Gluten sensitivity. Leaky Gut. Candida. Bloating. Indigestion. Difficulty with elimination. Nausea after eating. It seems all these symptoms are multiplying exponentially as the years go by, and I certainly have noticed a sharp increase in gut issues since becoming a doctor nearly 18 years ago. So what is it that is causing so much digestive despair? There is no doubt that studies show increasing support for hidden toxins in our foods being a problem, e.g. trans fats, excitotoxins, high fructose corn syrup and excess refined flours, grains and sugars. With the advent of processed, fast foods on the rise, so are some of our biggest gut and digestive issues. But there is a ton that can be done to repair the gut, and restore the body back to running like a fine-tuned machine. Here are my top 5 solutions for better gut function that are natural, safe, and effective:
1. Start reading labels INGREDIENTS FIRST. If a food is labeled containing hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated oils, white flour or sugar, corn, corn solids, modified food starch, MSG, chemicals that you don't understand or can't pronounce: put it back! All of these substances affect the body at the cellular level, making cell walls more rigid, and less capable of letting good nutrients in, and waste products out. Plus, all of them are direct links to increasing inflammation in the body, so if you are dealing with any gut issues, it is extremely important to not eat foods that will make the inflammation and pain even worse.
2. Limit sugar content in foods to 10g or less. Sugar is extremely acidic, which makes it difficult for your cells to function best. An alkaline environment is best for keeping the bad guys (viruses, bacteria, allergic responses) at bay, and also for balancing cell function. Not to mention sugar is a major good bacteria killer, so all of the good guys you need in the gut to function better, and the reason for eating yogurt and probiotics, is destroyed the moment sugar is eaten in higher concentrations.
3. Daily raw, organic, Apple Cider Vinegar and Aloe Vera juice shots. Apple cider vinegar is, to me, one of the worst tasting foods ever - but it works! Not only is it amazing for neutralizing pathogens (bad guys) in the digestive tract, it is also highly alkalizing and contributes to protecting good gut flora. Couple that with an unfiltered, organic aloe vera juice to help with gut motility and repair, and you have a powerful natural gut repair tool in your arsenal. My favorite brands are Bragg's raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, and Lakewood Aloe Vera Juice. Combine 2oz. of the aloe with 1 teaspoon (or tablespoon, if you can handle the taste) of apple cider vinegar, and do that every morning, or around 3pm, when the gut is most empty. A little trick to make it less aggressive on the palate is 2-3 drops of liquid stevia. It smooths out the bitterness and bite, and makes the shot a bit more pleasant. Of course, drink plenty of water, as well, but that goes almost without saying.
4. LIVE probiotics. No pill can ever be as effective as a live probiotic - that's not to say taking a probiotic pill is bad, at least it's doing SOMETHING, but eating foods rich in live probiotics makes a huge difference in repairing the gut and decreasing symptoms. Look for anything "cultured" like kimchi, cultured vegetables found in the refrigerated section near sauerkraut, milk kefir, coconut kefir, coconut water kefir and kevita. All of these examples of live probiotic foods should be 5g of sugar or less, have a large number of listed good bacteria on the ingredients of the label, and will need to remain refrigerated. Eat them as much as possible every day, especially after having "bad choice moments" like eating too many processed foods, sugar or alcohol.
5. Let the gut rest. Stop eating at least 4 hours before bed so the gut can rest, too. Digesting a ton of food while you sleep is not only counter productive, but also difficult for the gut to do, and leads to bad sleeping patterns, weight gain and metabolic problems. Drink warm liquids like water with fresh lemon and ginger, or a little kevita or kefir to fortify the gut with a soothing, alkaline environment loaded with good bacteria, and watch the repair (and weight loss) begin!