All About That GUT

In honor of the last day of Celiac Awareness Month, I’m discussing a topic that directly relates to celiac disease–gut health. Anyone who has been diagnosed with celiac disease should be aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy gut, which is sometimes easier said than done. Healing the lining of the gut from damage caused by previously ingesting gluten is crucial for us celiacs; however, sometimes eliminating gluten from the diet isn’t enough to heal this damage on its own. Recent studies have shown that it can take up to two years for the small intestine to heal itself, even while following a strict gluten-free diet. Some research also suggests that some of us with celiac disease have persistent gut damage even after two years, which is a pretty upsetting statistic. Fortunately, there are certain foods that may help to improve GI symptoms (constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, etc.) and support overall GI health.

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Foods that contain probiotics and prebiotics can support digestive health. What is the difference? Probiotics are essentially the good bacteria in your gut, while prebiotics are the food for the probiotics. In order for probiotics to thrive and function, they obviously need food, which comes in the form of dietary fibers that humans cannot digest. Prebiotic foods contain these important fibers, which are necessary for feeding the colony of gut bacteria. Some common foods that contain prebiotics include garlic, bananas, honey, asparagus, potatoes, artichokes, leeks, onions, apples, whole grains, flaxseeds, legumes, and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. If possible, it is best to consume these foods raw rather than cooked, since the fiber content of these foods may be altered during the cooking process.

Probiotic supplements are always an option for getting your dose of probiotics, although I prefer to get my probiotics from GF food and drinks. Probiotics are commonly found in cultured dairy products and fermented foods. I have always enjoyed yogurt for a kick of probiotics in the morning. Recently, I have also become a fan of fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha, which are full of live probiotics and can help support digestive health. If you’ve never had either kombucha or kefir, you may be surprised to find that they both have a fizzy/bubbly texture. I definitely wasn’t expecting that from either of these drinks but found that it actually made them quite refreshing. There are so many brands of kombucha on the market, and I’ve heard great things about all of them. So far, I have tried several flavors of KeVita Master Brew Kombucha, and I really enjoyed them all. Kombucha isn’t something that I plan on drinking everyday though because it can be a bit pricey.

Kefir, on the other hand, is something that I am trying to incorporate into my breakfast everyday. I enjoy drinking it in the morning with a banana on the side. Remember, bananas contain prebiotics, which makes this kefir/banana combo key for gut health. There are several brands of kefir out there, but I really enjoy Helios Organic Greek Kefir, which has more protein than the other varieties. I’ve tried both the Coconut & Honey and Strawberry & Honey flavors, and I love them both.

By the way, sauerkraut is a great fermented food that may also help improve digestion, although I’ve never been a huge fan of its taste. But if you’re a sauerkraut lover, you’re in luck!

Another gut-healing food that has been getting a lot of attention lately for its health benefits is bone broth. Certified Health & Wellness Coach Martha Park swears by bone broth for gut health. Check out her guest feature below to read what she has to say about it:

Have you been hearing a lot about bone broth lately?

What IS it?

Why should I be drinking it? It doesn’t really sound that appealing.

Bone broth has been around a really long time. Many cultures have been drinking it for centuries. It’s just lately been gaining popularity with a new generation of cooks and health enthusiasts. It’s been part of basketball phenom Kobe Bryant’s routine, as well as actresses like Selma Hayek and Gwyneth Paltrow. But why? Is this the latest fad out of Hollywood?

The nutritional benefits of bone broth are many. It contains lots of vitamins, minerals and chemical compounds our bodies require but most people lack in their diets, like calcium, magnesium and potassium. And super easy to absorb!

What kinds of things does it contain?

I’ll get to that in a minute. But I think the number one reason to drink bone broth on a regular basis is for gut health! Diseases which are directly related to poor gut health are off the charts these days. How often do you hear of leaky gut, IBS, SIBO, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, celiac, and autoimmune diseases, all caused by inflammation? It’s not really a subject we chat about over lunch but millions of people are affected by these issues and they alter their every day lives. Bone broth can help lessen and often times alleviate the symptoms and heal the lining of the gut. It helps seal the gut and protect it from particles leaking into the bloodstream, causing inflammation, immune responses and other issues.

Some other obvious ways it benefits you:

  • Glowing skin – it’s packed full of collagen (another buzzword- important for skin but also for building and repairing connective tissue, promoting healthy hair and nails), gelatin and hyaluronic acid which all contribute to elasticity , brightness and “plumpness.”
  • Joints, ligaments and bones – cooked bones naturally contain glycine, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulphates. You may have heard some of these words on commercials marketing arthritis relief. It also contributes to healthy bone density.
  • Immunity – a supercharge to your immune system when it’s busy fighting off things like colds and flu
  • Liver support – helps detox all the junk that filters through it
  • Heart health and nervous system support – it contains necessary minerals and electrolytes that keep multiple systems working optimally
  • It has over 19 easy-to-absorb essential and non-essential amino acids, necessary to build protein, help with digestion, brain health, sleep quality…the list goes on.

Bone broth has also been shown to be easily digested and soothing for patients going through cancer treatments, as well as providing high quality nutrition that is easily absorbed.

Convinced that you need to start drinking bone broth?

Where do you start? Here you go…

What bones do you use? You can use bones that you buy from the butcher or the bones leftover from a roast, chicken or steaks. You just want to make sure the bones and joints have marrow. I always choose the highest quality bones from pasture-raised or free-range animals that have not been given antibiotics and growth hormones and to make sure I am getting the full benefit of the bones. You can always freeze the bones if you want to make it later. It’s always nice to have some bones on hand.

After you get the bones, throw them into a slow cooker with some veggies – carrots, onions, salt, pepper and some seasonings. I like to add herbs de Provence. Be sure you put in a tablespoon or so of Mother’s organic apple cider vinegar to draw out the good stuff. I cook it on low all day, then put it on the “keep warm” setting and leave it on the counter for the week. Add water as needed and maybe more spices as you go.

You will figure out your own preference for taste and you can tweak your recipe. Keeping it on hand and readily available is key.

So, what do you think? Have you tried any of the gut-healing foods mentioned in this post? Have you found that they have helped with managing any GI symptoms associated with celiac disease? Comment below!

~Lauren~

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