You are 90% bacteria. Let that sink in for a second... Just think: for every cell in your body, you have 9 cells of bacteria living in and on your body. It can be more than a little creepy if you think about it too much.
Most of your bacteria are living inside your intestinal tract, otherwise known as your “gut”. The health of this organism is paramount to the health of your body. “Why” you may ask?
80% of your immune system spends most of its time around your gut. The health of your gut bacteria and the health of your immune system are vitally linked. When your gut bacteria is balanced, your immune system is also balanced. But when it’s out of balance, so is your immune system. You know your immune system is out of balance when you feel: food and seasonal allergies, chronic inflammation, chronic sinusitis, and colds and flu that linger for weeks.
So, if the best way to balance our immune system is by having a healthy and strong digestive system, then our gut bacteria needs to be in balance. Most traditional cultures protect their gut bacteria by regularly consume fermented foods like natural yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. In North America, however, we tend to do the opposite. Processed food, refined sugar, chlorine, and antibiotics all create a gut bacteria imbalance.
When the prevalent bacteria in your gut are“bad” bacteria (bacteria that doesn’t assist us), they allow for an overgrowth of yeast, molds, and fungus in our gut. This leads to a whole host of digestive ails, like bloating, gas, distention, pain, constipation, diarrhea, and a “leaky gut”. Not exactly fun stuff.
Spring is a great time for cleansing, and a gut bacteria cleanse is by far the most common cleanse I recommend to my clients and I feel it’s also the most beneficial. It’s also not as difficult as it may seem…although if your diet is currently full of refined flours and sugars then you might have a tough first 3 – 4 days. The best news – I’ve noticed that the more difficult your first 3 days is, the better you feel by day 5. Horrible sugar cravings and headaches become feelings of wonderful euphoria. It’s definitely worth it, but please be prepared. My downfall is that I usually run out of my favourite gut bacteria friendly foods by day 3, just in time for a day full of cravings.
How Balance Your Gut Bacteria:
For 2 weeks – take an anti-bacteria/microbial supplement like oil of oregano or grapefruit seed extract
After 2 weeks – follow up with a good quality probiotic that is balanced in both acidophilus and bifido strains of bacteria
Foods to Remove – all gluten grains, refined grains (like white rice), dairy, sugar, vinegar (except apple cider vinegar), yeast (bread, wine, beer) and corn
Foods to Keep – all gluten-free grains (quinoa, brown rice, etc), vegetables, organic meats (reduce or remove red meat), healthy fats and oils (butter is okay), beans (unless they cause gas), nut & seeds,….and fruit and honey.
Yeah! You don’t need to go without fruit or honey during a gut bacteria cleanse! These sugars don’t feed “bad” bacteria but they are commonly removed to “reset” your taste buds. I say bah humbug to that! The idea of going completely sweet-free during a cleanse stopped me from attempting it for years! Enjoy fruit and honey, but don’t go overboard. Try to keep to 2 fruit and 1 tsp of honey per day.
Try this cleanse for 2 – 4 weeks and repeat regularly throughout the year. Even 1 week will help to balance your digestive system. My motto: Keep your digestive system and immune system working optimally by keeping your gut bacteria healthy and happy!
Lisa Kilgour is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and can’t go without something sweet everyday. She provides one-on-one consultations and teaches workshops in the Okanagan. To find out the underlying cause of your symptoms, or to find the diet that helps you feel your best, visit www.EatMoreRealFood.com or call 250.869.9434.
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