Step 4. Soothe your gut
Well. That was an unexpectedly long pause in this series. I just wanted to make sure you had plenty of time to soak in the good information from steps 1-3. You know. Like a year.
The first three steps are key.
So key in fact that in our own family we're revisiting them at the moment. Ahem. Because during the year since I posted steps 1-3 we loosened things up. A lot.
Too much I guess (we reintroduced our trigger foods, too often and too soon) so we're back at it. Daily probiotics. Cutting out our triggers. And also many of the steps I outline below. Amazingly, our eczema is already going away. After only one week of effort. I love that.
So are you ready for the next step? It's delicious. I promose.
Step 4. Soothe your gut.
Won't you join me?
Because it's always more fun to soothe your gut with a friend.
(I have no idea what that meant. Forgive me.)
Please Note: the information provide here is not intended to replace professional medical advice and care. It is simply my perspective for you to consider as you go about making good choices for your family's health. Seek the support and care of a naturopathic or western physician, and listen to your own wisdom. Be well!
Why soothe your gut?
Our gut works hard for us, day after day, and we throw it plenty of curve balls in the form of irritants, toxins, medications, and the like.
And an irritated gut is a damaged gut. (Read a thorough explanation here.) A damaged gut can let substances that are meant to stay in your digestive tract out. As in: into your blood stream.
I know. Gross.
So how do you soothe your gut if it's damaged already? It's not so hard. Think about this. If your skin were irritated, you'd soothe it by what you did and didn't do to it until it healed. (Or longer.) The same is true for your gut. And while you can't apply an herbal salve to your gut, you can soothe it with the help of herbs and other food medicines as well as by avoiding things that cause further damage.
The following changes are fabulous for helping heal your gut.
And a healthy gut is key to a healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy skin.
Add these gut-soothing foods
Here are some easy things to add to your diet to soothe your gut.
Homemade Bone broth is an amazing, nourishing super food.
Drink it often. Daily is best. My goal is to serve bone broth 3 - 5 times a week unless we are actively healing. Then it's the first thing we eat every morning.
Since our eczema came back at the moment we're drinking it at least once a day, sometimes more.
Drink it warm from a mug as often as you can and add to soups and stews.
I make mine in the slow-cooker using any bones from our week's meals. The pot above contains two chicken carcasses (one raw and one roasted) plus lots of veggie scraps and a big glug of apple cider vinegar to extract the minerals from the bones. I simmer it for a full week, ladling and straining off what we need each day and adding more water as needed.
You can find instructions for this style of "perpetual" bone broth making here. I keep a bag in the freezer for bones and vegetable scraps so nothing goes to waste.
Gelatin is awesome.
Forget the boxed food coloring garbage you buy at the grocery store. I'm talking the real deal. Gelatin from grass-fed cows is wonderfully soothing and healing to the gut. And yummy. Which is always a bonus.
Make herbal jello cubes or add it to your bone broth. Better yet, do both.
We use this brand exclusively since it's grass-fed. Yum. Eat it every day.
Fish oil is key.
Fermented cod liver oil also provides vital vitamins and minerals to your body and promotes healing. All fish oil is not created equal, however. Our family is partial to Green Pasture brand for many reasons (most of which are outlined here).
As for getting it in and keeping it in, well, that's up to your own clever tricks. One of my kids will tell you how wonderful fish oil is. The other one will gag and even the mention of it.
To make it more palatable for the gagging child we have tried mixing it up in smoothies, adding it to soups, and cutting it with honey. In the end our best method to get it down and keep it there is to mix with orange juice concentrate and a dab of water. He still hates it, but he keeps it down.
Green Pasture comes in a few flavors, and peppermint has been met with the most enthusiasm around here.
edited to add: after 1 week the peppermint is no longer met with any resistance. Just today I heard, "It's actually not that bad" from my hater. We mix it with orange juice concentrate (no water). Whatever it takes.
Herbs can soothe.
The right herbs can be good medicine to soothe your gut. Here are some of our favorites. These can be made into tea or added to soups, stews, or broth.
I am so in love with tulsi that I grew it in my garden this summer. Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is easy to grow and easy to take. I mix a pinch into all of my homemade tea blends. It is a wonderfully soothing herb.
Slippery Elm is one of the first herbs suggest for treating even toddlers with stomach upset. When brewed up like a tea or gruel, you'll be amazed (if not taken aback a bit) at the thick and slippery nature of this herb when brewed! It has a slightly sweet flavor that my family loves.
Similar to slippery elm in it's ooey-gooey nature, marshmallow root is another great choice to soothe the gut. Add a pinch to your daily tea.
When my kids were young a licorice root from the coop was a frequent treat (and a perfect teether for toddlers). Licorice root is famous for it's tummy soothing qualities. Buy it chopped if you want to add it to tea, or pick up sticks for chewing on throughout the day.
Other wonderfully soothing herbs to enjoy are cardamon, corriander, ginger, fennel, peppermint, calendula, lemon balm, and turmeric.
Have fun experimenting with homemade tea blends. If you work from the herbs above (versus stronger medicinal herbs), it's an activity suitable even for kids. We store our homemade teas in labeled mason jars in the pantry and make a habit of enjoying them throughout the week.
Eat mostly unprocessed foods
Good, whole, real, healthy, organic food. It's food you can imagine growing in a garden or on a farm. Maybe it's food you actually grew in your garden. It won't bear a label proclaiming it is "low fat", "low calorie" or "natural", in fact it probably won't have a label at all.
For our family our mainstays are meat, vegetables, raw milk and homemade yogurt. When we saute it's in butter, ghee, or coconut oil. And when we crave a sweet it's usually honey, coconut sugar, fruit, or maple syrup. Are there exceptions? Of course. But this is our baseline.
If a food is processed it is more likely to contain additives, preservatives, and other irritants that will aggravate your gut and your skin.
If it is healthy, whole, and unprocessed it will provide enzymes, vitamins, and nutrients that your body, brain, and skin crave.
Remove common gut irritants
I know. We already removed our trigger foods. But alas, there is more work to be done.
Because some of the things we eat are not triggers so much as gut irritants. Does that make sense? For example, wheat might not trouble you in an allergy/food sensitivity way, but it might still slow your healing.
Here are a few of the biggest irritants. You can limit them, remove them, rotate them, or tell me to stuff it. As long as you're polite, any of those options are yours to choose from.
Processed foods and synthetic ingredients
Can you picture it growing in your garden? Did you make it from whole, natural ingredients? Did you buy it t a gas station from an end cap of brightly colored packages? Enough said.
If you do indulge in some processed foods now and then, read those labels to help you make the best choice you can.
I know. Sorry. But it's true. Alcohol is an irritant to your digestive system. Sigh.
Refined sugar can really tear up your gut. In our home we have replaced refined sugar with coconut sugar, dates, maple syrup, and honey. Sucanat is a decent unprocessed sweetener too. We also love who leaf stevia or liquid stevia in combination with a touch of maple or honey. (Skip the white powdered stevia though. It's heavily processed.)
Oh, nightshades. We love you. Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant. We. Love. You. But you are irritating. To our gut anyway. During your healing journey nightshades are at the top of the list of foods to limit or avoid to soothe that gut of yours.
Personally we avod them when we have a flare-up going on. And we enjoy them at other times of year.
Lectins (found in abundance in un-soaked grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts)
Lectins are nature's pesticides. They are found in concentration in legumes, grains, eggs, nuts, and seeds. They can bind with and damage the villi that line the intestine.
Limiting these foods (especially the un-soaked versions) can be helpful for many people.
If you choose to continue eating grains, legumes, seeds and nuts soaking is as easy step to take to make them more digestible and less irritating to your gut.
If you're new to soaking, it's easy. Here is how to do it.
And please remember. You don't need to do this all at once. Pick one thing to add or remove this week. Add another one next week.
Too much too soon will only lead to frustration and burn-out. There is no right speed to take this work on! Go it at your own pace. No one is keeping score.
And the truth is, stressing out about this will do far more damage than good. So be gentle with yourself. Trust your journey. And watch your healing unfold.
Find the whole series (so far) through the links below.