Gut health is a big deal to me.
It is the whole reason I started this journey and ended up changing my lifestyle to LCHF.
In fact, I wrote a lot about it here in my post about sauerkraut.
I once thought that I got to a point in my life where I was “healed” and I think a lot of people talk about how they have achieved this. To a certain degree, they are correct, they did resolve their issues, but in reality, at least for me, what they (and I) have done is to bring their gut health to an optimal point of strength, where it functions well and no longer controls their daily lives.
What people don’t tell you is what to do next…
One thing that I’ve learnt is that your gut bacteria, like life, emotions, hormones and so on, is constantly in a state of flux, changing and growing new bacteria (here is an awesome website that shows just how bacteria changes in the gut) and that we cannot sit back and just eat whatever we want and have a toxic environment around us.
What do I mean by this?
Well, if you eat sugary foods and refined carbs/smoke cigarettes/drink coffee, soda, alcohol/sleep late or not well/stress heaps, this can offset your gut bacteria and the wrong ones are fed and can multiply, outgrowing the good ones and dominating the gut thereby having more influence inside of you. It’s like when you get sick, it is because a new bacteria is introduced and this may kill the good bacteria causing you to be sick for a period of time. Eventually though, your body’s immune defences come into play and work to break down and eliminate this bad bacteria and your good bacteria can begin to thrive again, if given the right environment of course.
So I went through a period of life where the bad bacteria inside of me were governing and ruling this human body that I occupy. It influenced my moods, my hormones, my weight loss or gain, my energy levels, my ability to sleep, the quality of my skin, hair and nails, my ability to cope under stress and of course, my digestive function.
And then I quit sugar, I cut the carbs, upped the fats, stopped the booze and took a bunch of different things that helped my gut from colostrum to probiotics to prebiotics to spices and teas, to bone broths, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir as well as gelatin.
And then I was healthy again. I felt great. I thought I was healed for good.
So what did I do? I stopped taking my probiotics and I relaxed my diet and lifestyle. Overall I was still eating well (I’ll never eat the sugary food and refined carbs I once ate), but I would have the occasional alcoholic beverage or serving of dairy or dark chocolate, as well as coffee daily. I thought that once I was back in shape, that my gut was fully functioning without pain, bloating and absolute misery, that I would remain that way. I didn’t think of the smaller side effects of an unhealthy gut.
In fact, what I discovered is that your gut is something that needs nurturing.
That’s why LCHF is a lifestyle and not a diet. It’s not something you do before you get married and need to lose 10kgs or are getting fit for that race, then after the event, go back to your old sugar-fueled ways hoping that you don’t put the weight back on but you always do. People, myself included, have had this misconception. It’s like the idea of “cheat days” for people who are body-builders or those who go in those competitions where they get such low body fat by eating chicken breast and steamed broccoli and train like a mother sucker for a year. Then once they win, they head to McDonald’s or some other burger joint and feast. To me, that is sickening. Life shouldn’t be so restrictive that you need cheat days but rather a consistently delicious lifestyle that makes your body sing everyday!
So I found myself up shit creek again (somewhat literally).
My digestive system was no longer functioning well, my energy levels dropped, my ability to cope and moods changed, my hormones were compromised and therefore menstrual cycle was messier than normal.
But the difference was that this time I had a paddle…
This time, I knew what to do. So I got back onto the probiotics and started taking good care again and quickly learnt that I need to be aware that my body needs constant maintenance.
I’m not sure if this happens to me because I treated myself poorly for so long and got myself so sick or if it’s genetics or environment (I was an antibiotic baby for some time) or if everyone is this way and they just don’t react the way I do for whatever reason and rather have more minor symptoms like poor sleep/energy, coughs, allergies, bad skin, PMS, frequent colds, candida, wounds that don’t heal quickly, nails that chip and break, hair that isn’t shiny or breaks or is thinning …etc. (These are all things that changed and improved out of sight for me but reared their ugly heads when I went off the probiotics.)
So I now care about my lifestyle as a whole and making positive choices. When I go to France, I don’t decide to suddenly eat croissants for breakfast daily because I know that I will have a chance of compromising my system again and it will take me time to regain my health. Not to mention that it will bump me out of ketosis.
But as far as a low carb, high fat nutritionist goes, I recommend these 10 steps:
- Overall, be aware of where you are on your health journey. Have you been bloated for years and were diagnosed as lactose intolerant or coeliacs? If yes, then you probably have leaky gut and need to heal it first. This will involve minimising inflammation (via diet/environment), repopulating good bacteria and getting rid of the bad (also diet/environment), healing leaky gut (whaddaya know…diet and environment!).
- Get your diet and lifestyle in check. LCHF can sort you out there. (This link will help you identify and heal your leaky gut)
- Take a probiotic. Be mindful of the strength and how you react to it. You may need to introduce the dosage slowly (less than what the recommendations state, then build up to this).
- Feed your body with prebiotics. These are the foods that the body doesn’t digest and instead feed your bacteria. Dietary sources are mostly raw and include raw garlic, onions, raw artichokes, raw dandelion greens, green bananas. These are not the most pleasant to consume so you have to be deliberate about it.
- Stay away from all the foods that feed the bad bacteria and eat the ones that the good bacteria love. If you’re not sure about what these are, click this link here.
- Consider other supplements depending on your needs. L-glutamine is one to help heal (you can get this via bone broth too but a supplement will be stronger) and digest enzymes help you break foods down if your body is not producing enough.
- Cycle your probiotic use. You don’t need to eat sauerkraut every day or take probiotics for the rest of your life. Bacteria taken for a short period of time should take up residency in your small intestines and hang out for a period of time and this will be long enough for you to know if it feels good and whether to continue or not. Once you know which bacteria works well for you, you can cycle this in and out. Take the whole course and then give it a break and see what happens.
- Make sure your HCL (hydrochloric acid) is balanced and sufficient. If you suffer from reflux or heartburn, then you’re likely struggling with this.
- Get plenty of good quality sleep. Your body uses this time to repair.
- Minimise stress. Bad bacteria love stress.
So, as mentioned, nutrition plays a big part in gut health and one special ingredient that can help is grass-fed gelatin.
Here is some info on why it is awesome.
This recipe is delicious and if this is your very first step towards healing, well done, I hope you love these because they will love you and your gut!
And did I mention they were yummy?!
- 2-3 tablespoons of Great Lakes gelatin
- 1/3 cup water
- Stir the gelatin into the water, I usually put it in a glass. Stir really well to try and avoid any big clumps.
- Leave for around 5 minutes and it will soak up all of the water and become a big blob of jelly that can be easily removed from the glass.
This really is where your own imagination comes into play.
Option 1: Blueberry or Raspberry crème
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup blueberries/raspberries (although you can use any other berry of choice)
- 1 tbsp stevia
- 1/2 cup water if needed (if using frozen, they usually generate enough moisture)
Option 2: Kiwi krush
- 1 cup of kiwi
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp stevia
Option 3: Coconut crème
- 1-2 cups coconut cream
- 1 tbsp stevia
These are just a few options but you really can take it wherever your taste buds allow, I’m sure you could do some sort of lemon, lime or citrus crème, chocolate, choc raspberry etc and of course you can make layers of different flavours. Regarding the stevia, this is totally optional and often not necessary especially if using fruit. As it is 10 times sweeter than sugar, I would recommend putting a teaspoon, mixing and tasting before adding more. When I make just the coconut crème alone, I don’t add any as I feel that coconut cream is quite rich and sweet on its own but sometimes a little is just enough to get to that bliss point.
The method is pretty much the same for all of these combinations.
- In a small saucepan on a low-medium heat, add the main ingredient (fruit or coffee or milk) and heat until it comes to a light simmer. Add the stevia and mix.
- Take the glob of gelatin and add to the mix, stirring to try to dissolve any clumps.
- Once dissolved, taste to see if it is to your preferred sweetness.
- Finally, and the step you cannot miss, strain the mix. You will see that the gelatin has little globs that may not have dissolved and this just ensures that what you set will not have any unnecessary chunks. I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong but I can never make the gelatin glob without creating some little chunky bits, so the straining avoids this going into the finished product. I usually strain directly into a dish and then put in the fridge to set which I then cut into pieces. However, if you want to make them all pretty-shaped, then you can use moulds that you like as there are so many cool shapes out there. Silicon moulds are great because they just pop right out without breaking.
And that’s it! Keep them in the fridge and eat a few of them daily for an extra boost to your tummy and to feed the good guys. And of course, if you love this recipe, feel free to comment below or share.
Love (and healthy fats) Bianca x
N.B The protein count can be a little high in gelatin, so factor this in when measuring your macros. It may be great for the gut but you don’t want to be knocked out of ketosis because you ate too many! That said, this will only be problematic should you eat the whole tray or make a batch twice the size…which is easy to do. You have been warned!