Our gut can get messed up for all sorts of reasons. Here are some simple changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle to start fixing the damage.
By repairing your gut in this way you will also boost the health of your microbiome, the friendly and not-so-friendly bacteria living inside us.
Why is that important? Because once your microbiome is functioning better, this will help to resolve problems with your:
Most of us are racing through life in the fast lane, trying to juggle the demands of stressful jobs and family commitments. We often eat whatever processed food we can grab without too much thought or preparation.
On top of that we sometimes drink a little more alcohol than we should. It’s a great way of blowing off steam but sometimes it’s nothing more than an unconscious habit.
These things take their toll on our health, robbing us of our energy and slowing us down.
I’m going to run you through five key strategies which you can use to start fixing your gut today.
I’ve done a whole bunch of geeky gut research and I have experimented on myself in countless different ways since embarking on my gut healing journey back in 2013, after years of taking antibiotics for acne.
I feel SO passionate about this because I know loads of you out there are struggling with pain on a regular basis from digestion problems, stomach cramps, bloating after meals, acid reflux, low energy and brain fog.
Maybe you have diarrhea, maybe you have constipation, maybe you have one of those followed by another. The state of your gut may also be affecting your skin, your mood and your ability to lose weight.
You might also have chronic inflammation and an autoimmune condition like psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis.
So if you’re feeling confused, overwhelmed and fed up like I was, then what you need is a five-step checklist that you can start tackling today and start seeing some immediate benefits.
1. Track Your Progress
The first step is figure out how bad it is. Ask yourself, ‘How bad am I today, where am I at?’
Why is this important? Because the more severe your issues are and the longer you’ve had them, the deeper you’re going to have to go into these gut-healing strategies.
And also, secondly, you need to be able to monitor your progress on a daily basis, observing and recording what works for you and what doesn’t.
Your microbiome is completely unique to you, like a fingerprint, so you will respond in your own unique way to these strategies.
Create a document on your computer or use a paper diary. This is going to be your Gut Geek Journal. You are now going to be a member of the Gut Geek family.
You need three columns in this document, one for the date, one for your score, and one for notes.
Your score is how you are doing each day from nought to ten. Nought is the worst and ten is the best, total perfection. You’re aiming for seven or above, which is a normal, happy, functioning gut and good health.
If you don’t do this, you’ll make progress but then in a couple week’s time forget the advances you’ve made. This is just human nature!
Don’t expect your progress to be in a straight line, getting better every day. There is no magic bullet. Instead you’ll have good days and bad days, but the overall trend will be getting better. That’s what your journal will help you to see.
2. PROCESSED FOODS
This is where it gets a little more demanding. Step 2 is to cut out or massively cut down on processed foods.
This is a biggie. Processed foods are everywhere and some of you are eating a lot of your meals from packets, ready meals and junk food.
Maybe some of you are already cooking your food at home, in which case goes straight at the top of the class!
You need to get away from stuff like processed cheese, doughnuts, margarine, breakfast cereal, french fries, biscuits and pastries.
Why? All of these things have their nutrients leeched out of them by the processes they’ve been through. They’ve also had a whole bunch of horrible, artificial crap added in there that our body doesn’t know what to do with, like trans fats and high fructose corn syrup.
This processed crap is slowly killing you and I’m not exaggerating.
Now you might look at other people and say: ‘they’re eating this stuff, they’re getting away with it! Why can’t I?’
Well some people can get away with it, others of us are more sensitive and we need to give that stuff a wide berth. We don’t want to let it in our bodies because it’s just not helping.
3. REFINED STARCHY CARBS
Step 3: Cut out or massively cut down refined starchy carbohydrates.
Starchy carbohydrates are stuff like white bread and anything else that contains white flour, such as pasta, biscuits and pancakes.
In this category we also put white rice and refined easy-cook oats.
What these foods have in common is that they have been stripped of all their goodness and nutrients, leaving nothing but empty calories.
These refined carbs also provide a heavenly buffet for the bad bacteria in our gut. This can lead to our microbiome getting badly out of balance, opening the door to all sorts of problems around our body, like those mentioned above.
If your gut has gotten into a state where it is out of balance, then you need to change the conditions down there in your gut so that everything is optimal to healing. These kinds of foods are not optimal.
If you cut out refined carbs COMPLETELY for a while, you can allow the healing to take place and then you can slowly re-introduce them later if you want.
I’m talking about cutting them out for at least six months, maybe longer, maybe less. Depends where you are. Remember Step 1!
‘Help Adrian, what do I eat instead if I’m cutting out all of these things that I eat with every meal like pasta and rice and bread? Fortunately, there are a lot of very talented chefs and bloggers and nutrition people out there with tons of creative ideas.
Just follow my social media feed and everyday I share links to really tasty recipes that fit with this approach.
4. BOOZE AND STRESS
Step 4: this one’s tough for many people. Cut down on alcohol a bit and as much as you can.
If you take recreational drugs, also cut down on them for the sake of your gut and friendly microbes.
Now, I’m certainly not saying you can’t go out and party. Far be it from me to say that!
Just realize that these recreational substances have a big impact on your gut health and if you’re serious about getting better, you need to get them under control.
I’ve been working through these strategies for the last few years and my gut is now way, way, way better than it used to be. I gave up booze six months ago. It’s a recent thing, just an experiment and I’m not saying it’s for everybody and I’m not saying I’m doing it forever.
Many of use booze to cope with stress. Stress is a massive topic and it can have a huge impact on our microbiome and gut health.
There are many stress-busting strategies and we have to experiment to find what works best for us.
One huge way to cut through stress is to give yourself permission to do something fun or relaxing or that your passionate about on a regular basis.
And here’s the key part, don’t beat yourself up about doing it. Just watch out for when your Inner Critic comes along and says, ‘Hey, you should be at work right now. What are you doing lazing around or what are you doing messing about in the beach or in the park?’
Just allow yourself to enjoy it. Your friendly gut bugs will thank you!
Step 5: This is an easy one as it’s just about taking a pill!
The pill in question is a quality, therapeutic-strength probiotic. Check here for more guidance on how to chose one.
There’s an entry level probiotic that I recommend called Biokult.
I also recommend a more advanced, stronger by Dr Mercola.
There are however loads of good ones out there and I haven’t by any means tried them all but here are a couple of guidelines: don’t look for something in the supermarket like Yakult. That’s not a quality therapeutic product.
Instead, go to your pharmacist or your health store and make sure you get a multi-strain probiotic, not just a single-strain one, because there are dozens and dozens of strains of bacteria working together in our gut and their whole ecosystem needs be rich and diverse.
Make sure that you’re taking something in the range of at least 2 to 8 billion CFUs per day (CFUs are the geeky way bacteria are measured).
Some probiotics go way higher. For example, Dr Mercola’s has around 70 billion, which is great but a lot of people can’t start there without experience severe turbulence, particularly if their microbiome is chronically out of balance. You need to introduce this stuff gently!
I recommend that you play around with the dose, gradually increasing it. You can also play around with different brands of probiotics and find the ones that work best for you.
WHY CARE ABOUT ALL THIS?
So what’s the potential benefit of all these strategies? What’s at stake here?
I want you to move beyond your current health problems like I did. My gut health is still a work-in-progress and probably always will be, given how much damage I accidentally did to it. But my life has been transformed but these and other, similar strategies that we talk about here.
You might have been carrying your chronic gut issues around for years like I was, but I want you to know that you can move past them, completely curing them.
Once you do, you’ll be able to unleash your true energy, your true potential.
What would that mean for you? Perhaps it would be running around in the park with your kids without feeling tired, playing frisbee on the beach, writing that first chapter of your novel or coding that amazing bit of software.
You’re gonna be able to unleash all that energy once you get better, and you can!
- Measure where you’re at and record your daily progress in a journal
- Cut back as much as possible on processed food
- Cut back as much as possible on refined starchy carbohydrates like white bread and pasta
- Cut back as much as possible on booze
- Start using a good quality probiotic at a therapeutic dose.