The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Based on the GAPS Diet

The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Based on the GAPS Diet

This is my all-time favorite cookbook thus far. I purchased it because with all of the strange, persistent bloating, the constipation, and stomach upset that I’ve had for the past year or so, I knew I needed something that would be soothing and anti-inflammatory for my stomach.

This book is based on the GAPS diet. I had heard about the GAPS diet before in doing research in how to treat a variety of stomach conditions. The full GAPS diet is very strict and can be difficult to follow. All ingredients have to be pure and wholesome. I haven’t fully submitted myself to it yet, but based on what I know now about gastrointestinal issues, I believe in its efficacy.

I’ve learned that most G.I.-related problems are hard work to treat, plain and simple. That is, if you really want to get to the bottom of it. They often require a permanent change in your diet which might mean giving up things you’re attached to. It can take a long time to adjust.

I’ve enjoyed the journey, though, because I’m interested in doing what’s best for my body, and I know I don’t have to compromise on foods I love, because there are plenty of amazing, healthy dishes you can make. I had already cut down coffee to one cup a day and added coconut oil to it, I had eliminated any fatty foods altogether and made sure most of what I ate was easy to digest. But, I needed more good recipe ideas. I really felt that soups that were dense with nutrients would help my stomach, and this cookbook is full of those.

Having Digestive Issues Too? Check out this article I wrote a while back →

Regardless, this cookbook is awesome whether you have G.I. issues or not. The recipes are healthy, straightforward, unique, and most are relatively easy to make. You’ll just want to put effort toward making sure you get wholesome ingredients. When you do, you really feel how healthy what you’re eating is!

Ginger Turmeric Tea… Yum!!

I make the Ginger Turmeric tea out of this cookbook at least weekly now. It’s simple. Just purchase fresh ginger root and turmeric, peel them and slice them up. Boil some water, throw some slices in of both (about half as much turmeric than ginger), 1 teaspoon of coconut oil (I use unrefined, virgin organic coconut oil for consumption), and honey if desired. That’s it! Just don’t go crazy on the turmeric and ginger, because you don’t need much!


Note: The above link is an affiliate link; if you purchase this book through Amazon, I get a small commission that helps to support this blog. However the book is solely recommended based on my own experience with the book.

Gut Problems? Seriously, Cut Back the Coffee

Gut Problems? Seriously, Cut Back the Coffee

Let’s start with this – gut health is really, really important, and science is just beginning to discover just how important gut health really is, since gut bacteria create neurochemicals such as serotonin, as well as create vitamins to keep your brain healthy. Hippocrates said that “all disease begins in the gut” – which of course not ALL disease does, but many metabolic disorders do.

I myself went through a random change in bowel movements not too long ago and also had persistent bloating for a few months (not the type of bloating you get periodically when your stomach is upset but rather constant, “I look like I’m pregnant” bloating) as well as developed chronic constipation after never having constipation in my life. However, this wasn’t constipation in lack of bowel movements – they were regular – but rather dry and difficult to pass ones. So, I’ve had months and months on end of trying to figure things out. My latest scare was that the chronic constipation then led to seeing blood in the toilet which ended up being hemorrhoids that was caused by the straining.

“It takes actual work to heal your gut”

Doctors can often help give you guidance with these things, but unless you end up doing tests like x-rays, colonoscopy, endoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or whatever the doc sees fit, then it can be really difficult to see what’s wrong with you. The digestive system is very complicated. Plus, those tests (especially colonoscopy) have their risks, so it is up to you to decide whether the benefits outweigh those risks. Unless surgery is required, many times what’s really going to heal it is your diet along with some supplements. It takes actual work to heal your gut.

After I saw the blood in the toilet, I was SO freaked out. I made a doc appointment, but I knew I needed to do something to not strain with bowel movements anymore. I was always nervous to try stool softeners or laxatives (many of them can actually irritate your gut and might treat the symptoms, but possibly even worsen the cause), and I knew just treating the symptoms wasn’t going to be enough. I said to myself as though speaking to my body, “please, PLEASE let me know what you need to heal. I don’t know what to do!”

It was at that point that I really started paying attention to how my body felt. Because I was scared. And unfortunately, sometimes it takes a scare like that to really get us to pay attention. To be more sensitive to what our bodies are going through.

Two Cups of Coffee Daily Was Irritating My Gut

I started taking whole organic psyllium husk, flax oil and coconut oil with daily smoothies which is helping tremendously, but I began to realize other important things about my body. I realized that my two daily cups of coffee that I down were actually irritating my gut (it took me like a year to see this. Sometimes we just don’t see what we don’t want to see). Coffee provides a laxative effect which I thought was good, but I felt and discovered that it was actually quite harsh (when you’re downing at least 2 cups of coffee a day like I was). When I looked up “coffee and digestive issues” on Google, it was FULL of research on this.

So if you are experiencing gut problems and you’re still drinking coffee, you have to cut it back. Just do it! It’s important to see how it might help. I cut mine back to one cup per day, and I drink it slowly throughout the day instead of downing it. I also add coconut oil to my coffee (see this awesome blog post from Wellness Mama for a great coconut oil coffee recipe), though I fully intend on switching to an herbal coffee alternative after I wean myself off of my drug.

Many times we’ll find excuses to keep doing what we want to do even though it may be harming us. I am a TRUE coffee addict. I’ve been drinking it since I was 13, drinking it at midnight never keeps me up; I love coffee. And maybe one cup of coffee isn’t such a big deal – but it’s important to just try cutting it back and seeing how you feel.

The Small Things Matter: Pay Attention!

When it comes to healing your gut, the subtle, small things matter. You really need to pay attention and tune into your body; once you do, you’ll be on the road to healing.

The Mystery of a Bloated Stomach (Part 2)

The Mystery of a Bloated Stomach (Part 2)

Note: This is a continuation of “Mystery of a Bloated Stomach Part 1”. You’ll probably want to check that one out first before reading this one!

In the first part of my “Mystery of a Bloated Stomach” posts, I went over some tips I learned when dealing with a persistently bloated stomach with no apparent cause (and unfortunately many fears along the way of different illnesses such as ovarian cancer). This was not your regular type of bloat that came from water retention or eating too much. Seemingly spurred on by some kind of bug, I looked like I was pregnant for months (but bloating was diminished in the mornings upon waking up). So for this post, I wanted to write a bit about things I’ve discovered that have helped my digestive issues – which were mainly diet changes.

This will depend on what is going on with your body and where stomach bloat is actually coming from, but if you are experiencing atypical, consistent bloating, making some adjustments in your diet to see how your body reacts can be beneficial and a way to determine what might be going on with it.

When I had my stomach issues it was a literal nightmare swimming through a sea of information and a few different doctor appointments with no conclusive answers. These days, thankfully, my bloating has gone down almost entirely.

1) First…Cut Out All Fatty Foods

Get rid of the grease! If you end up having something like gastroparesis or general IBS symptoms, fatty foods (fried or greasy/oily foods) can very much make it worse.

2) Try Cutting Out Roughage Foods Your Body Has a Hard Time Digesting

For example, my digestive system had a really difficult time with anything like broccoli or cauliflower, or heavy fibrous foods. It almost just didn’t tolerate it. Try cutting these out temporarily and seeing how you feel.

3) Eat Bone Broth and Soups

Bone broth is all the rage lately. The great thing is there are many ways to season it and add things to it to taste awesome, and it really can give your digestive system a rest. Also, the amino acids in it (specifically glycine) are said to help proper digestive functioning. As an added bonus, bone broth is also easy and inexpensive to make! I’ll be writing later on how to make a great bone broth. You can sometimes find it in health food stores, too, but making it yourself is easy, healthier, and you naturally have more control over how it’s made.

For now, here are a few soups I used to make often in the midst of my digestive issues:

a) Organic Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
b) Bone broth made of grass-feed beef bones and plenty of vegetables
c) Low-sodium vegetable broth with cucumber kimchi, small pickled cucumbers, ginger, fish sauce, cilantro, some lemon, and spinach

4) If you aren’t sure if gluten is the cause (which is actually a really common allergen despite the gluten-free craze), try cutting out all gluten-containing breads and other gluten products and seeing how you feel.


5) Do Some Research on the GAPS Diet and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet

While these diets are meant for specific digestive issues that you may or may not have, I definitely took away some knowledge from studying these diets and seeing how certain foods can affect digestion. The GAPS diet is super specific and if you have a digestive issue that warrants going on this diet, it is somewhat extreme and can be hard to follow. I adhered to some of the guidelines from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet just simply to see how I’d feel by doing so.

6) Eating Kimchi and other fermented foods as well as foods containing probiotics really helps (take a probiotic supplement, too!)

I found a Korean shop in my city that had a variety of different types of Kimchi. I’d then buy a ton of it and make soups with it (could also try using it with brown rice!). I also ate Faye Unsweetened Greek Yogurt for probiotics and would add fruit to it.

7) Consider seeing an integrative medicine doc (or functional medicine doc), or a naturopath who can give you a comprehensive stool test and treat your issues from a myriad of angles.

I found an integrative medicine doctor in my area who ALSO specialized in functional medicine (and she was basically the only one), which I liked because she can provide both Eastern and Western treatments. However, I ended up not even seeing her in the long run because my probiotic (called VSL#3) and diet changes were enough to fix the issue; granted, it took time and patience! The great thing about naturopaths (and integrative medicine docs as well) is the stool test they give you is typically much more comprehensive than the standard one you might get at a GI or General Practitioner doc.

Remember…Keep a Food Journal, Keep Your Patience, and Experiment With Diet Changes

Hopefully some or all of these pointers have been helpful. As mentioned, I went through quite a process with my digestive issues in trying to figure out what the issue actually was, where it came from, and how to treat it. I went to an OBGYN, a GI doc, and a General Practitioner, and no one could give me any solid answers. My tests I had done all came back negative; there was nothing that pointed to a definitive answer. Don’t get me wrong; this was good, yet as you can imagine it was pretty frustrating as well.

My GI doc said that it could likely be gastroparesis. I still think this might be the case, but who knows what triggered it. I didn’t have any procedures or scans done of the abdomen (colonoscopy, CT scan) because I didn’t want to if I could try curing it with diet and seeing if that would help first.

If you’re struggling with something very similar, the best thing you can do is keep a food journal and record what foods or activities trigger your issues the most and what times they are most likely to occur. Then, do some research and play around with your diet using the guidelines above.

The Mystery of a Consistently Bloated Stomach, Part 1

The Mystery of a Consistently Bloated Stomach, Part 1

Note: I had to separate this article into two parts because I had so much to say about it, so stay tuned for Part 2!

Ever had a REALLY bloated stomach that almost made you look like you were a few months pregnant, got worse after you ate but was better in the morning, and lasted long-term? When random things seem to upset your stomach and create a storm but don’t seem to have anything in common? That’s the summary of what I’ve been going through the past couple of months, and I wanted to be sure to share with you what I’ve found in case you might be going through something similar. I’ll tell you I’ve ripped through hours of research on the internet, tried different supplements and diets, and in the process I’ve discovered some key things about gut issues you might not know.

How It Started

It started when my stools started to be really large. As in, clogging the toilet regularly. It was embarrassing. I have read, somewhere amongst all the literature I’ve taken in, that this is a classic sign of gut dysbiosis, when the bacteria in your gut is out of whack. This makes sense to me, because I had not too long before taken a dose of antibiotics I had to stop mid-course because my body ended up being sensitive to them and I was actually getting fevers from it.

Then one day, I woke up and noticed an immediate lack of appetite. I’m usually really hungry and can’t wait for breakfast in the morning, but this particular morning nothing seemed really all that appetizing. The rest of the day it got worse. I was nauseated, couldn’t eat due to zero appetite, and I even developed an elevated body temperature; possibly a low-grade fever (I didn’t check) and by the time I got home from work I had to collapse in bed.

So now what the heck was this?

This really seemed to come out of nowhere because no one around me had this, I hadn’t been outside of the house all that much recently, and I realized it felt more like my body had an infection somewhere that it was fighting rather than some stomach bug. And, it only lasted about two days max and I was fine!

However, ever since then, I’ve had a distended stomach. Specifically functional distention – meaning my abdomen was visibly bloated nearly all the time to varying degrees throughout the day, but everything else was fine – bowel movements all normal, no other seemingly serious side effects.

Worthy to note is this was not normal bloating that you experience after having extra gas. This was consistent bloating that made me look like I had gained a bunch of weight in my midsection.

I did notice my pelvic area also seemed to be puffy and bloated along with my stomach as well. This led me to the conclusion that it was a gynecological issue and I was freaked out for a few days that I had ovarian cancer. I also noticed that hair was falling out at a higher rate and I had weird tired spells earlier this year for no apparent reason.

So, something was definitely out of whack with my body; but like many illnesses, infections, or parasites you can get, this one was really, really hard to put my finger on even what it COULD be, which drove my anxious brain absolutely crazy since I was facing a giant abyss of unknowns.

And guess what, two doctors appointments later and a whole lot of research and reading others’ similar stories, I still don’t have any 100% definitive answers. I’ve realized this is a sad truth with many stomach issues. But not only have I calmed down about it, I’ve found what seems to keep it under control and some key points to consider if you’re experiencing something like this.

Key Point #1: Don’t try to self-diagnose…especially with a gut/digestive issue.

I did, and I soon realized that especially when it comes to the persistent abdominal bloating and distention (or other digestive issues), it could be a symptom of a billion things, so don’t do what I did and immediately assume you have ovarian cancer. You probably don’t, and in fact, the digestive system is ridiculously complicated (says my best friend who’s in medical school). Issues can arise easily.

Here’s my list of conditions I thought I could possibly have that I wrote down to myself in my notebook (mostly noted here for entertainment purposes):
-SIBO (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth – can be caused by antibiotics)
-C. Diff (bacterial infection) or H. Pylori
-Colon Cancer
-Ovarian Cancer
-Some kind of parasite
-Gallstones
-Pelvic floor disorder
-Endometriosis
-Candida or severe yeast infection
-Interstitial cystitis
-Gut dysbiosis
-Bacterial vaginosis
-Diverticulosis
-Leaky Gut Syndrome

Key Point #2: Important!! Keep a food diary and record times when your stomach is upset

Once I began actually paying attention to when it was upset and when it wasn’t instead of just assuming it was random and persistent…I started noticing patterns. I learned that for some reason, broccoli and eggs, two things I previously ate all the time, now gave my stomach tons of trouble. Oh, and eating a spaghetti plate at Cheesecake Factory? Terrible idea, I really paid for that later. I have to be careful eating out in general…you never know exactly what ingredients they put in things so it’s more difficult to figure out what’s really bothering you.

I couldn’t fathom what could possibly have suddenly made my stomach sensitive to broccoli and eggs though, until I googled that and learned it could possibly be leaky gut syndrome, claimed to be somewhat of a mystery in itself. I had to take that with a grain of salt though too because who knows if that’s truly what it was. However, this is right about when it clicked with me that I needed to start paying close attention to my good and bad days, and what was affecting the bloat.

Key Point #3: Western medicine has a lot to learn about the gut and its relation to overall health…

…So, don’t be surprised if you go to a gastroenterologist only to have them send you home with an IBS diagnosis and some acid reducers. Luckily this didn’t happen to me because I landed on a good doc (not literally), but I heard many people’s stories of their mysterious symptoms with nothing but a mere IBS diagnosis with no insight as to what may have actually caused their condition (or if they didn’t really have IBS and the doc just couldn’t come to a diagnosis). I’ll tell you right now I was not going to accept a diagnosis of IBS, because that essentially would have told me nothing.

For the record, I went to both a GI doc and an Ob-Gyn doc, and had a pretty full workup for gynecological tests to check for infections, and even had a transvaginal and pelvic ultrasound. Everything came back normal (although I did have a few fluid-filled cysts on my ovaries. No big deal, and he said the bloating was likely not from that – which made sense since I also had an overly upset stomach often).

My friend’s mom who had also experienced my exact symptoms at one point in her life (and also had an ovarian cancer scare) did end up having some type of infection causing her symptoms, so it’s always worth it to cover your bases if you have zero idea what the cause could be, even if it costs a bit more.

My GI doc said that it could be gastroparesis, where your stomach has trouble emptying normally. He said that at times gastroparesis is transient and will just go away on its own. He then gave me some VSL#3 (high potency probiotic) and told me to completely avoid all fatty foods, as well as “roughage” – things like broccoli, for example. This made a lot of sense to me and I am basically back to no bloating at all after eliminating any offending foods after figuring out what those foods were in my diary.

Key Point #4: When it comes to these gut issues – depending on what you have, many times the best thing you can do is be vigilant about your diet and eliminate the stuff causing problems. Also…take a probiotic.

Again it depends on what you have, but don’t rely on simply medication to solve the problem, because if your case is anything like mine, medication is only a mask and never would have solved anything. I finally got my bloat down after months to basically non-existent by diet alone.

Also consider taking a probiotic. No matter what you have this can be helpful. They are fairly expensive for the good ones (anywhere from around $25-$60 per bottle), but totally worth it especially if you have taken repeated rounds of antibiotics in the recent past. I won’t recommend a brand (except for VSL#3 which is great – and available at Costco I hear) but it’s really a matter of trial and error to see which one works best for you.

And, get the ones you need to keep refrigerated. Forget about the ones laying dormant in a paper box or things like “probiotic gummies.”

There are around 100 trillion microorganisms living in our gut, and we are just now beginning to understand how important those little creatures are in relation to our health! Please try not to wipe them out more than you have to with antibiotics!

In the next part of this article, I’ll go over what supplements I have explored (although these will differ for everyone) and what types of things I’ve introduced into my diet that has not only reduced my bloat but made me feel better. Stay tuned!

 

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