I am such a believer in gut health leading to whole body health. And my family is the reason for it. Here's my story:
In 2012 when I was trying to get pregnant, I was constantly nauseous. But month after month I wasn't pregnant. I went to doctor after doctor to determine what was wrong with me, and after getting an endoscopy, going to an ENT and doing a full battery of tests, and having blood test after blood test, I took it upon myself to go to the allergist.
Turns out I was allergic to a TON of food and environmental pollens. Basically, my body had reached its threshold, and it was fighting back in the only way it could: the nausea. It was awful. But I took the elimination diet seriously and started on a series of protocol to help with the allergens and it really helped.
Fast forward 3 years later when my son was having so many skin issues that at one point he was covered head to toe in itchy welts. The pediatrician didn't think they were allergies, but something in my gut told me it was. So I made an appointment and got him tested. He was allergic to coconut, peanut, soy, and a few other minor foods. But those three are in everything! If you try to avoid soy and all soy by-products, coconut is usually the substitute. My poor baby!
But we did what had to be done and made some major changes for our family. And his skin drastically improved.
But it wasn't completely better.
That's when I started to remember much of the research that I found when I went through the allergy testing myself:
If your gut isn't healthy, your body isn't healthy.
Allergies are something that we usually think of as striking the sinuses. But allergies are actually an immune response. Our body doesn't like the food or environmental triggers, and it reacts. Strengthen the immune system (and thus gut health), and the rest of the body follows.
So then with this newly-found excitement over what we had to do, I started to feel stuck. What could we do when he was just two years old?
- Minimize grains. For us, this was hard because we are very fond of toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, pasta for dinner. But I will tell you that when these grains (modern milled wheat) are made, it eliminates the richest source of nutrients including proteins, vitamins, lipids, and minerals. So manufacturers replace natural nutrients with just a few manmade replicas, all of which are without their whole food complex. But on top of the fact that these milled grains have very little nutritious value, when they are digested, they turn into sugars which triggers the brain to want to eat more carbs/sugars and continuing a vicious cycle (read this article or this one for even more information).
2. Take a probiotic. We hear of "bacteria" and immediately freak out (antibiotics, antibacterial soap, etc.). But there are good bacterias and bad ones. Probiotics are live microorganisms that promote a healthy digestive system and immune system (because the immune system is tied closely to healthy gut health). Our body normally has what we would call good or helpful bacteria and bad or harmful bacteria. Maintaining the correct balance between these bacteria is necessary for us to attain our best health (source). There are several ways to get benefits of probiotics (kombucha, kefir milk, yogurts, supplements), but the easiest for our family is via a supplement (our top pick is Life 9 from Young Living). My husband and I each take one in the evening, and then we will also take another and sprinkle a quarter of the capsule into each of our kids' drinks.
3. Utilize enzymes. Even if we have the healthiest, cleanest diets, sometimes our bodies just need a little help to digest the food that we eat. And that's where enzymes come in. As stated in ScienceMuseum.org: "Enzymes are proteins that control the speed of chemical reactions in your body. Without enzymes, these reactions would take place too slowly to keep you alive. Some enzymes, like the ones in your gut, break down large molecules into smaller ones..." When I take enzymes with my meals, I find that my body continues working throughout the day, and I don't have that slump that occurs midway in between lunch and dinner when my body has to slow down so that it can process what I have eaten. My tummy also feels great, even after eating a very large meal. Young Living sells four different types of enzymes for adults (Essentialzymes-4, Essentialzymes, Detoxyme, and Allerzyme) and one for children (Mightyzymes). In our family, we use EZ-4 and Mightyzymes.
4. Protect Stress Levels. Stress is a part of life. We cannot avoid it. But in my experience, stress wreaks havoc on gut health (and so many other parts of our body systems too). But as someone whose stress goes right to the gut, I do what I can to keep stress under control. That includes saying no to overcommitments (I'm a work in progress on that one), practicing some forms of meditation or deep breathing daily, and aromatically enjoying my oils in the diffuser or even just in my hands.
5. Antioxidants. We hear so much about the benefits of antioxidants, but what do they really do?
Our favorite way to get antioxidants is to take NingXia Red daily (1-2 oz for full-body support).
6. MSM. This was something that took me a while to fully understand and accept: although I am allergic to sulfa drugs, I can (and should) absolutely include MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane - a natural source for sulfur) in my daily life. Unfortunately, the amount of MSM we need to sustain optimum health is deficient in large scale commercially-grown whole foods. As we fail to adequately replenish our sulfur reserves on a daily basis, we become more vulnerable to opportunistic diseases and degenerative conditions. Now, for sulfur to be efficiently used and metabolized, we also have to have a proper amount of calcium. Plus, it takes magnesium to metabolize calcium. Because of that, we take Sulfurzyme daily for all of us. Ninxgia Wolfberries are added to Sulfurzyme for this reason. NingXia Wolfberries are a gold mine of nutrients containing Vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, E, C, beta carotene, 18 amino acids, and 21 trace minerals. They are a significant source of chromium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc which are required for enzyme activation and sulfur metabolism. Oh, and Sulfurzyme can act as a gentle detoxifier on top of the intestinal health. Bam!
There are a number of other amazing oils for gut health support, including Ginger Vitality, Fennel Vitality, Peppermint Vitality, and Lemon Vitality. These are just some of what is out there (not to mention the blends).