transformation truly helped and sometimes I forget that I even have all of these problems.
EAT: Healing Foods:
Healthy fats: avocado, coconut oil, pure olive oil
Omega 3's: wild caught seafood, pasture raised meats (lean & organic)
Steamed / cooked/ roasted vegetables (easier on the digestive system vs. raw)
!!Limit sugar intake!!
When I am experiencing these flares, I like to call them, this is what I do and reach for:
Bone broth, turmeric milks, superfood hot chocolate, & warm water, lemon with coconut vinegar/apple cider vinegar. Learn to love them and drink them often. Why?
1. Bone Broth: I used to make my own bone broth, it is time consuming, but worth it. However, recently I have been using Bonafide Provisions Organic Bone broth that you can find in your local store. I drink this for many reasons: it is one of the best natural sources of collagen. We need this collagen to form tissues that make up the lining of the GI track. Remember when I said in part 1, that those with leaky gut or SIBO their lining has "holes"? Think of bone broth as sealing up these holes and preventing undigested food particles to escape into your blood stream. I love adding turmeric, ginger, lemon, ACV and any other spices too it. I drink this at any hour of the day, once a day.
2. Turmeric Milk. Read about it here.
3. Superfood hot chocolate. Recipe here. This energizes me and I usually have this in the morning first thing or for an afternoon pick me up. I have realized that coffee is very acidic for my stomach, caused migraines, bloating, made me feel anxious in the evenings, and left me having trouble falling asleep in the evenings. Once I got rid of coffee in my diet, my bloating decreased tremendously. This hot chocolate is filled with superfoods, protein, healthy fats, collagen; helping you balance your hormones, keep you full, energized, and happy.
4. Warm water, lemon, 1-2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar. If there is one thing you should do it's this as well. First thing in the morning on an empty stomach. It helps clear your skin, wakes up your digestive system, balances you PH levels but keeping your body more alkaline vs. acidic, helps with digestion, and moving things through the system.
5. Kombucha: Improves digestion, cleansing, detoxifying, increased energy, probiotics. I tend to drink one a day a few times a week. I do notice that I can become bloated after I drink them due to the probiotics and carbonation, so drink slow! Look for ones that are very low in sugar and no added sugars (cane sugar etc) I personally like GT Kombucha (gingerade)
My go to spices/superfoods: I use many more and constantly use spices in my foods to bring more flavor, but these are what I use every single day to help digestion, stress, inflammation, anxiety; you'll see a trend: Promotes healing.
Maca powder: balances hormones, boost libido, increases endurance.
Raw cacao powder: energizing, full of magnesium, chocolate fix without the sugar, antioxidants.
Turmeric: anti-inflammatory (see above on turmeric milks)
Cinnamon: stabilizes blood sugar levels, sweetener, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory
Ginger: speeds up the emptying of the stomach, help with digestion & stomach cramps (PMS)
Ashwagandha: anti-stress, anti-anxiety, lowers cortisol levels, balanced thyroid problems, strengthen immune system.
Reishi: boost immunity, anti-inflammatory, mental clarity
Collagen (Vital Proteins): strengthen nails, improves skin, hair growth, same benefits as bone broth, source of protein
Vanilla: anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, healthy digestion, relieves anxiety
L-glutamine powder: an amino acid that helps repair the digestive tract, especially important for people with chronic diarrhea
Ground Flaxseed / Chia seeds: fight inflammation, promotes digestion, gets things moving, full of fiber & protein
What do I avoid: I do not like to think of foods being off limits in fear that certain foods may work for your body, but do not work for me. With that being said, it is all trial and error. I ate many foods to test them out to see how my body would react. I do not do well following certain diets, such as low FODMAPS, gluten free, GAPS, etc. because there are foods/spices for example on the FODMAPS diet that I can eat that people told me to avoid and people with my same symptoms avoid. I do avoid dairy completely, since I have an allergy. You will need to figure out what works for your body, by unfortunately, but simply testing, but you will know almost instantly.
Coffee (occasional, if there is one that is low in acidity)
limit alcohol (wine = sugar= bloat, other mixed drinks can contain a great deal of sugar/syrups, stick with clear. You'll feel better. Have more fun)
sugars (high fructose corn syrup, agave, anything ending is "ose" fructose, dextrose, maltose, brown sugar, etc. Just don't)
!!ANYTHING YOU CAN'T PRONOUNCE!!
Soy, additives, packaged foods, artificial flavorings, vegetable, corn, soybean oils, legumes (peanuts, lentils) can be troublesome/cause bloating, destroy stomach lining
Nightshade vegetables: if you have leaky gut or gut related issues, you may be OK, you will need to test yourself. (tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, peppers, paprika, cayenne pepper, okra)
Grains: (or make sure they are sprouted = easier to digest) [quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, corn, rice, oats etc]
Most fruits, unless they are berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries) OR the skin is peeled (apples, pears). Fruits contain a good amount of sugar, berries are low. If you over consume, you may experience a great deal of bloating. I can't eat fruit everyday (mangos, apples pineapples, bananas) but a few times a week I can, but limit my serving = which allows me to enjoy it.
Juice cleanses = sugar sugar sugar! Just eat real food.
You are probably thinking this is a long list and what are you going to do now that you can't eat oatmeal or some of your favorite vegetables!? AFTER healing my stomach I could begin to incorporate some of these foods (apples, oats, occasional coffee) back into my diet. I still have to be careful to not over consume, but first your stomach needs to heal then re-test.
I mainly stick to heated yoga, occasional swims, and soul cycle. Yoga, especially in the heat is so great and beneficial for me, not only physically but mentally. It helps my mind body awareness, become more self aware of how I am feeling, what my body needs, and appreciate it for what it does. It depends each week, but I normally workout 5 times a week, because I love it, not because I am forcing it. If I need a rest, I rest. These workouts have been my go to when I experiencing flares as well. Hot yoga is intense, but it also is gentle on my body. I can not do HIIT workouts, run, or anything that is super stressful on the body, causing my cortisol levels to rise; I become inflamed. Once again, our bodies are DIFFERENT, this works for me, but find what works for you. BUT, having a consistent workout routine helps you mentally to stay focused, sane, enhances your mood, builds confidence and strength, and makes you appreciate your body. It also gets your body moving which in my opinion is so key if you have digestive issues.
If you have ever listened to my stories on instagram, you know that I love taking epsom salt baths almost every night. It soothes/calm my body, relaxes my muscles, helps with inflammation, help eliminate harmful toxins and tremendously improves sleeping quality!! During this time I love to do a face mask, read, or anything that is completely relaxing on the body. It sounds silly, but you need this time to unwind especially if you suffer from anxiety, too much stress, and inflammation in the body. These are great at the end of the day, after working out and a long day of work, right before bed or dinner. I also love essential oils (peppermint or lavender) and tend to use non-toxic/vegan/organic lavender lotions in the evenings for a calming affect. Remember that what you put on your body is just as important as to what you put in your body. Eating well, real foods shows up on your skin, strength of your hair, affects your gut health, and so much more. To help reduce any anxiety attacks in the evenings, reduce stress, inflammation of my body, and prevent waking up in the middle of the night hungry (3 AM like clock work!!); I have one of the warming/healing drinks mentioned above, make sure I eat a protein/healthy fat snack (nuts, scoop of almond butter or anything that is lower in sugar, eating a sugary snack can cause your blood sugar levels to rise and actually wake you up.) Quality of sleep will do wonders for your body and your stress levels. Make it a priority if possible.
You can find the many types of foods that I eat on a regular basis throughout my blog and on my instagram. I am so excited to work on more recipes that promote and support gut health, foods that are anti-inflammatory, and that are overall great for mental health. I will share them all here and on insta so be on the look out! For now, I hope this was helpful, if you have other questions just comment here or email, and for now I will leave you with one more thing:
Foods that cause inflammation:
refined carbohydrates (white bread, pastries)
soda (sugary beverages)
red meats (steaks, processed sausages, hot dogs)
omega 6 fats (seed oils, vegetable oils, dairy, butters, red meat)
hormone/antibiotic laden meats/fish
Foods that can combat inflammation
olive oil, coconut oil
green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, bok choy, swiss chard)
sprout seeds/nuts (limit to serving- chia seeds, walnuts, ground flaxseeds, almonds)
fatty fish/omega 3s (always wild caught:salmon, tuna)
fruits (berries, oranges, pineapple (limit to serving))
spices (turmeric, ginger, cinnamon)
dark chocolate (my dark chocolate avocado pudding)