Start with foods. Making changes to eating an anti-inflammatory diet is paramount in healing your gut. You can start by eliminating the biggest culprits: gluten, dairy, and added sugars. If this seems like a monumental task, don’t be discouraged; like any new habit it will take some getting used to at first while you adjust, but honestly, you can do it.
When it was first suggested to me to remove gluten from my diet to heal my leaky gut, I cried. No joke! Real tears. Food is very personal to us because it’s entangled with so many things: our emotions, our culture, our upbringing, and on and on. That’s okay – and that’s also changeable. Acknowledge that it might be a challenge at first, but as with any other big change, it gets much easier as you go. You’re creating a healthy change in your body, and you’re freeing up real estate on your plate for more nourishing foods.
Accept this challenge, and help your body heal. (And trust in the fact that it wants to heal.) Tell yourself it’s temporary, which will help you create the habit – and you may find in the end that you have no desire to go back.
Get quiet. Our go-go-go lifestyle leaves little time for any sense of calm in our minds and bodies. But it’s this very action of becoming quiet that our bodies and brains need to replenish and reduce the impact of stress on our lives, and stress is a huge cause of inflammation and poor gut health.
The gut and the brain are intimately connected, and because of this we are able to change reactions in our body based on how we treat our brains. Mainly, this means becoming still. Call it meditation, call it quiet time, down time…it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that we make it a point to do it each day.
The first step is to become intentional about carving out pockets of solace, even if that means scheduling it on our calendar. Studies have shown that our brains need as little as eight minutes to reap the rewards of meditation – eight minutes! If you’re new to the practice, start there, and then increase one minute per week until you get to a place that feels good to you.
Get grounded. Similar to getting quiet, but different in that it’s connecting with the natural world. This means going for a run, walk, or hike; playing in the grass with your kids; caring for houseplants or getting your hands in the dirt in an outdoor garden; even opening a window and allowing all of your senses to intentionally notice and take in the natural world.
Getting outdoors reduces the production of stress hormones, can lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and improve memory. It also helps mitigates anger, fear, and anxiety.
Grounding in particular – having your feet in direct contact with the earth – neutralizes free radicals within the body, which are generated through inflammation, stress, and toxins. And it boosts immunity. If I’m having a particularly busy week I’ll set a timer on my phone to get outside every couple of hours for five minutes, and walk barefoot in my yard. (Yes, even in the cold!) Invite a friend to join you on a walk or met you for a grounding session, because being social strengthens the impact even more.
Think drinks. You could be eating all the right things, but if you’re consuming soda, excess alcohol, or sugary “energy” drinks, you’re slowing your progress toward optimal gut health. This is because sugar, alcohol, and preservatives wreak havoc on your microbiome by feeding “bad” but bugs and inhibiting the growth of “good” ones.
The number one complaint I hear from clients is that they get super bored with water. I get it! The good news is there are a few things you can do to jazz it up. One way is to keep a large pitcher in your fridge (go and buy a fancy one, if that helps entice you), and every few days fill it with fresh ice cold water infused with fruit and herbs. Some of my favorite combinations are cucumber-blueberry-mint, lemon-orange-basil, apple-cinnamon-ginger, and strawberry-thyme-melon. (Even better idea: if you have kids, task them with filling the pitcher and coming up with the “flavor of the week.”) Just be sure to change it out after 3 or 4 days in the fridge.
Another way to spice up plain water is with my current obsession: Pique teas. These are small, on-the-go packets that go into hot or cold water. They are super clean, specifically gut-healing, and they pack a flavorful punch – my husband couldn’t even handle the ginger one! The main reason I love them is because they don’t use teabags – and I don’t know if you saw this, but for those of you who haven’t heard, a very recent study from the world famous McGill University in Canada found that a single teabag releases around 11.6 billion microplastic particles into every cup! Makes sense huh? Amazing nobody thought about it before. Surprise surprise: submerging a fine piece of plastic in boiling hot water and drinking it everyday isn’t a good idea. (Thank you, Food Industry for more toxic foods.) Pique Teas are Cold Brew Crystallized from 100% organic teas, herbal plants, and superfoods and then triple-toxin screened to ensure maximum purity and health benefits. I stash these slim packets in my purse and in my car, as well as my pantry. Try them here: Pique Teas.
Move your body. This doesn’t mean you need to go to the gym three times a week for an hour. What I’m talking about is finding ways to move your body that feel good to you, that you can do in small increments throughout your day. This is what your body – and your gut – needs to heal.
If you do love the gym, then great – keep that up. But maybe try a workout you’ve always considered but never took the leap, such as kickboxing, weight-lifting, yoga, swimming, or dance.
If you don’t have success with gym, you can absolutely still do this. (In fact, I think it’s more fun this way.) Just look for small increments of time where you can layer in some movement. For instance, if you’re always in a rush during the morning routine, ask Alexa to play “fun morning music” and dance your way through it. This will give you several minutes of body movement AND improve your mood. If you’re waiting for your tea to brew, instead of scrolling on social or checking email, do a quick round of jumping jacks, squats, or lunges around your home. You can also do some gentle stretches right when you get out of bed, before you launch into your morning routine.
If you’re at an office job, propose a “walking meeting” with a coworker vs. sitting in a conference room (where there also might be tempting sugary snacks). Take the stairs vs. the elevator, park further away from the building – you could even be on the move instead of sedentary while on a conference call or watching a webinar. The point is to start noticing small increments of time where you can move your body, vs. large chunks of time spent – which are much harder to come by.
All of these ways above will help heal your gut. If this is all new, just start with one or two and increase from there. But I’ve found that a combination of all of them – food, body movement, and stress reduction – is the magic bullet to finding your way to a healthier, happier gut, which means a healthier, happier you.