Healing Your Gut Naturally w/ a Plant-Based Diet + Prebiotic Smoothie Recipe
I've had many clients recently who are struggling with their gut health. Symptoms like bloating, indigestion, constipation, loose stool, heartburn or nausea combined with less obvious symptoms like concentration problems, brain fog, skin issues, mood swings, anxiety, allergies, etc. seem to be affecting so many of us.
I know from talking to some of you that it can be a real burden on your daily life, so I decided to write an extensive article for those of you struggling with these issues, with all my best tips and practices in one place.
Keep in mind that all suggestions in this article are just general guidelines. Supplement and dietary recommendations can vary greatly depending on your unique situation. If you're interested to find out what's best for you specifically, feel free to reach out and book a consultation with me.
Lots of love + healing vibes your way,
HEALING YOUR GUT NATURALLY W/ A WHOLEFOODS PLANT-BASED DIET & GUT-HEALING SUPPLEMENTS
Take a moment to take this in: you have been gifted with this ingenious organic system inside your belly, a collection of organs that intelligently works together to break up the food you eat into smaller particles that can then be used as fuel for your cells and building blocks for new tissue. Your saliva, stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes, bile, and the bacteria inside your gut all work together to turn the broccoli you eat into amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that your cells then can use as building blocks for your blood, bones, hormones and tissues.
Your digestive system is inhabited by trillions of bacteria (equalling around 1kg of your body weight!), which live in symbiosis with their environment. When the bacteria living in your gut are malnourished, when your intestinal lining is damaged, or when your gut is filled with toxic waste, the food you eat doesn't get digested and absorbed very well and instead of nourishing you, it can cause all kinds of issues like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, nausea, and even seemingly less-related symptoms like concentration problems, migraines, brainfog, depression, anxiety, skin issues, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, and a whole array of other chronic health issues.
If your digestion is sluggish, and if toxic waste builds up in your intestinal tract, your natural ability to assimilate nutrients from your food and build healthy cells gets challenged.
Being aware of your body and of the food you eat, is the first step to start healing your digestion.
I broke down the gut-healing process into these 3 basic steps:
1. Cleansing the intestinal tract of toxic waste and heavy metals
2. Nourishing the gut by feeding the good bacteria, strengthening your intestinal lining and mucous membrane, and addressing deficiencies
3. Knowing what to avoid
CLEANSING THE INTESTINAL TRACT OF TOXIC WASTE AND HEAVY METALS
When you are detoxing, it's important to stay hydrated to make sure your cells can get rid of any waste safely and effectively:
- Eat — or juice — plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (water + vitamins and minerals = deep cellular hydration)
- Make sure you get in plenty of high-quality spring water
- Avoid tap water: even though tap water usually gets filtered, it still contains harmful chemical, hormonal, pesticide and heavy metal residues that can pile up in your body, burdening your liver and challenging your overall health. Plus, tap water has been recycled and filtered so it isn't 'alive' anymore. Your best option is to source your own water from a local spring, or to buy spring water in glass bottles.
- Avoid water bottled in plastic, since plastic particles can leach into the water and get absorbed by your cells (1)
DIET & SUPPLEMENTATION
In our modern day environment, toxic heavy metals like mercury, aluminum, copper, cadmium, nickel and lead are present everywhere — in paint, pesticides, clothes, household products, toys, cigarettes, exhaust gases, industrial and household appliances, cookware, (food) packaging and even in fish and seafood. Heavy metals can over time accumulate in your liver, gallbladder and intestines, where they can begin to oxidize. Their chemical runoff can mutate and damage nearby cells, but most importantly heavy metals are the primary food of choice for disease-causing pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and parasites. (2)
These foods and supplements are especially effective in safely removing heavy metals from your organs:
- Parsley: highly alkalizing, high in vitamins A, B, C, and K, high in minerals like magnesium, sulfur, iron, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, chromium, selenium, iodine, and calcium
- Cilantro: extracts heavy metals from the organs, esp. the brain and the liver, antiviral, antibacterial
- Wild blueberries: one of the most effective heavy metal detoxifying foods, highest amount of antioxidants on earth, highly adaptogenic in nature
- Seaweed: highly effective in binding to and safely removing heavy metals, dioxins, pesticides and radiation from the gut, high in ultra-bioavailable minerals
- Barley grass juice powder: rich in vitamins and minerals, contains all 20 amino acids, high in chlorophyll (alkalizes, cleanses and strengthens the blood), antiviral
- Spirulina: draws out heavy metals from the brain, nervous system, and liver
- Zeolite: neutralizes and removes ammonia and heavy metals from the body
As you are cleansing your body, it is very helpful to support your liver as well, since this is your primary detoxification organ. Eat more leafy greens, radishes, sprouts, cherries, cranberries, grapes, lemons and limes, drink a cup of red clover tea in the evening, and supplement with a good milk thistle supplement that contains at least 70% silymarin.
As I started my detox journey, one of the first things I tried out was a colonic hydrotherapy session. I wrote about my experience in one of my first blog posts:
"Colon hydrotherapy is basically a method to cleanse out the colon by letting filtered water run into the colon, which then absorbs stuck faecal matter, then letting it run out of the colon through a closed hygienic system. In this way, old waste like bacteria, mould, yeast and parasites are cleared from the colon, encouraging better blood flow, nutrient absorption and hydration through the large intestine. It has proven to be beneficial for all kinds of digestive problems like constipation and bloating to skin diseases, headaches and even fatigue and depression."
I can tell you it's a great way to kick off your detoxing journey. Cleaning out your colon first will give you a clean slate before you start experimenting with changing your diet and adding in new supplements. (3) I highly recommend you find a good practitioner nearby and give it a go!
NOURISH YOUR GUT
Eating a wholefoods plant-based diet is probably the best thing you can do for your health.
Focus on feeding your good bacteria with pre- and probiotics, while simultaneously healing your mucous membrane with targeted foods and supplements.
FEEDING THE GOOD BACTERIA
Fresh, raw, ripe, organic fruits and veggies that are high in water-soluble fiber are the primary food source for the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Eat organic fruits and veggies with the skin and unwashed if possible (use common sense). Wild or organically grown fruits and vegetables carry microorganisms on their surface that are super beneficial for your gut, and they have the power to restore your own ability to produce B12 in your ileum. Top sources of these microorganisms are sprouts, leafy greens, and broccoli. (2)
STRENGTHENING YOUR INTESTINAL LINING + MUCOUS MEMBRANE
Foods and supplements that promote healing of the intestinal lining and mucous membrane are:
- All kinds of lettuce
- Herbs like oregano, thyme, and peppermint
- Fruits like bananas, apples, dates and figs
- Aloe vera
- Starflower oil
- Omega 3
- Vitamin D3
As with everything else in this article, I recommend you check with a trusted health practitioner how these foods and supplements can make up for your personal healing protocol, since recommendations can vary greatly from person to person.
Get adequate amounts of calories from plant food sources to make sure you get lots of plant protein. As your body heals, it will use up some extra amino acids to close and strengthen the intestinal linings. Some great quality protein sources are barley grass juice powder, spirulina, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, peas, potatoes, mushrooms, sprouts, artichokes and leafy greens.
ADDRESS ANY DEFICIENCIES
Make sure that while you're healing, your body gets all the nutrients it needs to function optimally. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and take a supplement where necessary. Get a blood test done by your GP and ask for your test results. Make sure you have high levels of zinc as well as vitamins B, D, and K.
KNOW WHAT TO AVOID
If you are truly committed to your healing process, I definitely recommend you make an extra effort to delete the following items from diet completely:
- Dairy: mucus-forming, pro-inflammatory
- Eggs: can cause increase in ammonia, which can irritate the nervous system in the gut
- Pesticides: food source for pathogens, overburdens the liver, pro-inflammatory
- Processed foods: esp. additives and refined sugars, oils and flours — pro-inflammatory, damaging to the gut environment
- Gluten: gluten is the sticky protein in wheat, spelt, barley and rye that confuses the immune system. It creates inflammation and elevates histamine levels in the blood, which can lead to symptoms like swollen tissue, itchy eyes and skin, skin redness etc. Try eating gluten-free for two weeks and notice any changes
- Soak your beans and grains to reduce the saponins and lectins (so-called 'anti-nutrients'), which can have a damaging effect on the gut
- Limit your coffee intake. Coffee is a highly acidifying food, which can damage the gut environment, esp. when used long-term (the gut needs to be alkaline in order to function properly)
- Be aware of your medication intake, as these can rob your gut of some important nutrients (4)
A PREBIOTIC SMOOTHIE (SERVES 1)
- 1 mango
- 1 apple
- 1 passion fruit
- 1 tbsp fresh aloe vera gel
- 1 handful of spinach
- 1 tbsp barley grass juice powder
- 1/2 tsp spirulina
- 1/2 tsp ashwagandha
- 1/2 tsp L-glutamine
- spring water, as desired
Throw all ingredients in your blender, add water as desired, and blend until smooth. For best results, drink every morning on an empty stomach for 3-4 weeks.
(1) I highly recommend you watch the documentary A Plastic Ocean (available for free on Netflix), or check out their amazing free resources page.
(2) William, Anthony. Medical Medium. Secrets Behind Chronic and Mystery Illness and How to Finally Heal. London, Hay House UK Ltd, 2015.