Digestive Issues have been a pain for me for a long period of time.
Not only was it causing me to look 6 months pregnant after eating but it was also messing with my energy, my hormones and my mental health too.
The first picture is an actual picture of me and my bloating back in September 2017 (pre colonic hydrotherapy session because I was desperate to try ANYTHING to help get rid of my symptoms quickly).
This photo of me was at the absolute height of my digestive discomfort, despite eating a relatively clean diet,
- I loved cooking all my meals from scratch with various health shop foods,
- I loosely tracked my daily calories at that time and
- attended twice weekly high intensity work out classes, along with running 5k at least once per week.
I’m sharing the 10 steps, which is a small part of what it actually took for me to help manage my symptoms and help heal my gut and unfortunately there were no quick fixes.
My personal Experience with Leaky Gut – Digestive Issues
I can’t say exactly when I first developed uncomfortable digestive symptoms leading to ‘leaky gut’.
It took me several months (and a lot of time and money) to overcome it, because I wasn't addressing the underlying causes of my issues,
which I eventually discovered were:
- Low stomach acid,
- Prolonged and Unmanaged High Stress,
- High sugar diet as a teenager (I did nip this one in the bud in 2014) and
- Having several nutrient deficiencies,
which I was adamant I could address my nutritional deficiencies
- through eating a high plant based,
- low refined sugar,
- pescatarian diet (which consists of fish and no meat) alone
- without the need to take any supplements.
10 Steps I Took To Overcome my Bloating
1. I Paid Attention To My Eating
At each meal time, as a mum of two under two, I made a conscious effort to sit down at each meal and snack, rather than eat bites here and there standing while making toddler meals. I paid close attention to my hunger and fullness signals to prevent over eating. I tried to take a minimum of 20 minutes to consume my meals, so that my body wasn't rushed and had time to process the foods. Which after becoming a mum this is very easy to look after the children first and eat on the go for myself, standing or running out the door, and often going long times between meals.
2. I Chewed My Food
A simple but vital part to gut healing, each time I ate, I chewed my food until it was liquid. Even with soups, I made an effort to keep them in my mouth long enough so that my salivary enzymes could start to break this food down. With gut issues, the digestive tract is likely already compromised, therefore I wanted to take the extra load and stress of my gut by breaking my food down physically, before swallowing. Another important thing to think of, our stomach doesn’t have any teeth to help further break down our food.
3. I Managed My Stress
A big driving factor behind my digestive problems was prolonged and unmanaged stress, I was a new mum with two under two years old, and my mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and sadly passed away in September 2014.
I did a lot of work on my mindset, emotions and relaxation techniques. When the body is stressed, this can lower our digestive enzyme secretions, slow down peristalsis (movement) of the muscles in the intestines. The goal is to keep your nervous system in the parasympathetic state - Rest & Digest, rather than Fight or Flight mode, as often as possible. For me, this included regular walks outside, meditation, regular reflexology sessions to help me relax and switch off and taking time out to listen to podcasts I really enjoy.
4. I Supplemented with Magnesium
Most people are deficient in the mineral magnesium and this can lead to slow gut motility and constipation. And depsite being mostly vegetarian eating plant based, I tried to eat a lot of magnesium rich foods, I just found that it wasn't enough for me, therefore I took magnesium each night which helped me have a deeper sleep, something as a mum of two young boys, who are close in age, I was not used to having longer than 4 hours straight sleep. I also had regular epsom salt baths as this provided me with magnesium directly through my skin, which is a great option for someone who has impaired digestive function.
*As with all supplements, it is important to only supplement with a good quality supplement, recommended specifically for you based on your individual circumstances including your existing mediation and any existing supplements you may be currently taking.
5. I Moved My Body
If we aren't exercising or moving our body at all during the day, this can promote stagnation within the gut. We need to MOVE for our gut to move too.
At the time, I didn't actually want to fully admit that I couldn't tolerate intense workouts because I was depleted of many nutrients and intense workouts left me feeling wiped. I finally switched, not through choice but timing reasons, I started doing more restorative activities like meditation, stretching and walking. Walking is great at lowering cortisol levels and promoting serotonin production, serotonin is the hormone that contributes to wellbeing and happiness, among other things. This is important to note that walking helps promote female hormone balancing especially with hormonal conditions such as underactive thyroid.
6. I Ate Healthy Fats
I consumed lots of healthy fats, as this macronutrient doesn't tend to feed bacterial overgrowths. Fats like coconut yogurt, almond butter, salmon, mackerel, eggs and cold pressed olive oil , provided me with nutrients to support the lining of the gut, which can be damaged by Leaky Gut. Fats are also important at lubricating the gut and supporting motility.
7. I Made Quality Sleep My Priority
I have always been a great sleeper, but between 2011 and 2017 having two young sons, like many parents of young children, my sleep was regularly interrupted. I had to make sleep my priority again, parents of young children may understand the feeling of once the children have finally gone to sleep, you sometimes want to sit up and enjoy the peace and quiet! But poor sleep did not help my gut health and if anything contributed to making my symptoms worse. I really had to make my sleep a priority to sleep 8-10 hours each night. Our body only physically heals and repairs when we are asleep, especially during the hours of 10 p.m. - 2 a.m. These are known as the 'golden hours' and ideally we should ALL try our best to be in a state of deep sleep during this window, in order to receive the health benefits. When we are sleep deprived, this affects our cortisol levels, immune system, food choices, cravings, appetite and energy levels the next day, all of which are important factors to address when trying to overcome gut issues like Leaky gut.
8. I Had to Develop Patience
We can be used to having a 'quick fix' mentality when it comes to health issues, that we can feel disheartened and frustrated when things take longer than planned to resolve. I had to remind myself how of how many years, I had been eating the wrong foods, not prioritising my sleep, not doing anything to help lower my daily stress and suffering with symptoms. I could not expect all these problems to resolve overnight. Gut Healing for me has taken 18 - 24 months and I still need to follow many of these point still to help manage my symptoms.
9. I Boosted My Stomach Acid
I believe that low stomach acid has been the root cause of my gut issues and this is one the last pieces of the puzzle I put together. This is likely due to times of high stress and a mineral deficiency I had. Our stomach acid should be as strong as battery acid and this helps us not only breakdown our food, but also protects our gut against pathogens (germs). Stomach acid also triggers the release of other digestive enzymes in the intestines and promotes regular motility of the gut.
10. I Got Support
Even though I was a qualified nutrition advisor before my symptoms reared their ugly head, I really understood the importance of working with a suitably qualified health professional for assistance with my gut issues. Even though I was hesitant to work with someone when trying to overcome my problems, because of my qualification (I felt I should have been equipped to deal with it) and that there is so much information available; I felt I could figure it out on my own. However it is often hard to see the wood for the trees when it comes to our own health. When someone has an outside perspective, they can often identify important factors that you have overlooked.
Are you struggling with digestion issues? Did you find any of the above steps helpful?
Please let me know if you did, and get in touch if I can be of assistance to you.
Written By Elaine
Baxter, Qualified Nutrition Adviser & Reflexologist - Owner Food Wise
Elaine helps females who are one or all of the following; mothers, active and working,
to carve out some time for just them in their busy day
to be themselves, and be inspired to nourish their body,
spend a short amount of time every day working on easing stress of everyday life ,
so that they can feel more energetic and feel better.
Message 083 371 6831 to book
your Private One-to-One Nutrition Consultation.