Thursday, 12 April 2018

how i fixed my digestion & healed my gut naturally

last summer i spent many months having the strangest digestion, it wasn't balanced at all. one day i would be in pain in the bathroom, the next day i would be in the bathroom many many times, and then i wouldn't be in the bathroom for days. i would have gas and really bad bloating.

it hadn't always been like this, i'd usually been a pretty regular kind of girl. but, i'd had to take a course of antibiotics for some mastitis symptoms in the May of last year, and after that my system got out of whack. BUT i hadn't appreciated it could be the antibiotics that had cause it until my mother asked if i'd taken any back in May before the symptoms started.... so i'm very grateful to her for having highlighted that as the cause.

so, if you do suffer with digestive problems, maybe have a think back to when it started and think about whether you took antibiotics - it may even be a very long time ago, but it has depleted your body of the essential probiotics it needs for a healthy digestive system.

so, once i realised that was the course, it was quite easy to set out a gut-healing plan for myself, and it became much better really fast! here is the list of 5 things that i did to improve my digestive health, and continue to do, with the exact details of what i did and what i took.

1. taking really good (live) probiotics
this was probably the MOST important thing i did - because after it being out of balance because of taking ANTI-biotics, i needed to replenish my body with PRO-biotics. so, i bought the best ones i could find (and it cost about 40euros!)

even if you can't find this particular brand, what you want to be looking out for is probiotics in the FRIDGE, because probiotics cannot survive on a warm shelf. you want to check that the probiotics are multi-strain and don't contain any unnecessary extra ingredients.

i started taking probiotics last august, and took one every two days for a week, until my body system started being regular and comfortable again. it didn't take long and i couldn't believe i'd spent so many months in pain when the answer was so simple. since that week, i only take one of these strong probiotics when i feel like i'm out of balance again (i've taken about two since last september).

of course, you can also add in yogurt to your diet, but i don't find it's strong enough to fix a situation as fast as one of the good pills will because of the amount of probiotic strains you'll find in it. however, i do have yogurt a few times a week to keep things moving and it does work - i have soy yogurt or coconut yogurt instead of dairy though.

so, i noticed another shift in my digestive system after i stopped breastfeeding my son in november. my once enormous appetite had depleted by about half, and it was taking a while for my brain to catch onto the fact, and my body to rebalance my gut once more. so in february, i started doing a few more things...

2. having a green juice week, and lemon water
the best thing that i did was to detox with green juice for a week. i borrowed my mums juicer - just a basic one - and followed this recipe every day for a week.

detox green smoothie
3-4 celery sticks
2 apples
2 handfuls of spinach
1/2 a cucumber
a handful of mint
a thumb of ginger
1/ 2 a lime

add all these things to the juicer, one by one. enjoy!
the more you experiment, the more you'll know how much of what you prefer, but this is a good basic recipe to start with.

i only had one every morning, and it wasn't in replacement of anything, just alongside my regular meal plan. just be a bit prepared that this stuff makes for a strong detox! so you may want to do this on a week when you can be resting at home and near to a bathroom perhaps.

3. learning to stop when i'm full, and eat when i'm hungry
since i was little i was always of the mindset that it was important to eat everything that i was given, and i always had a big appetite, that only increased even more whilst i was breastfeeding for 19 months!

actually it was quite a big deal the first time i didn't finish my plate. i literally couldn't finish it. it was like i suddenly realised that if i ate all of it i would feel sick, not just for that evening, but for the following day too. i would feel foggy and sleepy and low in energy. so i just had this mental block in place of finishing it when i could feel my body had had enough.

and i swear since then, i've eaten much less and i've felt SO much better. and on the occasions that i eat too much (usually emotionally), i do feel awful for a couple of days, and it's pretty intense pain in the bathroom, as well as lots of time.

unfortunately, because this is really just a result of a hormonal shift, i don't have much advice for other situations, other than to be mindful of your senses, and probably eat more smaller meals and less gigantic ones - you know, the sensible stuff we hear all the time, but is harder to put into practice. LISTEN to your body - you shouldn't feel tired after a meal! the post-sunday-lunch nap is simply a result of too many calories, and it shouldn't be glorified as a sunday ritual, or any night of the week for that matter!

having said that, i think it's also really important to eat enough quantity, because without eating enough quantity your digestive system doesn't need to be used as much and can get out of a regular routine. sometimes you need to push it all through with a bigger meal - like a big bowl of soup and a large sandwich or a huge salad with a cup of mint tea after.

4. identifying foods that don't seem to digest well
one of the other things you will learn by eating lighter and more consciously, is what foods don't sit well in your tummy and take ages to pass through your gut.

for me this includes: baked goods with refined flour and sugar (even when i make them myself), meat (pork & turkey in particular have always made me feel super rough), and dairy (which causes me to have acne as well, so i steer clear for that reason too!).

i think everyone has different foods that trigger it, and that makes sense, because everyone lives in a different part of the world with access to different types of foods. what triggers indigestion for me might not for you, so you'll need to hear what your body is trying to tell you after you eat.

5. load up on vegetables and soup-y meals

this one might be obvious to any of you who know me, but i eat a LOT of veggies - i make sure at least half my plate is vegetables, and often i'll make the whole thing just veggies. it's my go to when i'm feeling sluggish or run-down - "oh, i just need more veggies" you'll hear me say.

of course there are also a lot of vegetables that are "prebiotics" - which help digestion also. things like garlic, onions, leeks, jerusalem artichokes, chicory and asparagus. i don't make an effort to eat these all the time, but i very often cook with garlic and onions as they can be kept/grown throughout the seasons. prebiotics work in that they don't digest fully in the stomach and ferment in the colon by the gut microflora (read this useful article for more on prebiotics).

and the other thing that works really well on keeping your system flowing is soup-y vegetable meals, like curry and chilli and ratatouille. because all that good moisture will help the food to digest. which is why you should always make sure to drink cold drinks before your meal and warm or room temperature drinks with your meal, and hot ones after (just like the italians do with a coffee).

so, if you're stuck and need to keep things moving, get the veggies in, you'll definitely be getting SO much more fibre and you will therefore be going to the bathroom more frequently and it will make all those visits easier too. i'd always recommend having fibre in its wholefood form, rather than taking fibre supplements or "fibre cereal".

other things to keep in mind:
- drink lots of water
- chewing your food is VITAL to making it come out smoothly the other end with no gas in the middle. so make sure to chew more than you think it needs and swallow only when it's a really good pulp.
- exercising a little bit each day keeps everything moving - for me, all i do is make sure to walk each day for 30 mins. that is enough to keep my system fresh and working.
- caffeine can help in some situations - because it can often stimulate things to move. but it can be addictive - both the actual drink and the ease with which it helps bowel movements. you might even hear my grandmother say that she needs her morning coffee to help with her morning bathroom visit. i think it's a helpful tool if you overate the night before and your feeling blocked up, but with the above tips, i don't think that should be a regular occurrence if at all.

so there you have it,my top tips on how to improve digestion and get a healthy digestive system. i feel so much lighter and happier since i implemented these things, and i know it will do me so much good in the long run too!

i also did a little video, for those of you interested to watch instead of read:

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