First things first, I am not an expert and I by no means have all the answers. These are just a few things that I have found to be helpful and want to share with you. Remember though, your body is unique and just because it works for me, doesn't mean it will work for you.
So here we go. Let's talk about gut problems. I've had gut problems for as long as I can remember. They started out small, in the form of an occasional belly ache if I ate too much or if I ate some sort of junk food. Pretty normal stuff. Then the problem got worse. They moved into stomach pains that couldn't be tied solely to overconsumption or poor food choices, but didn't force me to stop living my life completely.
The stomach ache issues followed me through my middle school and high school years and into college. My first year of college I began to make "better" food choices, (eating less and choosing low-fat and low-calorie) and although I lost weight and started to feel a little more confident, my gut problems persisted. Up until my last year of nursing school (about 4 years ago) I thought that what I was experiencing with these stomach aches was normal. At this point though, my stomach issues began to worsen and actually interfere with me living my life. I would find myself four or five times a week laying down on the couch or going to bed early because of severe stomach pain. I occasionally would tell my then boyfriend now husband about it, but otherwise I kind of tried to not make it a big deal. Part of me thought that it was related to the intense stress that nursing school can bring and the other part of me thought it was normal and not actually a big deal, so I didn't do anything.
About two and a half years after my stomach pains had worsened and I had spent many nights just lying on the couch in severe discomfort, I started to search for answers. I had stumbled across a few articles that made me wonder if what I was experiencing was not normal and better yet, that there might be solutions to my problem. I wanted to learn more. In the beginning, not everything I tried worked and I had to go through a lot of trial and error before I found what worked, but I am so happy though that I pushed on and found solutions that did work. After a year and a half of really searching to heal my gut and find what works best for my body, I think I can honestly say I am living my best life. Even though I now avoid a lot of things that formerly brought me so much joy, the relief from the pain that I was experiencing is beyond worth it.
Doing an Elimination Diet
This was the most helpful thing that I did. The elimination diet that I used eliminated dairy, grains, sugar, soy, legumes, and alcohol. Although I was not a regular alcohol consumer, I ate all of the other things on the regular. Eliminating all of these things from my diet for 30 days helped me realize how much better I felt and then after reintroducing them I was able to pinpoint what exactly was bothering me and create a diet that made me feel my best. I can not recommend this enough as a starting point to help you get to the bottom of your gut issues.
After reading so much about how collagen can help with gut help, I decided to give it a shot. I started adding two scoops of Vital Proteins collagen to my morning coffee and noticed a big difference in how I felt after a month. I've been taking it faithfully for about seven months now and plan to keep it as a regular part of my life. Collagen can help to reduce leaky gut syndrome by helping break down proteins and healing damaged cell walls in the gut.
Drinking bone broth regularly
Bone broth has similar benefits that collagen has. If you've ever made bone broth you might notice that when you put it in the fridge it turns into a jello-like consistency. This is because when the collagen from the chicken cooks, it turns into gelatin. That jello part, that's what you want to add to your diet to reap the collagen benefits. Good news, you don't have to eat it in the jello form, heat it and it will turn into a liquid that is cozy and warming. I like to enjoy a cup in the afternoon in place of afternoon coffee. It's so nourishing and super cozy during the winter. You can totally buy some at the store, but if you're looking to save a little money you can make your own using this recipe.
Eating fermented foods
Fermented foods play a significant role in keeping our guts balanced by adding in different types of good bacteria. I've long loved kombucha and it's tart flavor, but when I began this journey to heal my gut and found that drinking it was not only tasty, but it was also beneficial, I became a more regular consumer of it. Now I consume kombucha at least 4-5 times a week, if not more. It helps that I love drinking it. If it's not your thing, don't worry, there are other ways to get your good bacteria fix. Kimchi, saurkraut, yogurt, and kefir are all excellent sources of good bacteria. Ideally you will strive to work in a variety of these sources to get a variety of good bacteria in your gut. This addition to my diet wasn't difficult for me because I love all of these things already. It might be more difficult if you're not a fan of any of these sources. If that's the case, perhaps the best method for you would be to add in a probiotic supplement.
Although I don't think this was the main problem, it was definitely a contributor. When I was in nursing school my stress level was at a ten. As soon as I graduated I decided to start my photography business (with no knowledge, experience, or money) and my stress level remained at a ten. Now, although my stress level is never at a 0 because I don't think that is possible for an entrepreneur, I have lessened my stress significantly. I now say no to things that I previously would have said yes to. I undershedule my week and leave room to let things happen instead of jam packing my week full of meetings and to dos that don't fulfill me. Maybe it sounds crazy but reducing stress might just help your gut problems more than you think.
Caffeine can be so hard on our stomachs, especially when on an empty stomach and served black. I know I sometimes sound like I drink coffee 24 hours a day, but I don't. I actually only drink 1-2 cups in the morning and then occasionally in the afternoon. This might still sound like a lot to some people, but compared to what I would drink if I followed my caffeine junkie spirit, it's nothing. At this point in time I feel good about drinking this amount. It doesn't seem to be disruption my gut and I thoroughly enjoy it. For you though, you might have to cut it out even more or switch to decaf all together. Experiment and see what works best for you.
Regularly consuming excessive amounts of sugar can contribute to exacerbating inflammation in our bodies. A huge reason our guts bother us, is often because they're inflamed. Essentially what this means is that eating a handful of oreos will do more than add on a few pounds, it could totally mess up our gut. I definitely can't say I never eat sugar, but I consume it way less than I used to and am mindful that the times that I do indulge are truly worth it.
WorKing out consistently
Maybe this is TMI, but we're all friends here and I think it's so important to talk about the role that exercise has played in healing my gut. Keeping my body moving on a regular basis has kept my digestive system regular in the bathroom. If I don't workout for an extended period of time I get bloated and just all around feel less amazing than I could. Workout out has also promoted a healthy cycle of moving my body and then eating well so that I can move my body again, maybe the next time even better. When I workout consistently I find that I more automatically resort to healthy choices because I want to fuel my body to perform better.