A few weeks back I was in the thick of a pretty annoying gut flare up. Bloating, gas and excruciating stomach aches with nearly every meal, the whole nine! For those of you that follow me there, I shared a bit on Instagram about what I was dealing with and also used this as an opportunity to remind you that even us “experts”, the nutritionists, health coaches and others working to help people in their health journeys – we aren’t immune to these kinds of set backs.
With the amount of questions and interest those posts created, I pulled together an email and sent it out to the Tasty Yummies list, sharing my personal gut healing approaches when I deal with an acute gut flare up. Because it was so well received and many of you mentioned how helpful this information was for you, I wanted to compile it into a permanent post here on the website, that would be much easier for you to reference, whenever you need it.
Healing Isn’t Linear and It’s Often Not Pretty.
Before we get into my personal gut-healing tips, I want to remind you that that your health and your wellness is not a linear journey, it’s not black and white and often it’s not too pretty, either. Healthy isn’t a destination! It isn’t a level you achieve, a peak you reach, that you only ever move forward and onward from. Things happen and this journey is ever-evolving. But, something tells me, many of you already know that.
Unfortunately, the set backs and the flare-ups happen, this is all part of the journey and for many of us, especially those of us who struggle with autoimmune issues, oftentimes it feels somewhat inevitable. But, I also try to stop in these moments and remind myself this is why I have worked so, so hard to prioritize my health, to listen to my body and to continuously educate myself – because as these setbacks emerge, I am now armed with an arsenal of tools to go into battle with and I find I bounce back far quicker than I ever have before.
In the event that you missed the conversation in my Instagram stories that week (you can catch a pulled together replay version of it here) – in a nutshell I was speaking about exactly all of this, so I won’t repeat myself too much. The feedback from you all was beyond amazing, though and hearing your own personal stories and struggles, it truly touched me! So thank you – for showing up, for sharing and being vulnerable in return.
As you may have seen in those stories, I mentioned that at the time, I was personally in the middle of a gut flare up, nothing crazy major, not a full on autoimmune crisis – but my gut was pretty dang angry. Could have been related to the episode where I got “food poisoning” in Mexico back in April or it could be a response to new supplements I had introduced or a reaction to a new food. Not too sure the cause or origin of the flare up, but, what I do know is that I have the knowledge and I am empowered to take control and implement the various gut soothing and healing approaches, to calm these flare ups as they happen.
And as a reminder to all of you, even those of us that are “wellness experts”, nutritionists, health coaches, etc, it can happen for us, too. We aren’t immune nor are we perfect – we don’t have it all 100% fully figured out, either.
Customized Wellness. Personalized Nutrition.
You’ll notice, I am not selling or sharing any of this as a protocol, a diet or a reset. Some of this looks like the autoimmune protocol, other parts look like a low-FODMAP or the SCD approach, some reminiscent of GAPS. This is because with WELL over 13 years of gut-healing under my belt, with experimenting, experiencing, trial and error – I now have a bit of a personalized gut healing tool kit that is customized just for me. This is why I am SO BIG on this idea of honoring your individuality, because there is NO ONE catch-all remedy for everyone and anyone that tries to tell you or sell you otherwise – is lying to you. Especially when it comes to the gut, my gosh there are a slew of factors to consider when it comes to gut health.
That said, below is some of what works for me, for gut healing and soothing. I share not because I believe if you are struggling that you should do exactly this and you will find relief, but more I want to inspire you to feel in control, in charge and to feel open to experimenting with your own approaches, so you too can create your own tool belt that you can use whenever necessary.
MY GUT HEALING GO-TOS
Things I Already Do That are VERY Important to My Sensitive Gut:
I have at this point in my life already eliminated refined vegetable and seed oils, gluten, grains, corn, processed and refined foods, legumes, most dairy & sugar. I personally prefer to eat on the lower-carb side of things, most of the time, because for me, this is how and when I feel my best. This is all my personal baseline to maintaining feeling good, always. It’s not a diet, this is my life and it is my choice based on my long-term health goals, my underline diagnosis and my lifestyle. While I can’t be a perfectionist, 100% of the time about all of these foods, nor do I want to be for that matter, gluten, is my only NEVER-EVER food, always! Sugar, vegetable oils, processed foods I am quite strict about the majority of the time, but I never claim perfection nor do I endorse it.
All that said, during an acute gut flare up ALL of these foods get a much stricter approach, so I can allow my gut the space to heal. Included during an acute flare up, I also remove coffee and alcohol.
During a Gut Flare Up I Put Extra Focus On:
Making Sure I’m Getting Enough Water – This is something I always do, but I am being especially diligent about it during a gut flare. Drink approximately ½ your body weight in ounces plus 1.5 times diuretics up to around 100 ounces – adding a pinch of unrefined sea salt to your water helps to support electrolyte balance. Fruit infused water is always a fun way to get more water in, without the sugar or carbonation, that can often upset my gut.
Pre and During Meal Mindful Eating Practices – Slowing down at meal time, eating in a comfortable and relaxed state. Deep breathing. Expressing gratitude. Lots of chewing. These, just to name a few, are ways that I work to get my body into a parasymathetic state at meal time, which is imperative to proper functioning digestion.
Refreshing Myself on Digestion 101 – During a flare up, it is always an especially great time for getting back to basics and reminding myself of how things should be working, so I can work backwards (top to bottom) to determine where exactly the problem is arising from. Root cause is very important with digestion and working north to south can most times helps to identify where the dysfunction is.
Reducing Stress – Again, this is another all-the-time practice for me, but I put an extra prioritized focus on it during any helth struggles, illness or flare ups. From making time for my daily meditation practice, to deep focused breathing, long walks outside and just giving my body the space to feel relaxed, this is crucial to the digestive system working optimally.
ADD-IN or INCREASE:
L-Glutamine powder (5-8g per day) – I just stir it into a little water, it’s pretty much tasteless. L-glutaine is an anti-inflammatory essential amino acid that offers healing by rebuilding and repairing the gut lining, research has shown that L-glutamine decreases intestinal permeability and coats cell walls to protect them from irritants.
Bone broth (or meat stock) daily – I enjoy sipping mine as a Healing Golden Bone Broth Latte or straight up. So soothing to an inflamed gut. I like to make my own, but if I don’t have the time, Kettle & Fire is my go-to store bought, shelf stable option! The Chicken Mushroom Bone Broth is NEXT LEVEL! Read more about the benefits of bone broth here.
HCL supplementation with protein-heavy meals to support appropriate breakdown of food in the stomach – if you aren’t working with a professional on proper HCL supplementation and dosage for your specific needs, at the very least a small amount of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in water or digestive bitters, 15 – 20 minutes before mealtime, these can all naturally stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid production. (Read more about the importance of stomach acid here)
Digestive enzyme supplementation with meals – another great way to support the digestive process, with supplementation you are working to restore digestive enzymes, which ensures that you properly break down and absorb the nutrients from your food. Working with a professional one-on-one is a great way to find a supplement that will work for you.
Fermented elixirs (I like Gut Shots from Farmhouse Culture or beet kvass) – as I can tolerate it, this is a great way to introduce healthy bacteria. Since whole food ferments like sauerkraut or kimchi may be a bit more irritating to me during a flare up, due to fiber, I opt for just the “juice” and then I will slowly add the whole food ferments back into my repertoire. Start with a teaspoon or two, work your way up to a couple tablespoons or a shot!
Sipping herbal teas – peppermint, ginger, slippery elm and marshmallow root teas, I find that these are all very soothing to my angry gut.
In addition to my baseline mentioned at the very start, these are some additional eliminations that I have personally found great success with.
Limit Select High FODMAP Foods – For me, some (but not all) high FODMAP foods can irritate and upset my gut, this is just an all-the-time thing for me. Through previous elimination diets I have identified a few such foods that can affect me in more than small amounts. For me this is particular high-fructose foods like certain fruits as well as things like inulin and chicory root, dietary fibers known as fructans which are high FODMAP oligosaccharides. I am aware of these foods and I choose to either remove them or eat in very conscious moderation the majority of the time. Because of this knowledge, during flare ups, I completely avoid those trouble foods.
I severely limit fiber and remove starchy/sugary foods during flare ups – Severely reducing fiber is honestly one of, if not THE hardest parts for me, mostly because it feels counterintuitive in so many ways, not just because I know the importance of fiber in a healthy diet, but intuitively I always try to get adequate and quality fiber at every single meal mostly through whole food vegetables and to know me is to know my veggies are insanely important to me. But, for me, I have noticed often when I am dealing with a flare up, many times the fiber in whole foods can actually highly aggravate the problems and irritate my gut – I end up bloated, gassy and really uncomfortable. Starchy and surgery foods, even the healthful kinds, these can also feed the bad bacteria. While I always struggle with them on some level, I personally find during flare ups that prebiotic fibers are especially irritating for me.
During this particular flare up, all of this were the first steps I took and it was instant relief for me, which lead me to believe I was likely struggling with a slight bacterial imbalance, since the likelihood is that these foods are feeding the wrong bacteria, contributing to it’s growth and to my discomfort. So in a nutshell, I’m starving them out. As I feel ready, I will slowly be reintroducing more fiber-rich foods again to see which I can handle. This is definitely not meant to be a long-term solution, fiber is very important, but it’s really great for acute soothing and allowing things the opportunity to calm down a bit.
Remove Raw Vegetables – Yes, this is also a very, very hard one for me. And yes, this does also includes my daily Big F-ing Salads, that you all know that I love so much. I feel like I am in mourning when I can’t have my salads. But, raw vegetables can be very challenging on your digestive system. It takes a lot of energy to break them down and often they are quite fibrous and irritating. Same as the fiber-rich foods, after about 10-14 days or so, I will begin reintroducing to see how it feels.
Remove Whole Seeds and Nuts – Some, but not all, whole nuts and seeds can be challenging for my system to digest during a flare up. It just never feels good. So I choose to cut those particular ones out, too.
RESULTS: I shared this originally in early June when this gut flare happened. I gave myself two very “strict” weeks on this personalized protocol and while it wasn’t linear or immediate, I eventually found the relief I was looking for. There were some good days and some bad ones in there, because, as I mentioned it’s never linear. I had a planned vacation just after that two week period, which is part of why I was so focused on getting things to a manageable state and I was able to happily travel, enjoy myself, eat what I wanted and I felt great!
Please note: Your trigger foods or foods that should be considered for elimination might be totally different the mine, often people are triggered by eggs, nightshades, etc. You may get relief and healing from supplements not listed here. This list is simply what I have found to work for me over the years of gut issues.
All of these practices are used as temporary, therapeutic measures, this isn’t a long-term, permanent approach or way of eating. I am generally extra careful and follow a healing approach like this for a minimum 7-14 days to allow this all to calm down, longer as needed and then re-introduce from there and see how I do. For my clients dealing with more severe, unresolved gut issues, at the start of their healing as we’ve determined their personal triggers, I recommend they give it a minimum of at least 30 days of elimination, whatever that looks like for them. Minor flare ups for me, I go light and take it all day by day and making choices on timing, based on how I feel moving forward.