Do you have any digestive symptoms that persist even though you’ve tried different medications? Your labs look normal but you feel sluggish and tired? Have skin issues that won’t go away? Deal with brain fog at work? Plateaued with weight loss even though you’re eating better and exercising? All of these things and more can be due, impart, to poor digestive health.
Naturopathic Doctors have known for over a century that good health starts with gut health. The basis of health in Chinese Medicine directly relates to digestive function and power. These teachings go back over 2000 years and still help people today. So I gathered my best 10 tips for this new decade. Try implementing them one at a time and start with the one you will find the simplest to incorporate into your lifestyle. Live your best life by starting with the core of health.
If I could only give you one thing to do this year it would be to incorporate a good probiotic. The toxicity from pesticides and chemicals in our food supply is taking a toll on our beneficial flora. The best bet is a probiotic that is about 25 billion CFUs and more than 6 different strains. As with any supplement, it is better to go slow in the beginning to see how you react. Project Juice’s Happy Gut Kit is a great way to start. Diversity is key when creating a healing environment in the gut. I recommend rotating between a few different probiotics throughout the year to further diversify the good flora in the gut.
This may be the first time you’re hearing about prebiotics. Prebiotic foods are those that have soluble fiber, like inulin or FOS (fructooligosaccharides), and feed the good bacteria in your gut. If you have a major imbalance of bad bacteria, prebiotics in supplement form can cause more gas and bloating, which can contribute to pain. Eating a better diet can help without the nasty side effects. Some of these foods include almonds, chicory, garlic, asparagus, barley, dandelion greens, honey, leeks, maple syrup, mushrooms, onion, oats, rye and chickpeas. If you are avoiding gluten, skip the barley and the rye! You can also do a few months of a great probiotic before implementing prebiotics to help balance the bacteria first and minimize unwanted symptoms.
Hippocrates stated, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” I couldn’t agree more. Naturally fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, kombucha, and yogurt (preferably vegan) have natural probiotics in them. You can start adding small bits to meals. Or take a class and learn how to make your own safely. I made an amazing fermented salsa. The possibilities are endless.
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
As we get older we have a harder time digesting the food we eat. This can also happen when we eat too many processed foods. Organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar can help. It is known to help increase sensitivity to carbohydrate meals, helps boost the enzymatic cascade in the intestines and can even help with weight loss. I recommend taking a 1/2 tsp-1 tsp in a shot of water 15 mins before every meal, or add a Tummy Tonic to your daily morning ritual.
Many of the issues people have with gut health come from intestinal permeability. This means larger bits of food can leak through into the blood stream from the small intestine which can increase inflammation and immune response. Bone broth contains lots of collagen. It is filled with amino acids that help heal gut and maintain integrity of the intestinal lining. Collagen helps with a myriad of other organ systems including joint, skin, bone, liver and heart health.
Drink at least half your body weight in ounces in water per day. People with kidney issues should follow their doctor’s advice on water intake. Drinking enough water can help the bowels to stay regular. Constipation is a major cause of abdominal pain and increased toxic burden. Dehydration also causes fatigue and headaches. Clean water is essential! My favorite water filter is the Berkey water filter with the fluoride filters.
Removing food sensitivities
Gluten and dairy tend to be the leading allergens I have noticed in my practice. Also, an abundance of sugar in the diet. These items are super inflammatory. The small intestinal lining becomes more permeable from the immune reaction with the consumption of these foods. People usually have an easier time losing weight when the inflammatory burden goes down. There is a gut-brain and a gut-skin connection so mood and skin conditions often improve when people remove these foods. You can remove all 3 foods for 30 days, and then introduce one food at a time. On the first introduction day eat one of the foods multiple times. Wait about 3 days for any type of reaction before you ingest the next food. Reactions can be anything from a previous symptom reappearing to gas, bloating, nausea, reflux, pain, headaches, acne, brain fog and more. Journal your reaction. Go onto the next food only when the reaction from the food before has subsided. This will show you which food you are most sensitive to and will give you a clearer picture of your gut health. It is best to do this type of elimination under the guidance of an Naturopathic Doctor.
Drink green juices
When I say to drink green juices I don’t mean to make a banana smoothie. I am referring to a juice that is 90% organic greens with a smaller amount of organic fruit. The foods must be organic, like Project Juice’s, as the juice would concentrate pesticides. Studies have shown that a 3-day juice fast can affect intestinal flora and can help with weight loss, heart health and a decrease in bad oxidized fats in the blood stream. One of my favorite juice recipes is organic kale, celery, cucumber, lemon and 1/2 green apple. Also, feel free to add ginger if you like the spice, which is great for your stomach! Drink it right away as fresh juice is optimal.
While intermittent fasting can be great, it is not for everyone. I don’t recommend it for pregnant or nursing women, people over 70 years old, diabetics, and people with insomnia or under high stress situations. That being said you can start simply by not eating after 7pm. Even a 12-hour fast from food can give the body a break from digestion. When the body doesn’t have to digest, it can clean out waste products from cells and toxicants. You can even eat less calories, one day a week, to give your body a boost. I prep mason jar salads for my lower calorie day so I can feel full but stay under 700 calories.
Naturopathic functional lab testing
I am sure you, or someone you know, has been told that all the, “labs look normal.” This is because the basic lab work that insurance will cover is just the icing on the cake when it comes to the metabolic functions of the body. Most people don’t even know about the amazing testing that is provided by Naturopathic Doctors. Some of the tests I frequently use with patients include celiac testing, an OAT test, stool analysis and food sensitivity testing. These are a great place to start to figure out what the root cause of your personal issues may be.
About the Guest Author:
Dr. Susan Cucchiara is a Naturopathic Doctor whom graduated from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. She is trained as primary care physician and is an expert in natural and holistic health. Dr. Cucchiara sees everyone from pediatrics to geriatrics and treats everything from the common cold up and through chronic diseases. She does so using safe and effective healing techniques specifically tailored to each unique individual. Dr. Cucchiara specializes in nutrition, metabolic disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmunity, mental health disorders, lyme, mold illness, and more! She develops a personalized treatment plan to address your health concerns utilizing single homeopathic remedies, biotherapeutic drainage remedies, herbs, supplementation, nutrition and at-home remedies. Most of Dr. Cucchiara’s practice is virtual over video/phone. She will be moving to West LA from NYC, and will be taking on in-person patients in 2020. Find her on Instagram at @dr.susanc or at www.NaturallySue.com
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