Ok, so food as medicine is important to me. Duh. But why do I make such a big deal about it? Well besides having to use food to heal my multiple illness and trying to heal my father, I was placed on this planet to help others and for me, right now, it takes the route of food and community as medicine.
Your gut health is linked to pretty much every disease, disorder, symptoms and sign that we have in our beautiful medical world. We’re trained to think our GI system has two jobs: digest and eliminate. But the truth is that our gut has so much more to offer. Here are some of the symptoms/signs you may experience if you have a wonky gut:
- depression, anxiety
- allergies, asthma, eczema
- food intolerances or food sensitivites
- heartburn or chronic belching
- joint pain, gout, joint swelling, body aches
- chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- autoimmune condition like hypo/hyperthyroid, MS, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis
- inflammatory bowel disease: Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis
- you can’t lose weight despite a healthy diet
- difficulty with concentration, foggy brain
- tired all the time
- fungus on nails, feet, skin, genital area
- strong sugar or carbohydrate cravings
There are a ton more, but those are the main ones. If you have one or some of signs or symptoms, your gut is off. If you live in a modern, industrialized world, you likely suffer from a few of them. If you work in a modern, industrialized world, you probably have more symptoms that I didn’t mention here, because STRESS, though unquantifiable, is a huge factor in gut-health.
The super cool thing is that you don’t have to suffer. We can choose to be healthy to fight against the resistance and use the tools at our fingertips to learn more about how to take control of our health. I know it is hard. I realize how challenging it is to do the work, to get up and set the intention to do better, eat better, exercise, think happier thoughts, connect to others. But you have to know that it is entirely up to you.
Last year, I moved home to be with my dad and help my mom. That was the hardest year of my life, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Every morning, I would wake up and fight the resistance. Every morning, I cried, I cursed God for giving my dad a horrible disease that I believed destroyed our lives. Every morning, I wanted to just stay in bed and sleep or watch Netflix or drink whiskey. Every morning, I had thoughts of disappearing and going away forever. This was all in the first 1 hour of my day, before I left my bed. Then I would get up and have my Ulcerative Colitis flare. Or get up and have pain all over my joints. I was constantly feeling like I was getting sick. In my mind, nothing was going to get better, everything was f’d and my life sucked because I didn’t have a dad for 17 years mentally and now physically he was fading.
I had to force myself to get up. I forced myself to make my bed. I forced myself to do my morning yoga, meditation, mantra and priming for the day. I had to change my thoughts to positive ones, to happy ones. I had to tell myself I was healthy, I felt good, I have energy, I was doing good things, that I am love and am loved. I revived my gratitude practice and wrote 5+ things down that I was grateful for each day. I walked outside in the desert. I made sure that I hugged my mom before we started our day. I asked for help from my sister, my friends. I changed my patterns, my thoughts, my habits. I made sure that I chose the salad, fish and green juice over the pancakes and cookies. I rewired my brain cells to connect to happiness instead of pain. I chose the light instead of the dark.
Then one day, not too long after I moved home, maybe 2-3 weeks, I woke up and I was delighted to get out of bed. I was happy to start my day, to prepare nutritious food my dad would gobble down. I felt blessed to have time to talk and laugh and dance with him. I was lucky that I got to walk with my mom through the desert and share stories about our lives. I kept focusing on the goodness and all the experiences, people, energy, thoughts that I had and life got better.
I worked hard at stress-relief. I worked hard at eating the right foods. I worked hard at my relationships. I worked hard to choose love and compassion. Apathy is an easy out. But then one day I didn’t have to work so hard and that neuroplasticity took over. My stress improved, my diet improved, my gut got better and my life did too. This is not to say that my life was any easier, but how I reacted to it did. My life as a daughter/caretaker actually became quite a comedy and I found the light in the terrible disease I had cursed for so many years.
So I get it. Last year wasn’t the first time I had to do the work, but it was definitely the most challenging time. I understand how difficult it is to move away from the familiar, the easy, the safe and the comfortable. But life begins outside of those comfort zones and is so much sweeter once you get a taste of that.
It starts with you. It begins with the decision to want to be present, to show up, to enjoy life, to choose the light. The first step is the most difficult. The ego likes drama and suffering, it dances in misery. But once you choose to be healthy, lose weight, have more energy, be less anxious, have less stress, take less pills, drink less alcohol, the world opens up and the possibilities abound. But again, you have the power and the control to make the change.
Enough with esoteric Erica. Food-wise, gut-wise, how do you start?
If you want to fix your gut, you first have to make the decision to change. Once you’re intention is there, the next steps flow easier.
I ask patients/clients to go with the 4R’s- Remove, Replace, Reinoculate, Repair:
Remove- Includes removing the known inflammatory foods. I recommend starting with an Elimination plan like the Clean Program from Dr. Junger. I do this once a season for 10 -days, though if you’re a pretty typical Standard American Diet eater, I recommend 21-days. I also use this part to remove all toxins in your life, from news to relationships. This doesn’t mean run away and leave everything and everyone behind. It is just a trial of limiting your exposure to things/people/experiences that may not serve your highest good.
Replace- With healing foods and supplements. Replacing the digestive aids that have been depleted. Mentally and emotionally, I use this to replace the thoughts and words you use to inform your day. Creating mantras and affirmations is beneficial in this part of the healing process.
Reinoculate – Through probiotics and probiotic-rich foods. Since we often kill off the good bacteria with a processed, sugar-filled diet, you want to reinoculate and replenish the gut so it can be in balance again.
Repair – Here you’re repairing the damaged areas of the gut and regenerating a healthy mucosal lining through nutrients and supplements. Some of the supplements I’ve used are L-glutamine, Slippery Elm and certain vitamins. Repairing your heart and soul is another important aspect of healing. This can be done through certain balancing, cleansing, spiritual tools that I provide, but what works for you and your uniqueness is completely up to you.
So there you go. I’ll be going into more detail throughout the week of how to dive deep into each of these steps, but this is a start and introduction.
The other thing I emphasize with patients and clients is starting small. If this seems too daunting, take baby steps. Use the remove to take away one thing that you know to be detrimental to your health. If you drink sodas everyday, stop for a week and just drink water, see how you feel and move on from there. You don’t have to do a complete overhaul if you’re not ready. Just taking small steps that make you feel a ton better is often the first domino.
It is work though, but its work that is totally worth it. Remember, you have complete power over all aspects of your health and how you feel. Is today your day? I hope so.
Thanks for reading.
photo by : Ambro