Probiotics, prebiotic tricks, my own story about My Gut Health Journey and even gut healing Celery juice posts, you’ve read all about how to care for, heal, and improve the status of your gut. Even more, we’ve discussed ways to feel better in the short term, midst gut health strife. But what about you, the person reading this who hasn’t felt any symptoms of gut imbalance…. yet? Could your actions be leading you down a grim road to gut health issues? Let’s find out!
For starters, I never intended to hurt my gut. I knew that chemicals I couldn’t pronounce weren’t “good for me” but what did that even mean? I was young, generally healthy (minus asthma/allergies), wildly active, and constantly ravenous with a grandiose sweet tooth. What harm could a few Splenda packets do? What about coffee? Staying up late? Getting up early? I was invincible, eating enough bro-tein and feeling fine… until I wasn’t.
1. Truvia Devil
Sugar = calories. Too many calories impede fat loss; however, finding a substitute impedes your health. What I didn’t realize was that the Splenda, Truvia and stevia I consumed in enormous amounts (read: I ate it in protein pancake mixes when my protein already had some sweetener, almond milk with sweetener, coffee with sweetener, PB2 with sweetener, diet sodas with sweetener, oatmeal with sweetener, protein shakes with sweetener) were dramatically shifting my gut flora. Not only were they making the not-so-great microbes multiply, but as those multiplied, I fell ill to Candida. The cravings ensued, and I only wanted more Truvia. I was #addicted. [See Cravings video here]. The sweetener I consumed on a regular basis increased exponentially. While one packet was great in the beginning of bodybuilding, by my third show, I wanted 4 packets, anytime I needed one. Worse, the fake sugar was sending my insulin levels up, even though I wasn’t actually consuming sugar. Wrecking your insulin response will drastically impede your ability to lose fat down the road. Avoid these sweeteners or use sparingly. If you’d like to add sweetener on occasion, use a natural stevia blend. In my journey, I resolved to make maca fat balls which have 5-6 grams of sugar per serving, made with real maple syrup sugar.
2. Forgetting to care about sleep
Sleep is healing, literally. The first four hours of sleep will revitalize your muscles and your physical fatigue. But the next four hours? Your mental well-being. It’s like little janitors are up in your brain, cleaning and organizing it as if it were a disheveled, dirty, unorganized office. And simple math will tell us four plus four is eight, therefore eight hours truly is ideal for our well being.
But – we already know this, and we survive without it all the time… so why am urging this? Well, several studies show that disrupted circadian rhythms will dramatically shift your gut flora. They need the time you sleep to go in and do their jobs in your work. While you sleep, the gut flora heals the stomach lining, then try to crush the bad bugs, and then rest too, when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. When this nervous system is activated, the digestion can occur, nutrients can be processed and the relaxation during sleep is what allows for this. If you’re tossing and turning, and unable to completely relax, or simply not asleep long enough, you’re hurting your body’s ability to heal itself, from the inside out.
I learned this the hard way. For several years I woke up at 3:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. While I was fortunate 50% of the time to fall asleep by 8/8:30 and manage 7 hours of sleep, even still that odd wakeup time (give that I was going to be awake the rest of the day) disrupted my circadian rhythm and this was one detrimental factor that contributed to the fall of my gut health, immune system, cognitive function and even weight gain. You need to strive to get 8 hours of sleep, no matter what is going on in your life. I know it’s all the rage to hustle with hashtags like #teamnosleep or sayings like “you can sleep when you’re dead.” I want to bring sleep back in style, let’s give #8hoursorbust a try.
It will be more important to sleep in and miss the morning workout if you’re running low on those extra z’s. Sleep first, train second. And this is coming from a 5 am Barry’s Bootcamp trainer, so you know I mean it!
3. Lacking community, mindfulness, and interpersonal connection
Cuddling = health. Seriously, for our wellbeing we truly need meaningful connections with other humans, whether it’s via hugs, laughs, sharing ideas over coffee. Ever wonder why you feel achy and sad in your body when you’re lonely?
Humans need other humans for our well being. I used to live alone and at night I had a hard time to relax all the way, falling asleep and often watched Netflix til my eyes slumped shut. However, after I moved in with my boyfriend, and we began cuddling on the couch, away from bed watching movies, I began to have a more satisfying, relaxed sleep. The human touch of his hand rubbing my back or his arms around me calmed me down and helped me engage my parasympathetic nervous system. If you’re single, try watching tv outside of your bedroom, cuddling a pillow or stuffed animal and meditating before bed.
This brings me to the all-feared word: meditate.
How? When? Where? Whyyyyyyy? Do I have to?
These were all thoughts in my head for a long time. So, I totally understand your reservation when you hear that word.
Practicing mindfulness within ourselves will bring our overall health up ten notches. I hated the thought of sitting still with my (crazy, neurotic, stressful, unsure) thoughts. But I dared to do it anyway, and I didn’t do it alone! I used the MoveWith app to guide me through various meditations. And don’t worry I didn’t actually start there. I started in yoga class. That final savasana? (read: where you lay down and literally relax as fully as you can without falling asleep) That was my start. I began there, and when I had the guts to begin using MoveWith, I pictured myself in yoga class, laying flat, completely relaxed and felt OK about meditating.
What I’ve noted are simply my experiences with tip-toeing into meditation and cuddling for health, and my baby steps have improved my overall health and mindfulness, day to day.
4. Chugging caffeine
Here’s the deal: any of the aforementioned will be tough if you’re consuming a lot of coffee. For me, one (large) cup required 3-4 sweeteners, artificially sweetened almond milk and something sweet (or sweetened) to go with it. And worse, after coffee, my cravings would get worse because I was past the point of feeling any buzz from the coffee. If you haven’t watched my cravings video, seriously, you need to see it!
You watched it? Good. So, I chronically hungry, tired, and trying to drink more coffee to stay awake and avoid extra snacking (what a mess!). Due to the extra caffeine, I was unable to sleep at night. I’d be in stomach pain from bloating and gas, wired but tired from the coffee. Laying in bed, I was so frustrated as I tossed and turned.
I’m not here to tell you coffee is dangerous, but, if you’re starting to feel like that second cup is still not enough, you may want start working on your gut health prioritizing rest/sleep, and minimizing sweeteners. Too much is never a good thing!
Another alternative for natural energy: maca powder, ashwagandha, and matcha drinks! These are link’s to Lee’s matcha recipe and it’s benefits and other adaptogen benefits – she knows her stuff and lives her truth. Check this out if you’re trying to switch up your morning coffee! All about Adaptogens and Caffeine-free week.
Sadly, a lot of my friends and I suffered in one way or another form excessive drinking in college. What seemed normal to us back then was actually very unhealthy and causing many of us severe anxiety, SIBO, stomach ulcers, depression and other chronic issues.
To begin, alcohol ruins the gut lining. It can even kill and disrupt the good bacterias in your microbiome. With fewer good bacterias and lot of disruption, the bad guy bacterias can creep in, and put your health at risk. Ever heard that alcohol lowers your immunity? Well, given that most of your mucosal immune system is located in your gut lining (intestines), if this is disrupted, your ability to fight anything is composed.
Even worse? The direct link between your brain and your gut, the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis will make for a disrupted mind, when something’s gone awry in the gut. I’ve used this example a lot before, but think about a time you lost someone you loved, or were really sad, and also lost your appetite. It works both ways. Disruption in gut affects the brain and vice versa. Thus, alcohol can feed the bad bugs, disrupt the good bugs and coincidentally, disrupt your mind.
Did you know it takes your body three days to detoxify the alcohol from your body? That means that for three days your body will set other functions aside in order to detoxify the alcohol consumed. But if you’re drinking every day, or 4 out of 7 days a week, the system will be on overdrive and your ability to be able to detoxify other toxins like parabens and environmental stressors will be put on hold. And if you’re not eating foods with lots of antioxidants? Your body will be under more stress than you realize.
My advice: drink responsibly, which to me, means the following:
- Choose WHEN you’ll drink, and set a number of drinks. Basically, have a plan
- If you’re drinking two nights in a row:
- no more than 2 drinks per night
- take Amino D-Tox, and antioxidant supplements, drink aloe vera juice for gas and bloating
- hydrate like mofo
- eat dark leafy greens at least twice that day
- take HPA or ashwagandha to deal with stress
- minimize coffee close to the time for drinking, so I’m not trying to process caffeine and alcohol
Disclaimer: the way your body handles alcohol will drastically differ based on your state of health. If you’re dealing with gut health it’s probably best to eliminate it completely. I wish I could say that I did so during my journey. However, while I minimized it, I did not cut it out completely, but I did switch to wine only for a month to avoid hard liquors and at the very least, I got antioxidants from the wine.
6. Missing micronutrients
Are you getting a lot of color in your diet?
I was guilty of a bland, white diet:
- gluten-free toast /English muffin
- turkey, cheese, chicken
- protein powder
- coffee/almond milk
- gluten-free pasta
- banana and an occasional apple
That plus a handful of spinach most days was the crux of my diet for like two years. I had raspberries every now and then, lots of bright (fake) pink pre-workout and that’s about it. I craved color but didn’t push myself to eat it. I also craved broccoli and felt like crap when I did eat it.
Those real, colorful foods in the produce section are essential!
This stuff stems simple, and like it’s common sense. But I know for a fact most of us are not sleeping enough. We’re not monitoring how much coffee we drink. We’re not mindful of the chemicals in packaged foods and we definitely aren’t prioritizing color in our diets. It’s simple, but not easy in practice.
Here’s the thing, two years of little color, fiber and micronutrients, left my body lacking a lot of things it needed to function well. I let my health fall way too far before I did something about it. So when I did, the color actually made me feel horrible because I was so out of whack.
At the beginning of my journey, it didn’t know what to do with all the nutrients and plus, I had leaky gut. Nevertheless, while having my insides with bone broth and celery juice and collagen fat balls, taking the right probiotics and an antioxidant supplement, now I can eat broccoli, purple cauliflower, squash of all colors and more and feel no discomfort, just life!
I am telling you all of this in a long format so that you don’t make the mistakes I did. It’s not a scare-tactic, it’s a “make sure you don’t do any of these things” kind of article because I lived it and I don’t want you to compromise your health if you don’t have to. Check in with yourself. Do any of these things ring true for you? How can you adjust? I’d love to help you! Email me with questions! firstname.lastname@example.org