Have you ever found yourself throwing your hands in the air with a big "I give up, this is bullish*t" look on your face? Specifically when it comes to trying to figure out your constant stomach aches/bloating/irregularity/etc?
I get it. Gut health and management seems to be this popular-yet-elusive topic these days. It can feel super lonely trying to navigate what the heck to try next now that you've exhausted all of your options (well, all of the options you're aware of that is).
A few years ago, I compiled a free e-book of my top "experience-based" tips for helping manage gut health. The reason for doing this was because I myself have dealt with gut issues (specifically IBS and lactose intolerance) on my own for years. After struggling through all of my trial-and-error methods, I finally found 6 big things that helped me find relief and "normalcy" again (read more about my experience with gut health here).
So! I am sharing 3 of those 6 tips with you right here, right meow. I truly hope these are eye-opening tips for you that can become simple adjustments in your own life. And if these 3 tips are totally blowing your mind, please head over here to get yourself a copy of that free e-book to learn a few more things on how to "fix" your gut.*
*As a certified holistic health coach and gut specialist, I want to be clear in stating: I am not a doctor/nutritionist/dietician/medical professional. These tips are strictly based on my own experience and research and not meant to diagnose, heal, or persuade anyone. Please take these tips for what they are and continue to seek professional medical attention for additional help with your health care needs.
1. Work it out!
Maybe you're already a gym rat yourself, so you may think this tip isn't for you. But if you're still fighting an uphill battle of irregularity and gut inflammation, keep reading...
The problem wasn’t a matter of working out or not. It was simply a matter of keeping it consistent. If you need to know anything about IBS, it should be this: finding consistency in many areas of life will only help you win. Because IBS tends to be connected to our subconscious, and depends heavily on our stress levels, it makes sense that finding consistency can only help battle said stress.
Think of it this way: if you have your exercise schedule laid out for you at consistent times on consistent days in your calendar, it’s one less thing for you to stress about. No rushing off to a gym last minute, no scrambling for a babysitter (okay, that’s a joke. I realize that still happens, as prepared as you might be). No more stressing about IF and WHEN you will get it done. By having this chunk of time carved out for you to focus on your health by moving your body (which, my friend, also reduces stress naturally), you’re giving yourself some CONSISTENCY. And both your stress levels and IBS will thank you.
So, let's recap this workout business:
Keep it simple, keep it quick- 20-40 minutes, 4 times a week is plenty. Anything more is extra credit!
One week at a time- Life is busy. Respect that fact, and take it one week at a time.
Mornings are better- Getting it done in the morning is only going to set your day up for lower stress, a sense of accomplishment, and (BONUS) a boost in digestion.
Consistent timing - As I mentioned before, try to workout at the same time whenever you do workout. This helps your brain (and your gut) get used to the routine.
2. Clockwork Eating
When it comes to our diets, there are so many factors that come into play when trying to manage, heal, and balance a healthy gut. Consistent eating can be such a relief to your struggling tummy. One reason for this is, yet again, lowering stress levels. Not so much on a surface level of stressing out over what your next meal will be (although, I’m not ashamed of planning out tomorrow’s dinner during yesterday's breakfast), but more intestinally and digestively. Again, no scientist here, but I feel like there’s some truth behind building healthy gut flora through feeding it [nutritious] foods on a consistent basis.
What does that mean? Well, a few things:
Same stuff everyday−Okay, not literally. But if you’re having pizza and beer Monday night and pancakes and eggs Tuesday morning, that’s a lot for your gut to handle in a 10-12 hour period. Try to keep meals balanced, with proteins and carbs in the morning, veggies/proteins/carbs at lunch, and proteins and veggies in the evening. This has helped me create less stress in knowing what I’m eating next, and has [probably] helped my gut gain some stability through routine.
Same time everyday−A little more literal on this one: you really should try to eat around the same times every day to allow for proper digestion. I have not fact checked this, but I do know that the days I’m willynilly and off schedule, those are the days my tummy acts up the most. Call it coincidence, but I’m calling it Lindsay Science. And so far, it’s working ;)
The more you know, the more you know−By staying consistent with what and when you’re eating, you not only allow for gentler digestion of foods, but you allow yourself to stay in tune with what triggers your IBS most. Think about it: if you consistently have yogurt for a mid-morning snack and are consistently running to the bathroom 30 minutes later, you might have a trigger food on your hands (that may or may not have been an exact example of what happened to me. Okay, it is. You got me).
3. Balance Your Fiber
It’s not just fiber in general that matters. It’s a balance of both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber that keeps us regular. Of course, I didn’t realize this back in the day, and most insoluble fiber at the time also terrified me: broccoli, kale, leafy greens. Anything that seemed hard to break down was not making it onto my plate.
After some trial and error and many desperate internet searches, I finally landed on something that made sense:
Soluble fiber absorbs water, turning into a gel-like substance (like when adding water to oatmeal), which helps slow down digestion.
Insoluble fiber does not absorb water (like adding water to chopped broccoli), and can help speed up digestion.
By having a balance of these two types of fiber (rather than reaching for more of one than the other, if any at all...), I imagined this would help support true regularity. As in: fast digestion + slow digestion = medium digestion. That’s literally how my brain worked when I learned about all this fiber goodness. And coming from a past of fluctuating diarrhea and constipation, I knew I had to be onto something.
Now, before you start trying to count how many grams of soluble vs. insoluble fiber you’re consuming each day, let’s first think about your current eating habits. Are you finding yourself more “backed up” than regular? If so, are you also someone who stays away from salad but loves oatmeal? And when you finally do go to the bathroom, is it not as “solid” as you think is normal? Friend, I feel you. And I’d like to insert yet again: everyone poops. And if you’re uncomfortable with this lingo so far, buckle in. It’s hard to talk about IBS and gut health without truly talking about what goes into it... bowel movements.
Or maybe you’re someone who is constantly running to the bathroom, but isn’t fond of many whole grains and is usually gnawing on greens and beans?
Whichever boat you may currently sit in, there’s hope. Without having to count out how many grams of which fiber you’re needing to take in, consider this: if you are someone in the soluble boat (oatmeal), what would your morning breakfast look like if you swapped that bowl of oats (soluble) with sweet brown sticky rice (insoluble) and an apple (soluble)? Or if you’re more of an insoluble eater (salads), how would lunch pan out if you topped your greens (insoluble) with some diced sweet potato (soluble) or sprinkled it with some ground flaxseed (good balance of both fibers)?
See? It’s not about counting out our food gram by gram, but making sure we reach from all different food groups will work wonders for balancing out your digestion.
Note: Most foods have both soluble and insoluble fiber, but usually have more of one than the other. That’s how I categorized the examples I used above.
Still wanting more info? Grab yourself a copy of my FREE e-book: An Experience-Based Guide to Fixing Your Gut
Are you looking for more one-on-one help with your own gut health? Book a free email health consultation with me here to see how I can help!