Food intolerances are rampant these days, and it’s no surprise once you understand the relationship between optimal digestive processes and our modern world’s challenges to that system. First there’s the fact that our food is mostly not what our ancestors would have recognized as food. Unless you are eating heritage grains, organic, non-gmo produce, meat and dairy products, and very little processed food (canned food, frozen foods, boxed products you just stick in a microwave) then you are taxing your body’s digestive system. Many people blame Monsanto alone for the extreme rise in gluten intolerance, but I think there’s a lot more to it than that. Despite the challenges to keep your gut healthy, as promised in my last post about managing food intolerances, there are ways to heal and kick intolerances to the curb.
Antibiotics are also a major player in the weakening of our digestive systems, because they inevitably kill off the beneficial bacteria in our intestines while doing their rightful work on the bad bacteria they are supposed to be targeting. Practically no one has escaped a round of antibiotics in their life, and some people have taken them every year of their life, even multiple times. Antibiotics are necessary, but so are the probiotics that they are known to destroy, which leads to an imbalanced ecosystem in the gut. If you don’t make a conscious effort to reestablish the beneficial bacteria environment in your gut, then the bad bacteria, and especially candida, gain momentum and the ecosystem spirals downward. We’ve all heard a lot about probiotics lately and they are in fact major players in more than just digestion. They are a huge part of your immune system and studies show a major link to mental issues and what’s happening in the intestines, so much so that the gut is often called ‘the body’s second brain’. So, probiotics are really important all the time, but when you take a round of antibiotics they are even more important, and if you have food intolerances they are essential in recovery. My all time favorite probiotic is VSL3 which is the highest potency probiotic that I’ve found, but I linked to a couple of other good ones above. My sons love Rainbow Light’s gummy version which doesn’t require refrigeration which is a bonus for traveling.
But there’s more you can do to beat food intolerances and eat freely once again. First of all, just taking steps to curing yourself instead of only avoiding trigger foods sends a message to your brain that you are on the mend. This is important because it relieves feelings of hopelessness and that horrible feeling of being out of control which leads to stress. You are in control and you can get over food intolerances and in fact be healthier than ever so phew, less stress already, right? One thing you will want to figure out is if you have a candida overgrowth. This can be tested at a doctor’s or naturopath’s office, or you can self diagnose through questionnaires found on the web (there are quite a few!) and if you think you have an issues with it, get on a candida cleanse. Now some people do a cleanse that is quite restrictive in food choices which is great if you want to go that route, but personally I’ve always liked taking a candida cleanse supplement, and there are several good ones to choose from but the one I linked to is my favorite. Some doctors or naturopaths will prescribe medicine for candida, so if you are getting diagnosed that way then you can discuss options at that time with them, as well as the possibility of a prescription probiotic. If you have no idea if you might have candida then I’ll give you three clues to consider~ Have you had two or more rounds of antibiotics in your life and did you replenish your system with probiotics afterwards? Have you have ever had a yeast infection or jock itch? Are your cravings mostly the dairy and sugar kind? If you answered yes to any of those, it’s time to start seriously looking into candida cleansing. The good news is that once you kick candida then you are well on your way to recovery, the bad news is that candida really messes up your intestines so you’ve got some repairing to do.
Now, to repair the gut you want to obviously stay away from the trigger foods, but you also want to eat foods that will be easy to digest and provide the most nutrition for rebuilding a strong intestinal lining. Can you guess what is the best macro-nutrient for rebuilding? If you guessed protein, you’re right! Make sure you are getting plenty of protein in your healthy diet, and supplementing with extra L-glutamine is one way to give your healing an extra boost. There are products containing L-glutamine specifically for rebuilding your intestines so it’s easy to add to your daily routine, plus most of the products come with herbs and other nutrients that add extra support to the healing. My favorite is by Renew Life. I put it in a jar of water first thing in the morning and let it settle for a couple of minutes so I can easily shake it, then drink it. If I don’t let it sit and settle first, it is clumpy.
Back to that easy to digest part I mentioned above, in order to get the nutrients out of the foods we eat and also to make digestion optimal, we rely on our bodies’ enzymes to break down that food into bits small enough for the body to assimilate in a healthy way. For many reasons, people can lack the ability to make sufficient enzymes in order to start that whole digestive process off right. If it doesn’t have the right start, things can only go (ahem) down from there. Seriously though, enzymes are important and there are two ways you can supplement in this case. You can take enzymes when you eat, or you can take bitters before you eat (about 15 minutes) to stimulate the pancreas to start pumping out enzymes. Bitters are a classification of herbs that are usually taken in tincture form so that you add a dropper of the liquid herbs to a couple of ounces of water, hold them in your mouth for a few seconds because it is the taste that stimulates the action, then swallow. If you know you are not digesting your food well to begin with, you can actually take both bitters and enzymes, then slowly decrease your enzyme usage as your pancreas gets more efficient.
These will help get you over your food intolerances and onto your best health. I’ll post an article about other herbs for the digestive system as well because there is a lot more healing that can be accomplished with herbs, but I wanted to just get the basics out there first and let you ‘digest’ them. And if nothing else, at the very least take a high potency probiotic supplement. That’s going to give you the most bang for your buck and treat the issue where it most likely started~ in an unbalanced intestinal ecosystem. Fermented foods like yogurt and drinks like Kombucha are fabulous additions too, but a high potency probiotic is truly essential in turning a food intolerance situation around.
The links above are for ease of shopping. You can check out my affiliation policy on my page dedicated to that information. Keep in mind that herbs and supplements are not something to buy based solely on price point. Use trusted brands from known stores and assume that for any natural product it will probably take 6-8 weeks before you see a difference, although sometimes it happens much faster. Also, if you are adding herbs into your healing mix, be aware that herbs have fiber and if you add more than your body is used to then you might get diarrhea. Your body can adjust to more fiber intake but it has to be done slowly so dial back your new herbs if that happens, and of course discontinue if you have a severe reaction.
Also, I have a background in herbs and also of working in the natural foods/products industry, which led to me figuring some of this out, but the whole picture came about from seeing a physician, Gastroenterology doctors, a naturopath, and a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, plus loads of reading. I strongly suggest you also consult the medical professionals in your life because we are all unique in our bodily needs and healing.
Best health to you and yours! Always remember, you deserve to be optimally healthy to live your best life.