The first defense of good health is the food that you eat every day. We are meant to eat good food and enjoy the experience. But practically everyone in the Western World has a conflicted relationship with food that is often accompanied by unhealthy habits of either restriction or overindulgence, and sometimes these patterns go hand in hand, alternating from one extreme to the other.
How did we become so messed up?
It’s time we reclaim our relationship with food, learn how to distinguish truth from fiction in relation to our food choices and really let go of the guilt and anguish that we’ve built up around this most basic of needs.
It helps to understand the importance of our gut – all the way from mouth to anus, or what is more politely referred to as our alimentary canal. So many processes are carried out from the moment we put food into our mouths to the moment the remainder is emptied away from us.
We need to understand what’s in the food we ingest, which foods are actually helping us and which are harming us, regardless of what the government dictates and no matter which way you stack your ‘food pyramid’. What is good for me is possibly not the same as what is good for you – we are each individual in our physical, genetic, biological and emotional makeup and all these factors are going to influence what works best for you in terms of dietary requirements for optimal health. Many modern diseases, illnesses and ‘syndromes’ begin in the gut, and the stomach is often referred to as the second brain. If we can restore our gut health to optimal levels we find that many of our niggling and some of our major health problems resolve themselves. So it makes sense when embarking on the road to good health to begin there.
Do you know the difference between a food craving and intuitive eating? Many people want to go back to a more intuitive way of eating where they can listen to their bodies and truly understand the messages it delivers as to what is really nourishing and supports the system as a whole. The trouble is, food cravings and intuitive eating are difficult for most people to separate. It’s time to go back to more natural, organic and minimally processed foods in order for us to really be able to listen to our bodies and learn to trust its language.
So, what can you do today to start your healing journey at a grass-roots level? Well it turns out – lots! Follow along as we give you the skinny on some amazing and true health foods so that you can start your healing journey today.
Humans have been fermenting vegetables since ancient times as it is not only deemed beneficial for health but is also useful for preserving certain foods to prevent spoilage. The most well known fermented vegetables are sauerkraut and kimchi and both of these foods are currently undergoing something of a renaissance with their availability in supermarkets and health food stores at an all time high. These foods provide beneficial probiotic bacteria, enzymes, beneficial acids, vitamins and minerals. The acid environment in sauerkraut for example, deters the development of harmful bacteria. Consuming these fermented foods aids in digestion, in healing a comprised gut lining and some fans of fermented foods also claim they assist in curing cancer. To ensure the highest benefit of consuming fermented foods make sure they are raw (that is, not heat treated or pasteurized) and preferably certified organic.
Like fermented foods, fermented drinks have a long history going back millennia. One of the most beneficial of fermented drinks and one that is also enjoying a come-back is kefir, which is a fermented milk drink made from fresh kefir grains. These grains are a symbiotic culture of fermented beneficial bacteria and yeast. Fermented drinks such as kefir also have a beneficial healing effect on a compromised digestive system and should be included regularly in the diet. You can drink the kefir as is or use it in a variety of ways by including it in smoothies, or as a replacement to yoghurt or buttermilk. Again, if you can find kefir that is of certified organic origin, all the better! Another fermented drink that is enjoying a revival is Kombucha, which is more like a tea and delivers similarly beneficial probiotic and other digestive benefits.
Bone broth is an enriching stock made from beef, lamb, chicken or fish bones that have been combined with water and a small amount of vinegar then simmered slowly over a period of days to extract the most beneficial minerals and provide a delicious base for many dishes that also is incredibly healing. It is also a wonderful health drink when recovering from illness. It is beneficial for healing your gut wall and is also important in providing many minerals that modern diets lack. You can make your own bone broth quite easily and it’s best to use a slow cooker so you don’t need to constantly keep an eye on the level of liquid in the pot. You can add a variety of vegetables and herbs to enhance the flavor and goodness of your broth. Always consider the quality of your ingredients when making your broth – meat bones derived from animals that have been factory farmed and pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, and fed on cereal and grain that has been drenched in pesticides is not going to be the same quality as that derived from those raised on pastured, organic farms.
This is one of my favourite miracle gut cures. Slippery elm powder is derived from the inner bark of ulmus rubra, a native of eastern North America. It has a demulcent and emollient effect on the gastro-intestinal tract and is particularly soothing to an inflamed gut. It also has a pre-biotic effect due to its mixture of soluble and insoluble fibre. It always goes in my travel medicine kit as I have found it invaluable when dealing with the effects of Bali belly and similar tummy upsets. You can mix the powder in juice, mash it into a ripe banana or take it as a supplement in gel capsules. If you have an upset digestion or diarrhea then take it as soon as you notice symptoms and you will be surprised at how quickly you recover.
Another substance that is enjoying a revival is the ‘dirt’ that is derived from the fossilized skeletons of a single cell algae called a diatom. High in silica, this chalk-like powder has beneficial effects on the small intestine and colon, and has remarkable benefits to hair and nails. It has been used for many years when treating pets and livestock for parasites and fleas, since it dehydrates and kills any creature with an exoskeleton. Many people have had success in restoring their gut health by taking the ‘dirt’ as a part of their health regime, and have found that they can also rid themselves of these unwanted passengers. Since much of the Western world is deficient in dietary silica, it is a great supplement to include in the diet and it is also remarkably affordable. Just add a tablespoon to water or mix it in with your morning green juice – it’s a bit chalky so you might feel like you want to disguise the texture. Also, you might want to start at a teaspoon dose and build up to a higher dose, simply because everyone’s body is different. And always purchase food-grade diatomaceous earth. There is also a pool-grade version which has been heat treated to crystallise it and has also had harmful chemicals added – this is toxic to humans so avoid it at all costs!
I probably don’t need to extoll to you the benefits of drinking pure life-giving water. You need to consume about half of your body weight in ounces of water daily, so if you weigh 130 pounds then aim to drink around 70 ounces per day. Avoid caffeinated or soda-based drinks, including diet drinks since these contain chemicals that are not gut-friendly. In terms of gut health, adequate water intake ensures optimal bowel function. If you are dehydrated, then the body will draw water from the bowels resulting in constipation. Tap water is a no-no since it often contains unwanted chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride that create a burden on the liver and are not friendly to your digestive system – if you can obtain a reverse osmosis filter or an alkaline filter to treat your tap water then all the better. Avoid buying water in plastics containing BPA and never leave plastic water bottles in the car where the sun can heat up the plastic making the water even more unhealthy. I find it’s best to filter and alkalise my water at home and carry water in a glass drinking bottle.
Make it a priority to look after your gut health and your body will reward you with glowing health, beautiful skin, deep sleep, normalized weight and boundless energy!