The holidays aren't just about family and presents, they're also about food and drinks...lots of both. If you overdid it this holiday season, your gut may be paying the price. Sugars, empty carbohydrates and alcohol all fuel unhealthy bacteria. And, if you've had a winter illness or infection that required antibiotics, your gut can be at even more risk. Heal your gut with probiotics and these eight healthy food tips to make good bacteria thrive instead and start the new year off right.
1. Eat fermented foods: Fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha are two great ways to start. But you can also make many fermented foods at home like sauerkraut, whey and even homemade cream cheese. Fermented foods are full of probiotics, can help improve digestion, and are rich in enzymes and vitamins. Plus, they can help your body absorb the other nutrients you ingest!
2. Get into bone broth: If you're squeamish about meat, this one can be tough to cook. But saving the carcasses of any poultry you make or buying a bag of beef soup bones can be the key to your gut health. It's a pretty simple task. Place the bones in a slow cooker along with water, a bit of apple cider vinegar and your veggies or veggie scraps of choice. (I use the same scraps I used to use making vegetable broth.) Cook it on your lowest setting for 24-48 hours. I use the warm setting on my crock as the low gets pretty hot. Once it's done you can preserve your broth by canning or freezing it.
Bone broth has amazing health benefits. If you can, drink bone broth like tea and night to fight off colds and stave off snack cravings, according to the Weston A. Price Foundation. And one of my favorite non-health benefits? It's incredibly frugal. I can get a bag of soup bones for $5 or a chicken or turkey carcass free after the family eats it. A few veggie scraps and a splash of vinegar and I've filled my pantry with nourishing bone broth.
3. Eat your liver: I haven't quite made it to this point yet. But I'm hoping to be able to try it for the new year. I'm going to start out by trying frozen liver pills. And, with the pill version, I don't even have to taste the liver! Eating liver helps you get enough vitamin D. Eat liver once or twice per week to get enough vitamin D to aid your digestion. Nerves in your digestive system need calcium to transmit signals. Vitamin D helps regulate calcium and prevent a breakdown in nerve communication.
4. Consume healthy fats: Butter is better, it's true. Don't buy into the low fat craze. Butter, lard and coconut oil are much healthier choices than those low fat hydrogenated oils. Our grandmothers lived longer and healthier lives because they ate real food and that included lots of natural fats. More saturated fat in your diet is a huge step to correcting issues in your gut and your digestion. Enough fats can reverse constipation and, unlike the fiber that's often recommended for digestion woes, fat is easy to digest.
Specifically increasing your omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and balance your gut's microbiome. After a period of excessive sugars and carbs (too many Christmas cookies, anyone?), the bad bacteria in your gut are thriving! Calm things down with a diet rich in omega-3s and healthy, real, unprocessed foods.
Don't go for that egg white omelet. The yolk is the most nutrient dense part of the egg. And it's also a source of healthy fat that's great for your gut.
5. Give raw milk a try: While it's illegal in many states, raw milk has amazing health benefits. It's changed my family's life (even though we have to buy it as "pet milk") because our lactose-intolerant daughter is able to drink it! The mama cow's lactase is still in the raw milk, so our little girl is able to digest it just fine. Plus, it's delicious and chock full of probiotics and vitamin D--both are necessary for smooth digestion.
6. Add gelatin: As a former vegetarian, gelatin was the first meat food that I reintroduced. It was easy. Gelatin comes in powdered form and I can just add it to my tea or coffee. So simple and incredibly beneficial. It's easily digestible and works as an anti-inflammatory. It's great for your gut and your joints. I broke my big toe a couple of years ago and it's continued to pain me since. Within a day of adding gelatin to my diet it stopped hurting!
7. Get enough sleep: Your body and your gut need sleep to repair. Did you know that going 11 days without sleep can actually kill you? Your body needs about 8-9 hours of sleep each night.
8. Try a 30-day elimination diet: If you've tried the previous steps and you're still suffering serious gut issues, eliminate gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, sugar, alcohol and grains from your diet for 30 days. Once your gut has had a month to heal, try to reintroduce each food one at a time. If your symptoms return after reintroduction, eliminate that food from your diet.
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