While I was a 4th year medical student doing my rural rotations in central Florida, one of my first patients was a migrant worker suffering from severe abdominal cramping and diarrhea. First, I went through the “medical differential diagnosis”. This means looking at someone’s symptoms to come up with potential diagnoses, and possibly follow up with tests to confirm every single thing that could be in the differential. Well, I deduced that parasites were the cause of the symptoms. I was sure he was suffering from a parasitic infection. Nothing else crossed my radar screen.
As I quickly learned, a medical differential doesn’t always tell you what’s wrong. The supervising physician stepped in and asked the patient, “Have you been eating lots of oranges?” The answer was “Yes.”
That was my first eye opening connection between nutrition and gut health. These workers were simply ingesting too much vitamin C and fructose from eating too many oranges! Overdosing on vitamin C causes abdominal cramping and diarrhea. It was a good lesson that when traditional medical models don’t work, try a different approach (like looking at a patient’s diet!).
The health of your gut is extremely important to the health of your entire body. Collectively called the microbiome, your gut houses trillions of healthy bacteria. It is their job to metabolize nutrients, make vitamins, and detoxify harmful substances that make their way from the environment into your body.
I’ve treated many patients with complaints of weight loss resistance and I’d often say as I palpated their abdomen: “This is not all fat :-), this is bloating, and we can quickly trim off some inches as we heal the gut.”
I also personally experienced years of suffering due to food sensitivities. Specifically dairy - all dairy - it makes me sad just typing this.
In fact, even now, after being dairy free over 10 years, when I eat something that has dairy or whey in it I quickly get ear drainage and am typically 3 pounds heavier, edematous and bloated the next day.
What’s truly fascinating is that I had 6 ear surgeries as a child and two for hearing loss as an adult. Hmm, if I had only knew to stop dairy back then! Another reason why it’s so worth it to take care of your gut!
The balance of good to bad bacteria in the gut affects every organ in the body – heart, brain, skin, and more. I’ve put together some ways you can get maximum gut protection in a few easy steps:
- Stay nutritionally alkaline. Enjoying more alkaline foods (especially green plants) helps heal the gut by supplying it with prebiotics – fiber-rich foods on which prebiotics (friendly gut bacteria) feed. That’s why I always recommend following my Keto-Green diet - it allows plenty of probiotic rich foods, such as pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt with active cultures, and kefir. These foods promote healthy gut bacteria, which in turn keeps you happy and healthy and can add to microbial diversity for a healthy gut.
- Zap stress. Unresolved stress can lead to chronically elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Excess levels make the body more acidic (which is toxic), throws the microbiome out of whack, and causes “leaky gut.” This is when the gut becomes so permeable that substances and nutrients actually seep out through the intestinal wall. Going Keto-Green helps with this, too. When you eat probiotic foods like those listed above, your friendly gut bacteria start creating more serotonin, a relaxing and calming brain chemical. I have lots of other solutions for managing stress in my book The Hormone Fix.
- Avoid gluten. Found in wheat, barley, rye, and foods made with these ingredients, gluten is a protein that interferes with digestive health and depletes the population of beneficial gut bacteria. Most foods are gluten-free, so it is easy to eliminate this gut offender. Just shun the gluten-containing foods, and you’ll see improvements in your digestion, energy levels, skin, and other aspects of health.
- Take supplemental probiotics daily. Probiotics come in supplement form, and they empower a healthy microbiome. I recommend one dose of 30 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) taken before bedtime. If you have been diagnosed with small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), you must correct this condition prior to supplementing with probiotics. I share the best probiotic supplements, as well as other superfood suggestions in my book, The Hormone Fix.
- Pay attention to your stool. If you need an outward sign of how well your gut is doing, peek in your toilet occasionally and look at your poop. It should be brown and banana-shaped. If so, this means there’s probably nothing wrong. Also, you should be having a bowel movement once a day – another sign of good gut health. If you have less than that, you’re constipated and need to resolve it. A good resource is my podcast “Are You Paying Attention to What Your Poop is Telling You?”
Bonus: Chew your food until it dissolves in your mouth (and don’t eat like a predator)! You can also improve digestion with digestive enzymes. In a previous blog, I emphasize the need to also get off antacids and PPI drugs… see why. *Please note you should never stop your meds cold turkey, your body has to be weaned off of them. If you stop omeprazole abruptly your body will produce 3X the acid! Wean off of them by decreasing dosage slowly; you can temporarily add Pepcid if needed, and then wean off that as well.
These are a few lifestyle actions you can take immediately to ensure the health of your gut – and your entire body.
Oh, I should add one more piece of advice: don’t eat more than eight oranges a day!
Speaking of probiotics, did you know that one of the best natural sources of probiotics (healthy bacteria!) is coconut yogurt? It’s a staple in my kitchen, especially for a quick, balanced breakfast.
P.S. My Keto-Alkaline Protein Shake powder is a great way to help harmonize the hormones listed above....
As well as fight brain fog and other cognitive issues. My Keto-Alkaline Protein Shake is a perfect way to incorporate more protein into your diet!
*“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is informing the public that the use of stomach acid drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) may be associated with an increased risk of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD). A diagnosis of CDAD should be considered for patients taking PPIs who develop diarrhea that does not improve.” 02/08/2012
Prilosec/Omeprazole PDR WARNINGS/PRECAUTIONS
Not intended for immediate relief of heartburn; may take 1-4 days for full effect. Do not use if patient has trouble or pain swallowing food, vomiting w/ blood, or bloody or black stools. Caution in patients who had heartburn >3 months; heartburn w/ lightheadedness, sweating or dizziness; chest/shoulder pain w/ SOB, sweating, pain spreading to arms, neck or shoulders, or lightheadedness; frequent chest pain; frequent wheezing particularly w/ heartburn; unexplained weight loss; N/V (Nausea/Vomiting); stomach pain. Consider discontinuation if heartburn continues or worsens. Do not use for >14 days or more often than every 4 months. Heartburn in children may sometimes be caused by a serious condition; caution in patients <18 yrs of age.