Tiredness, gas, bloating, poor abdominal function, constipation and vitamin and mineral deficiencies are all sign and symptoms of a digestive system that is not working as well as it should be.
We must also remember that the digestive system, through its connection to the muscles of the body, through the nerves they share, have a major impact on lower back pain.
Example – an imbalance in the gut bacteria can be the driver behind long-term lower back pain.
That being said, below is a four step process to improve gut health that I came across in the work of Dr Robert Rakowski:
Step 1 – Remove
Arguably the most important step is to remove any offending foods, drinks or toxins that may be causing altered digestive health. This also includes removing bugs and bacteria that have made a home for themselves while your digestion has been compromised.
The best way to do this is to keep a diary. As I’ve spoken about before using the acronym FEEDS will give you all the elements you need to keep an eye on; Food and fluids – Energy – Emotions – Digestive health – Sleep quality.
Monitoring all these elements over a 30 day period will begin to lead you to parts of your diet that are not working well for you and others that are helping to balance your body.
Once you have identified what you feel is upsetting you, try excluding that from your diet for at least 30 days to see how your symptoms improve.
You also need to be “removing” waste properly, that is, your bowel movements need to be optimal, therefore increasing fibre is important here.
Fibre is also an important prebiotic. Getting the right amount and type of fibre from your diet helps the body to produce bacteria at the right levels to maintain the health of the colon by fermenting some of the fibre.
Think dark green leafy veg, nuts and seeds, fruits and perhaps rice or gluten free pasta.
Step 2 – Replace
Once the body is removing waste and you have offending foods out of your diet, you next need to replace the digestive enzymes that are perhaps not supporting adequate digestion.
First and foremost you have to be drinking the right amount of water as your stomach acid is made from water and dehydration is a cause of poor digestion.
Then taking a supplement to help stimulate the digestive juices prior to each meal is a great idea. For example – a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or swedish bitters in a little water.
If your digestive system is struggling and you’re suffering with fatigue you may also want to consider a good digestive enzyme to help unlock the nutrients in your food until you are feeling back on track. This is one that I personally like – https://bit.ly/2zi6su1
Step 3 – Repair
Now things are looking better, you need to repair any damage that has been done to the digestive system.
There are small finger like projections that line the small intestine and can be damaged due to stress, toxins and food intolerances to name a few.
If you imagine that the digestive system contains a forest and the trees extract in this forest pull nutrition from the air. If there was a forest fire and the trees were burnt to the ground, nothing would be absorbed, or at least not properly. So helping the trees to regrow is an important step.
The simplest way to do this is with bone broth, first thing in the morning. Bone broth contains lots of nutrients that help to restore optimal “forest” function in the gut and allow the “trees” to grow healthily. In basic terms, it supplies the raw materials (proteins) for the rebuild to take place.
If making bone broth sounds like too much of an arduous task taking this supplement also does the job – https://bit.ly/2PyoD8T
Herbs such as mint (peppermint) and chamomile are great in teas also, for soothing the digestive tract. Good to finish a meal with for example.
Step 4 – Repopulate
By this stage you are well on the way to a healthy digestive system. To help it along the last little bit you can repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria (probiotics).
This is also VERY important if you have ever had antibiotics, medical drugs, chemotherapy or you have close physical contact with someone you know has a fungal infection (athletes foot, white fury tongue, gas).
The natural food sources of healthy bacteria are sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir. These are all fermented foods that have healthy bacteria that you can make part of your weekly diet.
Sauerkraut and kimchi you can add to salads to add a different dimension, kombucha is a great tasting drink and kefir could be a great breakfast or dessert depending on your preferences.
Following these steps is also a fantastic way to learn about your body and listen to the signs and signals that you are being given all day every day.
After all, optimal health and wellbeing is really about taking responsibility for ourselves, and this means listening to our body, so I sincerely hope this has given you even more tools to do just that.
ps – if you feel you need extra help or guiding through a process such as the one above, we have a space to take on one new coaching client this month. Comment below if you’d like to chat further about this.