What You Don't Know About Your Gut...
In my previous post about using essential oils to balance my hormones, I mentioned gut health.
I promised at one point to go more in-depth about gut health and what on earth that means!
So today I wanna talk about what gut health is, and why it's so important.
A healthy gut is way more dynamic than medicine once thought it was. With each passing year we discover more and more about how complex our gut system really is, and just how much it affects in our body.
Fun Fact: did you know that there are cells that mimic brain cells in the lining of your gut and stomach!? BBC reported that "there are over 100 million of these [neuron] cells in your gut..."
So with that in mind, can you see that what goes into our gut affects our entire body? Which means if our gut is out of whack, so will our heart, emotions, hormones, immune system, skin, etc.
If you're still not convinced, here's something mind-blowing for you:
"...all those neurons lining our digestive system allow it to keep in close contact with the brain in your skull, via the vagus nerves, which often influence our emotional state.
For instance when we experience 'butterflies in the stomach', this really is the brain in the stomach talking to the brain in your head. As we get nervous or fearful, blood gets diverted from our gut to our muscles and this is the stomach's way of protesting.
WHAT. Our stomach literally protests our brain when it's doing its job to "protect" the body. That is some high functioning stuff right there!
So tell me something...why don't we pay more attention to what we're feeding our genius little gut system?
ON THAT NOTE. Have you ever noticed how diet culture focuses on what you SHOULDN'T eat. We get lists upon lists of what to avoid. But then we have to dig and research and sell our firstborn child in order to find out what we need to do.
Do you know what is more important than what we avoid in our nutrition? It’s what things we actually put into our bodies.
You might saying “Duh.” but hold on.
How many diets say “No Gluten. No Dairy. No Soy. No Legumes. No Fat. No Carbs. Low Calories. No Animal Product. No Meat. No Red Meat. No Starches.” and onnn and onnn and onnn.
But how many of those same diets say “So yeah you shouldn’t only eat animal products and sugar and bread…but more importantly you need these specific nutrients for this specific reason...”
I mean, they do mention casually that vegetables are important and complex carbs are your better alternative… but the emphasis just isn’t there. It’s like…an after thought!
That is, until you start to find “diets” like the Traditional Chinese Medicine diet, or the Ayurvedic diet, or the GAPS diet.
These diets (to only name a few) put the emphasis less on what you shouldn’t eat, and more on what you should be eating.
With Ayurveda, you actually are given 3 doshas to choose from when categorizing your mind and body type. Doshas are related to their 5 element theory. The 3 Doshas are Kapha (earth), Pitta (fire), and Vata (air). There are 5 total elements, but these are the only 3 Doshas.
Once you’ve chosen what Dosha your mind and/or body matches, then you begin to understand what your body specifically deals with, and what foods to eat in order to bring nourishment and balance to your body.
Do you see how different this is!? Instead of someone telling you to count calories, avoid bread, and exercise more…you’re now being given a step by step guide for what TO eat. Because let’s face it…there is a TON of food out there.
When you’re only given don’ts, how are you supposed to figure out your do’s? Do you simply assume that everything else is fair game in any quantity? Do you feel lost and overwhelmed by the vast amount of options out there? Does this excite you or slow you down?
For me it overwhelmed me and slowed me down. I didn’t know where to start.
Sometimes “good foods” still made my stomach hurt.
Other times “good foods” weren’t healing me or helping me make any progress.
I quickly realized (through way too much research) that this is because I wasn’t eating foods that targeted my specific problems!
I was just eating foods that weren’t on my don’t list. This wasted so much of my time because the foods I chose weren’t targeting my gut in a positive way.
What I needed to do was connect my symptoms to the foods I was eating. Avoid the inflammatory foods, and find the foods that would heal my symptoms.
An easy example is acid reflux.
Foods that lend to acid reflux are:
processed fatty foods
and the list goes on
But it was only when I found foods and supplements that healed my acid reflux that I actually found relief! Avoiding the bad foods is hard and impractical at times. Especially when there are health benefits to some of them (like mint, citrus, etc).
Some of these GERD healing foods include:
apple cider vinegar
dark leafy greens
home made bone broth
Once I realized that the secret was in what I put into my body, more so than what I didn’t put into my body…I found so much freedom.
I stopped stressing about that lunch I had yesterday at panera bread. I started instead focusing on “Okay how many nutrients have I had today?” “Have I taken my supplements today?” “I’m kinda hungry right now…but instead of reaching for a harmless snack, maybe I should make a balanced smoothie.”
Do you notice the mindset shift there? We’ve gone from focusing on what we cannot have (negative emotion) to what we CAN have (positive emotion).
We’ve gone from telling our bodies “no” to telling our bodies “yes!”
We’re no longer depriving our bodies of “bad” foods, we’re now gifting our bodies with foods that will give us life!
This means that you can enjoy the meal with foods that you once called “bad”, fully knowing that your next meal will be foods that will support your body as it digests the foods that might slow you down a bit.
So what does this look like in every day life?
For me, this means that every Thursday I get to meet with my girlfriend for breakfast at Panera. This time is precious to us because not only are we enjoying one another’s company, but we’re also motivating one another to reach our goals and dream big for the next week!
Do I feel guilty about eating my breakfast sandwich on a bagel?
HELL TO THE NO.
Because I live in grace. I know that my next meal will be an organic juice or smoothie that will aid my body in digesting the heavy breakfast I had that morning. I also know that I take supplements specific for my gut system, and they will help my body not feel the same ramifications that they would if I wasn’t taking them.
This mindset change has freed me from so much agony. Both physically and mentally.
I’m able to enjoy special moments as they come into my life, but I also know that I’m taking care of my body. For that I’m both proud and relieved.
If you enjoyed this article, let me know in the comments below! Also, be on the look out for future posts about the gut system and endocrine system. These are my two favorite topics because they’ve been the biggest sources of issue in my life.