THE BLOG
09/11/2014 11:26 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 Ways to Alleviate Gastrointestinal Anguish

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If the words internal cleanse have you anticipating a week of ingesting bottles of cayenne pepper, lemon and maple syrup, and it gives you the dreads, then read on.

There are gentler methods of releasing sluggishness and enjoying an internal seasonal clean than dramatic master cleanses. You don't need to live off roughage and rabbit food or partake in faddish five-day juice detoxes and down slippery elm to enjoy the benefits of healing your gut simply and in your own time.

Here are five simple and effective ways to gently give your gut a good seasonal clean and alleviate gastrointestinal anguish.

MAINTAIN A HEALTHY BALANCE OF GUT FLORA

A healthy gut flora balance should include approximately 85 percent good bacteria to around 15 percent bad bacteria. However, the modern diet that is high in sugar, carbohydrates, preservatives and additives is the perfect breeding ground for promoting an overgrowth of bad bacteria that will kill off your healthy gut flora very quickly.

Other causes of this imbalance include the intake of modern medicines such as antibiotics, or drinking tap water, which contains chemicals such as fluoride and chlorine. If you suffer from acne, low energy, digestive problems, or low immunity, chances are that you have an imbalance in your gut flora that needs to be rectified.

Cutting down on sugar, increasing your intake of dietary fiber, anti-inflammatory healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil and avocados, and increasing antioxidant-rich foods will help to eliminate bad bacteria. Probiotic and fiber-rich foods and an abundance of fresh vegetables including leafy greens will sweep out bad bacteria from your system and have an alkalizing effect on the magical universe within, promoting a healthy gut flora balance.

REST YOUR TUMMY TWICE A WEEK

It's not difficult to plant your gut in repair mode pronto. Giving the digestive system a rest a couple of times a week is not rocket science, and it will help to fast track your gut lining rebuilding. Evidence is stacking up towards the benefits of intermittent fasting.

I don't agree that you need to "fad fast" with no food at all to promote great gut healing. On your fasting days you can consume a delicious array of health-promoting soups that not only fill you up but provide you with beneficial vitamins and minerals. It's important not to fast in an extreme way whereby you fall into the trap of not eating at all and then having free reign the following day to gorge out on too much food. It will become a counterproductive mind trip and will set you up for failure.

The 5/2 diet recommends limiting calories, on fasting days to 600 for men and 500 for women. This is easily achieved this by consuming a smoothie at breakfast and a couple of bowls of delicious soup at breakfast and dinner, giving you the nutrients you need and healing your gut at the same time.

HEAL AND SEAL YOUR INTESTINAL BARRIER

Healing your gut involves a dual focus: improving the balance of good bacteria in the gut, and healing the intestinal walls to decrease intestinal permeability. By doing this you are allowing the gut to smoothly complete all of the functions required to regulate your entire body, without leaking unwanted toxic substances into the bloodstream; minimizing the risk for various diseases.

The gut barrier's primary focus aside from transporting and eliminating food and water is to prevent foreign, unwanted substances from entering the body. Therefore the gut barrier must remain strong and healthy in order to perform this function. In our unhealthy modern lifestyle, gut permeability or "leaky gut" is becoming a common problem. This involves the breaking down of the intestinal walls, creating "holes" which allow large protein molecules to escape into the body. Because these substances are not supposed to live outside the walls of the gut, the immune system views them as an invader, mounting an immune response that aims to attack these proteins.

Researchers are now recognizing that the integrity of the intestinal barrier is paramount in preventing and healing a range of diseases. Healing and sealing the gut barrier can be done by stocking up on mineral-rich bone broths. My 102-year-old grandma has a wonderful recipe for healing broth which you can consume as a soup or soothing drink or use in any recipe that calls for stock. Although it may not be the ultimate eye candy, why not try my Celery, Leek and Thyme Soup.

FORGET DOING AND START BEING

Finding peace in a stressed-out, digitally dependent culture may just be a matter of thinking differently. A plethora of articles on mindfulness have been popping up lately, notably Time magazine's homogenized piece and a more "realistic" take on what the new revolution actually looks like.

As the mindful revolution grabs media attention and extols its health benefits and virtues across the globe, simply speaking, we can't discount the fact that anyone can practice mindfulness and meditation wherever they are. There's no doubt that a peaceful mind equates to a healthy gut. Mindfulness is escaping from our thoughts about the past and the future in order to concentrate, body and mind, on the moment. It's the exact opposite to what we normally do, going through our endless tasks, thinking about what we did or didn't do, worrying about what is still to be done and intently focusing on our to do list.

Food and probiotics alone will not promise a thriving colony of healthy bacteria in your gut. Stress and emotional factors can override even the most perfect diet and wellness practices. Chronic, long term stress that lingers for weeks is incredibly damaging to your gut health. Stress causes many changes within the gut including changes in gastric secretion, gut motility, mucosal permeability, viscal sensitivity and barrier function. Savouring the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with stress and adverse events that inevitably arise.

REVERSE YOUR NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

Evidence also suggests that our bacteria respond in damaging ways to the negative emotions and stress of the host. The hormones secreted during a stress response contribute to the overgrowth of bad bacteria. Figuring out what causes your negative thoughts is critical. Is it something that can be controlled? What lifestyle changes or decisions can you make that can remove negativity from your life? Sometimes the answer is not clear and you might need to seek outside help and that's okay. Incorporating meditation and yoga into your life may be the key to help you deal with these issues.

It's become increasingly common for meditation to be combined with psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. This development makes good sense, since both meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy share the common goal of helping people gain perspective on irrational, maladaptive, and self-defeating thoughts. Reversing negative emotions works in part, by helping you to accept your experiences -- including painful emotions -- rather than react to them with aversion and avoidance.

What do you do to seasonally clean your gut? Share your tips in the comments section below.

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