Navigating life through a pandemic is like sailing our boat through rough seas, it’s uncomfortable and disorienting. Although we can’t control the stormy weather, we can work on strengthening ourselves. Reinforcing the gut’s day and night rhythm improves gut function while bitter foods help us get more out of the foods we eat. A few important groups of foods are also highlighted for optimal gut and immune health.
Timing We have an innate 24 hour pattern that orchestrates our gut functions – breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, liver detox, gut repair, hormone production and bowel clearance. But these functions can become uncoordinated with anxiety, worry and changes in the environment or routine. Being intentional about both eating and fasting times helps to reinforce our circadian rhythms. Consistent eating times help our body digest our foods more completely. Adequate fasting time allows for better gut clearance, gut repair, microbial balance and liver function.
- Consistent meal times, during daylight hours ie. 8am, noon and 5pm
- Finish eating at least 3 hours before bed time
- Avoid snacking between meals
- Fasting time (between meals and overnight) – this is the time to hydrate with water and non caloric beverages like tea
Taste Digestion requires the release of a whole host of digestive secretions from the saliva, stomach, liver/gallbladder, pancreas and strong stomach acid. If you tend to experience reflux, burping/bloating/hiccups, feeling excessively full, constipated or often see undigested food in the stools there may be an issue here. One common and often chronic issue is stress (including lack of routine) suppressing stomach acid. Without this we can’t properly break down food or kill the billions of microbes in our food daily. This can contribute to chronic nutrient deficiencies like low iron and fungal/bacterial overgrowth.
Bitter and/sour tasting foods help to stimulate the release of all these enzymes, strengthen stomach acid and helps to scoot things along down the intestinal tract
Include bitter foods to include: citrus peel, bittermelon, arugula, artichoke, ginger, dandelion leaves, traditional cultured foods like pickled ginger can also stimulate your digestion (Join me Wednesday April 1st when I show you an easy recipe for Japanese pickles.)
Commercially prepared digestive bitters tend to include the ultimate bitter herb, Gentian. A dropperful taken in a sip of water is a convenient way to kick start the digestive process. Avoid if you have gastritis or active ulcers.
Food for gut health To ensure I’m getting a variety of nutrients from my diet, I like to use the guidelines from the Wahls diet (of Dr. Terry Wahls). Aim to eat 1-3 cups from each of the 3 groups of vegetables daily:
- Leafy greens (Microgreens, lettuce, spinach, etc)
- Colourful (bell pepper, carrots, beets, etc)
- Cruciferous/Sulfur (broccoli, cauliflower, onions, garlic, etc.)
Glutamine rich foods help with the repair of the gut lining and helps make the powerful antioxidant, glutathione. Include glutamine-rich foods like cabbage, parsley, quality organ meats, bone broth.
Foods that hinder gut health Avoid any known food sensitivities like gluten, dairy, eggs and soy. In addition to indigestion, headaches, skin rashes, fatigue and joint pain may be signs of food sensitivities. If you have a tendency to phlegm or mucus in the throat or sinuses, avoiding dairy can be helpful. Lastly, minimize sugar including simple/refined carbohydrates as these foods can weaken our ability to fight invading bugs.
These are tips you can start today but remember that they are meant to be practiced, developed and mastered over time
Stay healthy and see you next time!