Well done, you’ve completed the first two steps in your gut-healing journey. No? Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. But, don’t go to jail, either because these are your first steps to freedom.
For those of you who have been following our practical guide to gut health with co-founder of the SIBO Center for Digestive Health, Dr Steven Sandberg-Lewis and holistic food and nutrition coach, Lee Holmes, we hope you’re feeling better. You probably miss chewing but it’s well worth the flat, settled stomach, right? Although you’re only one week in, it’s always better to be overprepared so here are the next steps to to a happy, healthy gut.
Once you’re a few weeks into your elemental diet, Holmes suggests considering taking supplements to support the healing process. She recommends this be done slowly and at a stage that is right for you.
“Taking high quality organic bovine colostrum supplement, (I use Southernature colostrum) can help heal the lining of the gut and support the immune system. Colostrum helps to seal the lining of the gut to prevent it from further inflammation leading to an improvement in nutrient absorption.”
Dr Sandberg-Lewis recommends you consider supplementing with digestive enzymes, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K2), glutamine, and zinc to help repair the gut lining. But, make sure to consult your healthcare professional before taking any supplements
You might also want to try taking natural antibiotics and antimicrobials such as garlic, oil of oregano, black walnut, burdock root, goldenseal, olive leaf extract, grapefruit seed extract and pau d’arco. During her own journey, Holmes only used garlic however she suggests working with a naturopath to find what’s best for you.
Along with this, she recommends you detox your outer body also. As the skin is the largest organ, it too has the ability to dispel toxins from your body.
“Once the gut is rested you’ll find that this is the best time to cleanse the body through different practices such as a clean diet, Epsom salts baths and oil pulling (an Ayurvedic cleansing practice of swilling coconut or sesame oil around in your mouth for ten minutes a day).
After the four-week liquid diet, it’s time to tackle the second phase of your gut-healing process: repopulating the gut.
“Once the body is cleansed only then can you repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria. ‘Good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria complete a multitude of tasks within your body, but some of the common responsibilities of these friendly microbes include working to regulate the gut by neutralising some of the toxic by-products of your digestion, preventing the growth of harmful, pathogenic bacteria, controlling metabolism, reducing harmful substances such as carcinogens and toxins, cleaning and absorbing energy, nutrients and fatty acids from the foods you eat, producing and regulating hormones, training the immune system and communication lines to your brain via the vagus nerve.
A healthy gut flora balance should include approximately eighty-five percent good bacteria to around fifteen percent bad bacteria. However, the modern diet that is high in sugar, carbohydrates, preservatives and additives is the perfect breeding ground for promoting an overgrowth of bad bacteria that can overrun your healthy gut flora very quickly.
Other causes of this imbalance include the intake of modern medicines such as antibiotics, or drinking tap water; which contains chemicals such as fluoride and chlorine that also kill off your good bacteria. If you suffer from acne, low energy, digestive problems, or low immunity; chances are that you have an imbalance in your gut flora that needs to be rectified.”
The first step to balancing your gut microbiome is assessing your diet. “Eating a diet which is primarily made up of fresh real wholefoods and green vegetables, good fats such as flaxseed oil, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil as well as good sources of protein should make up your diet, and once the gut is healed you can also enhance your gut bacteria with probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut.”
Once you start to reintroduce solid foods, Holmes suggests you do it slowly and start with things that are easy to digest. “The next few weeks are critical, because your gut is still vulnerable, and when you go back to normal eating, you’ll need to take things slowly and listen attentively to what your body is telling you,” she writes in her book.
It’s very tempting to return to unhealthy habits as soon as you feel better but Holmes urges you not to dive straight back into your old eating routine. If you haven’t already completed an elimination diet, this may be a good time to do so.
Once you’ve found a diet that works for you, make sure you up your intake of prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods but we will explore this more deeply next week when we look at tricks for maintaining a healthy gut, long term.