Have you noticed that your gut has been talking back to you lately? As you age, a combination of genetics, decrease of naturally occurring digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bad eating habits contribute to uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms such as heartburn, flatulence, constipation, diarrhea and bloating. Smoking cigarettes, drinking excess alcohol, increased antibiotic use, improper diet, and constant stress all need to be addressed and, in this article, we will pay attention primarily to your diet.
The gastrointestinal tract, or gut, is referred to as the “second brain.” It is the only organ to boast its own independent nervous system, an intricate network of a hundred million neurons embedded in the gut wall. This is why when individuals go through a very upsetting emotional experience, they often describe a feeling as being “punched in the gut.” Your gut is registering every thought and emotion you have ever experienced. No wonder as we go through the years unresolved emotions create a variety of GI symptoms and other health problems.
In my opinion, is often more difficult to change your thought patterns. Rather, first begin with your food and water intake, making small changes that will pay rich dividends in future health. It will help if you log all your food intake, the time you eat, and any reactions you may develop in helping you understand how food is affecting you. Create a food diary by purchasing a spiral notebook and on the left side of the page, note date, time and what you ate, how much water you drank and on the right side note time of any symptoms that occurred during the day or evening such as excess flatulence or other symptoms, such as a headache. Please seek advice from your health care professional if your symptoms are not abating by following the recommendations below:
1. Let’s begin to clear the deck by eating as many organic foods as possible.
2. Clear the deck by adopting an elimination diet—eliminate sugar, dairy, gluten-containing foods, eggs, and processed meats, such as hot dogs, fast foods, alcohol, and coffee.
3. Drink lots of pure water, half your body weight in fluid ounces, every day.
4. Bless your food and eat consciously, never on the run or in front of the TV.
5. Stop smoking cigarettes.
6. No processed foods as they contain many food preservatives and additives.
7. Eat breakfast, lunch, and a light dinner with one snack if you feel your blood sugar is low.
8. Finish eating before 7 p.m.
9. You may not have a severe reaction to gluten, but many individuals have a sensitivity, which may create problems.
10. Approximately 70% of your daily intake should consist of vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and gluten-free grains such as quinoa, rice, amaranth, buckwheat, rice, millet, sorghum, and teff (oats only if certified gluten free.)
11. Approximately 20% of your daily intake should consist of proteins such as organic, hormone-free grass-fed lean beef and chicken and wild fish.
12. Eat 10% of healthy fats in the form of avocado, coconut oil, cold-water fish, nuts, seeds, flax seeds, and extra virgin olive oil.
After twenty-one days following these recommendations, you can reintroduce new foods slowly in the following manner. Pick one food to introduce; let’s say you want to reintroduce yogurt. See how you react in forty-eight hours after eating the yogurt. If you have no allergic response, such as a skin reaction, low energy, brain fog, poor night sleep, or GI symptoms, wait several more days before reintroducing the food slowly again into your diet. Pick another food to reintroduce; for example, you might want to reintroduce eggs. Notice how you feel before reintroducing any food back permanently into your diet. Modify your diet after observing the way your body feels. An occasional glass of red wine and a morning cup of coffee may be reintroduced after you observe that you have no problem with them.
These suggestions can only go so far if you are having difficulty in adhering to a diet instituting these gut-supporting foods. Be patient with yourself, and know that changes often take time and results not immediate. As you feel more energy, less body aches and GI complaints it will motivate you to reframe these recommendations as following a healthy lifestyle eating plan rather than following a diet.
Dr. Lisa Cowley, a holistic chiropractor and nutritional counselor of 25 years, along with her husband, Victor Westgate, a high school educator of 34 years, are authors of Pack Lightly: Making Sense of the Second Half of Your Life.