A comprehensive guide on how to improve gut health for your whole family, and why it is important to focus on your gut health. From pregnant mamas to infants, busy dads and children alike- gut health is a critical part of our immune system and overall health.
Why Should I Improve My Family’s Gut Health?
If you don’t much about gut health much, then you are probably wondering what on earth this blog is about. If you do think a lot about gut health, then you are weird. But welcome to the club my weird Mama friends. Because here in our home we talk and think a lot about gut health.
I know, I know, someone here is thinking: why? Between elections, inflation, schoolwork, and life- why do you care about gut health? I have one simple answer: Because it is important. And you should care about it, too.
Have you ever noticed how very unaware of your teeth you are on a daily basis? You brush them, you use them, but we give very little thought to them. We count on them to be there ready to do their job when we sit down to eat. Then one day you wake up with a tooth ache and suddenly you are so aware of how important your teeth are. You reflect on the days when you didn’t have to think about them and you wonder what you could have done differently to prevent such an issue.
Your gut is the same way. You use it all the time. You may not think about it but it is constantly handling input and output. A complex system that works top, down. Filtering out the junk you pour in, eliminating toxins, fighting infections and absorbing nutrients. Your gut is the picture of health for your body- be it good or bad.
Did you know about 75% of your immune system is in your gut? Elderberry is great, but how much is it really helping when our body is weakened by our diets? And that’s only scratching the surface.
How I became a gut obsessed Mama?
It always starts somewhere, right? We aren’t born being weird gut conscious people, are we? Nope. At least, I wasn’t. I have always enjoyed learning about the body and how our diets impact it. I enjoy herbal remedies and strange health facts, but when it comes to concern for the gut- I had none.
In fact if you had told me at this time last year that I would spend this entire year obsessed with gut microbes and fermentation. If you had mentioned that I would be switching my entire family to raw milk, taking classes on bone broth, and incorporating organ meats- I would have thought you were crazy.
But sweet little Indie changed all that.
I gave birth to my precious boy in the hospital floor one week before Christmas last year. About a month later he yawned really big at my grandpa’s funeral and I saw a familiar sign: thrush. Been there, done that. I called his doctor and we started Nystatin. The first bottle did nothing and then Ivy dumped the last of the yellow slime onto my white rug. So I called for more- second bottle finished and thrush was still there. (I was treating myself too and using nipple shields washed well between feeds just in case you are wondering).
So I did what all Mamas do, and I called on Dr. Google. A million probiotic supplements littered the web all promising to cure thrush for only $99.99.. And that’s when it hit me:
What causes thrush?
It’s the same thing that causes other yeast infections. An overgrowth of yeast occurs when there is a lack of good bacteria. Thrush, in a baby, is super common, but where there is an imbalance in the gut bad bacteria and yeast can quickly take over. So if prescribed anti-fungals weren’t working and probiotics were the answer- what is the natural solution?
Yep, you guessed it. A healthy, happy gut microbe was our answer. I just had to figure out how to get there without breaking the bank.
Food vs. Supplements
Establishing the root cause was essential, but a diagnosis is only half the battle. We needed a cure that actually worked and worked long term. I won’t go into full detail on how we cured his thrush, but I will say this. We did it. And we did it without prescriptions and without spending a ton of cash.
But it left me with a new thought: What if we focused on how to improve gut health before the issue presented itself? And what if we were to do so completely natural?
What if we let the words of Hippocrates be our guide: Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food? This is not to knock supplements but how many of us take turmeric to help with inflammation and refuse to learn how to cook with it in our cabinet. Or take fish oil or apple cider vinegar but refuse to eat it?
Look at your vitamins sometime and what you will see is a lot of them supply amounts like 150% of your daily value. Why? Because your body doesn’t absorb them well. Our digestive system- from chewing to ahem.. you know whatting- is designed to absorb the nutrition from our food. This is why what we eat is so important.
It isn’t enough to take a multivitamin and eat McDonalds all day. Your gut is an environment. It is a complex habitat where the good needs the right foods to grow and thrive in order to counteract the bad. Supplements are just that supplemental. They should fill in the gaps, not play the whole field. If you don’t feed your gut and maintain your good bacteria- sickness, stomach issues, neurological issues, skin issues, and bad health are all doomed to follow.
So How do I improve my Gut Health?
Well I’m glad you asked! (And I’m absolutely certain you did.)
You’re probably thinking I should order some probiotics or prebiotics, right? Well, possibly. They aren’t necessarily a bad idea for you or your children, but here are a few simple and super inexpensive changes or swaps to show you how to improve your gut health overall!
4 Simple Holistic Steps To Improve Your Gut Health
1. Create a Less Hostile Environment for Good Bacteria to Grow
Most of us know what a good diet looks like. Simple, whole foods. The real stuff. Organic vegetables, fruits, grass fed and finished meat, real butter, pasture raised eggs and whole grains. But while it is important what we eat, it is equally important what we don’t eat. Highly processed, sugary, dyed, and GMO food is designed to work against our bodies, so why put it in?
This doesn’t mean you can never eat a cupcake again. I make cupcakes all the time I just use real sugar, butter, and organic flour- and if they are naturally yellow from the eggs I let them be yellow. Even if my kids really want them to be pink. It doesn’t have to be hard. The best way to control your diet is to start from scratch and know what you are eating!
Sugar is an anti nutrient, which means it can actually stop your body from absorbing the natural nutrients in your food. What we eat determines the overall environment of our gut. Are we feeding the good bacteria so that it can grow and do its job? Or are we killing off the good and feeding the bad?
When you hear probiotics you probably picture a pill or something. I used to, too. But probiotics actually occur naturally in a lot of food. You just have to know how to prepare it. Enter fermentation. Sauerkraut, yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, miso- these can all be made at home with bacteria and probiotics right from the air in your very own kitchen! In fact you can ferment almost anything- carrots, red onions (one of my personal favorites), and of course cucumbers (hello, pickles!). Pssst Sourdough starter is also a fermented food that is easy for the body to digest and has loads of health benefits! You can use it to make anything from bread to cinnamon rolls, waffles to pizza! Check out our full blog on How To Make a Sourdough Starter here!
Fermentation takes some time, but it is worth every minute! And Kombucha or Yogurt can of course be purchased for a quick dose of probiotics right now! Eating a diet rich in probiotics is an essential step towards better gut health. Throw a spoonful of sauerkraut on your dinner plate or enjoy a milk kefir smoothie each day for a quick probiotic punch!
3. Nourish Your Body
This one will differ person to person. Our gut is full of enzymes and good bacteria that break down the food we eat. Have you ever cut out dairy for a bit and then reintroduced it? I did this once while breastfeeding and I assumed I must have had a dairy intolerance. It nearly killed me to reintroduce it. But the truth is when you stop eating dairy or gluten your body stops producing the enzymes it needs to properly break it down. This is why people with gluten intolerance (gluten intolerance, not celiac) can often eat sourdough bread without any issues. The long fermentation process of grain makes it easier for the body to break down.
Eating should be an enjoyable and nourishing experience. Meals were never intended to be devoured in rush hour traffic on your way back to work. Our moods, sleep cycles, anxiety levels- all of it matters in how we digest food and how we digest food effects our moods, sleep, and anxiety. This can either create a vicious cycle or this can be freedom. Freedom to love food again. Freedom to sit and truly enjoy a meal with family and friends. And freedom to nourish your body in a way that keeps you feeling good! This is the real self care we need to practice!
4. Drink Bone Broth
This is one of the easiest and best fixes for better gut health. Usually when we think of broth- we think chicken noodle soup to help with a cold. But bone broth does so much more than that. Now it should be stated that there is a difference between bone broth and regular broth. Bone broth comes from slowly simmering the bones, fat, and skin of an animal. (Fish, chicken, beef, etc.) Bone broth is full of collagen. In fact, really good quality broth will actually be jiggly when chilled. Though store bought organic bone broth is better than nothing.
So why do we need collagen? There is actually more collagen in our bodies than muscle. Our joints, eyes, and yes- the lining of our gut are made of collagen. Bone broth helps rid the body of toxins while nourishing the lining of the gut. And bonus- it is actually full of dopamine- so chicken soup really is good for the soul!
A New (Old) Frame of Mind
We sometimes see the world a little backwards in our modern culture. We turn up our noses at the thought of eating organ meat and crave artificial dyes. The truth is nothing that I have said is a new way of thinking or eating. It is actually the traditional way of eating. It is the way our great grandmothers cooked and thought about food- though maybe for different reasons. Back then, they ate what they had. Whatever their hands and the earth could provide. They didn’t buy yeast packets- they made sourdough bread. They ate food the way God had intended for them too. Not from labs and mass production- but from hard work- raising, butchering, and breaking bread together.
We are generations removed from real health but we often don’t realize it. The average life expectancy is beginning to go down. Many children are living on daily meds by the time they are old enough to start school. As Mamas, we have to stop and ask why? We can’t change the order of our genes, but we can teach our children about real sustainable food. It can all start right here with how to improve gut health. It may seem like only a drop in the bucket, but with every drip we could be rewriting the story of our family’s health. And who knows, generations from now we may have some incredibly healthy great, great grandchildren because of some new (old) changes we were bold enough to embrace. Every baby step matters!
Happy Gut Health!
This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness. Always talk to your doctor or health care provider before changing your diet or lifestyle.
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